It’s not uncommon for the challenges of aging to be compounded by a diagnosis of chronic disease.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, you are not alone. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention estimates half of all Americans are living with at least one chronic condition. While some of these diseases, such as cancer and heart disease can be life threatening, many individuals accept their chronic illness as a part of their daily lives. There are things you can do to minimize your symptoms and in some cases, even reverse chronic diseases.
Know your body and your disease.
If you have been diagnosed with a chronic condition, become an expert not only on that condition but on how it impacts you personally. While certain chronic disease symptoms are fairly consistent, your bodies response to traditional or alternative treatments will be unique. Only you can find out what really relieves your symptoms. Work closely with your doctor to create a treatment plan that best meets your needs and gives you a foundation of optimal well being.
Optimize your health.
Some chronic diseases can be prevented almost entirely or reversed such as obesity or chronic lung disease caused by smoking. While it certainly isn’t easy to change hard wired habits, your life may depend on it and it is far easier to make these changes before you are in the midst of a critical health crisis. When you identify the changes you need to make, find support from friends and family. Make them aware of your health goals so they can support you in your efforts. It takes time and dedication to develop new habits but it can be done and the rewards will be abundant.
Know your numbers.
For many chronic diseases, keeping track of key biometrics and laboratory testing can be imperative. For example, if you have asthma, documenting regular respiratory measurements such as peak flows are essential to preventing a crisis. Finding your “baseline” or the place that is normal for you as well as knowing warning signs and triggers are things you and your doctor can work together to identify. If you have a family history of a chronic disease, get recommended testing so you know if you may be developing symptoms that indicate you too have the disease. Things like high cholesterol can have deadly consequences over time but most often don’t cause symptoms you will be aware of. If you know you have a family history of a chronic disease, make this known to your primary provider so you can develop a plan together.
Living with a chronic illness can be daunting and exhausting at times. As a cancer survivor, I understand how overwhelming the vigilance required to stay healthy and prevent future complications or recurrence, can be. Finding support can make a huge difference in your quality of life or the quality of life for your loved one. Find things you enjoy doing that don’t exacerbate your symptoms. If you have physical limitations, make those known to those close to you so they can make modifications as well. Be gentle with your self and seek assistance and support. There are many professional counselors and therapists who understand the special challenges of living with chronic disease. You are not alone.