10 Ways to Better Manage a Chronic Condition
If you are like the 40 percent of Americans with chronic health conditions like heart disease, cancer or mental illness, then you probably struggle to keep it under control. You want to keep your health as optimal as possible, not only to extend your life and improve your quality of life, but also to limit your medical expenses. While some of these conditions may require expensive, long-term treatments to keep them in check, in most cases, you can take relatively easy, inexpensive steps to keep them from progressing into a major health crisis. Almost 70 percent of the deaths in the U.S. are related to chronic health conditions, and almost 75 percent of all health care expenses go towards chronic illnesses.
- Learn about your condition—your physician should be an authority on your chronic disease, but that doesn’t mean they should be your only resource. The internet has a wealth of information on most common health conditions, and it can provide valuable advice from researchers, medical specialists and other patients. Take the time to learn as much as possible about your disease, so that you can leverage that knowledge for better health.
- Take the initiative—a doctor may offer valuable instructions and therapies, but they aren’t with you all day. That means you are in control of your health for the most part. You should take an active role in monitoring your health. If you notice new or worsening symptoms, don’t wait for your next scheduled checkup—consult your physician as soon as possible.
- Include a variety of professionals—a single doctor may not have all of the answers you need, so don’t be afraid to seek the input of a variety of specialists. Don’t hesitate to get a second opinion if you think there is more you could be doing to manage your condition. While a medical professional may be able to tell you the traditional treatment options, you may discover from other patients that there are many non-traditional remedies that were effective for them.
- Consult with your primary care physician—if you have more than one health condition, you may be seeing a number of specialists, and not all of your doctors may know what the others are recommending. That is why it is usually a good idea to discuss all of your treatments with your primary care physician who can coordinate multiple treatments and identify incompatible or redundant therapies.
- Boost your spirits—one of the most common accompanying symptoms of chronic disease is anxiety or depression. It is only natural to feel overwhelmed by a long-term health condition, so ask your physician about possible options if you are feeling saddened or nervous. You are not alone; almost one third of chronic disease sufferers also wrestle with depression.
- Involve loved ones—it can be difficult to institute new changes in your life all on your own. If you want to start a healthier diet or a new exercise regimen, it is probably easier if you ask the whole family to incorporate similar changes. Not only will they be able to hold you accountable if you fall into old, bad habits, but they will also benefit from the healthy life changes.
- Organize your medications—for most people with one or more chronic conditions, one of the most challenging aspects of managing their health is taking all of the prescribed medications as ordered. Most of us lead busy lives that compromise our ability to remain on schedule, so it takes effort to regularly take all your pills. Luckily, there are a growing number of tools, online resources and phone apps like Medminder that can help you stick to your schedule. In addition to taking your medications as ordered, also be mindful of what side effects they may produce. If you notice any unpleasant complications, talk to your physician as soon as possible.
- Cut bad habits—by now, your physician should have identified any bad habits you engage in and recommended ways to stop. Smoking, overeating, and long periods of sitting all contribute to poorer health and are likely to worsen any chronic conditions. However, if you take active steps to eliminate them, you are likely to see a significant improvement in any chronic diseases and in your general health. If you need additional resources for quitting bad habits, there are a vast number of health organizations with online portals that may provide advice on how to stop.
- Take preventive action—one of the greatest risks with chronic illness is that it may contribute to another health condition. For example, obesity raises the risk of other major chronic issues like hypertension and diabetes. In fact, one in four Americans has two or more chronic illnesses. To avoid comorbidities, you should take a proactive approach to maintaining good health. You can start by seeing your physician regularly and getting screened for a host of major health conditions—many of these preventive services are free under the Affordable Care Act. It is also in your best interest to take up healthy habits like regular exercise and a healthy diet that will improve your overall health and inhibit the progression of any current health conditions.
- Set reasonable goals—it may seem overwhelming when confronted with a health condition that you may struggle with for months or years. That is why you shouldn’t be too concerned with the long term; instead, focus on what you can do in the immediate future to help improve your health. If you need to improve your eating habits, you might start by modifying just one meal a day and building from there. You don’t need to dramatically reshape your life. Ask your physician what they recommend and honestly discuss if it is reasonable to hope for making such a change. Your doctor obviously wants you to incorporate the healthiest strategies possible, but you should remind them that you are only human, after all.
To learn more about managing your chronic condition, please visit Boost Health Insurance.
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