What is a chronic illness?
A chronic illness or chronic disease is a condition that lasts for a year or more. It requires continuous medical care, restricts everyday activities, or both.
Chronic illnesses frequently cause your health to deteriorate gradually.
They may impact your independence, wellness and decrease your quality of life. Many people living with a chronic disease require long-term chronic disease management.
Common list of chronic diseases
- Heart disease
- Coronary artery disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Oral disease
- Lung cancer
- Colorectal cancer
Factors that contribute to chronic diseases
Risk factors for a chronic disease may vary with age and gender. However, most chronic diseases share similar risk factors, such as:
- Physical inactivity
- Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Poor nutrition
- Raised blood pressure (hypertension)
- Raised cholesterol
- Raised blood glucose
Risk factors include social factors such as education level, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
Patients from minority groups and underprivileged populations experience worse outcomes due to inadequate access to care and delays in accessing it.
Tips to prevent a chronic disease
You can lower your risk of developing a chronic illness and enhance your quality of life by making healthy choices.
Eating a healthy and balanced diet that includes various vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and limiting saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium may prevent, delay, and manage chronic diseases. For people who are overweight, losing 5% to 7% of their starting weight can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes.
Premature death and significant public health issues like heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and lung disease are reduced by quitting smoking (or never starting).
Increasing Physical Activity
You can avoid, delay, or manage chronic diseases with regular exercise. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical exercise per week, such as brisk walking or gardening.
Moreover, incorporate 2 days of muscle-strengthening exercises.
Avoid Consuming Alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol can cause high blood pressure, several malignancies, heart disease, stroke, and liver disease. Therefore, it is necessary to limit your alcohol consumption.
Getting Enough Sleep
The onset and poor management of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression have all been associated with inadequate sleep. Adults should sleep for at least 7 hours per night.
Regular preventive care visits to your doctor will help prevent chronic diseases or detect them early.
Knowing Your Family History
You may be more prone to get a chronic illness like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or osteoporosis if you have a family history of the condition.
Tell your doctor about your family's medical history so that they can help you take measures to either prevent or detect these diseases early for effective chronic disease management.
How to manage chronic diseases yourself?
Although medical professionals play a significant role in patient care, it is crucial to recognize and promote the value of patient self-management.
Your doctor will help you understand your role in chronic disease self-management and ensure that you are fully informed about your condition(s) and course of treatment.
Self-management is essential to how and when individuals are capable of treating a variety of diseases.
When only one disease is present, self-management is simpler for patients to adopt, but it is much more crucial for patients with multiple chronic conditions.
The ability of the patient to actively participate in their healthcare is one of the most critical aspects of self-management.
Doctors inform patients about the following for self-management:
- Dietary restrictions
- Physical limitations
- Adverse effects of medicines
- How particular drugs interact with one another
- Symptoms of complications
- Problem-solving skills
- Improving self-efficacy
- Prevention of further complications
You can manage chronic illnesses yourself by
- Learning about the disease and your health needs
- Taking ownership of health needs by
- Completing health tasks, such as adherence to medications on time, going to appointments, getting treatments, and keeping up with changes to one's routine
- Recognizing and managing body responses by monitoring and managing symptoms
- Taking part in activities that promote health, such as modifying one's diet, nutrition, smoking, and exercise, reducing stress, taking precautions to avoid complications, receiving vaccinations, and keeping up with screening.
- Establishing and maintaining connections with healthcare providers
- Obtaining and managing social support from family and friends
- Adapting your lifestyle to the disease, including creating a consistent health routine
When to seek help for your chronic disease?
It is best to seek help from a mental health professional or a family doctor in Riverview as soon as possible if you feel it is challenging to cope with your disease.
The multiple effects of a chronic illness can be understood and dealt with better if you take action early on. Your family doctor will work with you to design a treatment plan to meet your specific needs for chronic disease management.
People suffering from chronic illnesses usually face a lot of stress, which makes matters worse.
Therefore, learning to manage stress will help maintain a positive emotional, physical, and spiritual view of life. An individual counselor or support group can help you manage the stress, discomfort, and exhaustion that may accompany a chronic illness.
Martin C. M. (2007). Chronic disease and illness care: adding principles of family medicine to address ongoing health system redesign. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien, 53(12), 2086–2091.
Schulman-Green, D., Jaser, S., Martin, F., Alonzo, A., Grey, M., McCorkle, R., Redeker, N. S., Reynolds, N., & Whittemore, R. (2012). Processes of self-management in chronic illness. Journal of nursing scholarship : an official publication of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, 44(2), 136–144. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1547-5069.2012.01444.x