Perhaps you’ve been newly diagnosed with a chronic illness. Perhaps you’ve been living with one for some time and you’re now experiencing changes with your illness and its symptoms. In any case, living with a chronic illness comes with its share of challenges! Here, we’ll look at some strategies for managing your condition and getting the most out of life.
First, what is a chronic disease?
A chronic disease is a physical or mental condition that affects your health and well-being for more than three months. Some chronic diseases you may have heard of include Alzheimer’s, depression, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s.
Some of the things you can do to manage your chronic illness effectively include:
∙ Learning about your illness
∙ Incorporating lifestyle changes to help reduce the impact of your chronic disease
∙ Taking your medications properly.
∙ Keeping key people in the loop about your medications and your health in general.
Learning about your illness gives you control.
After all, knowledge is power! It’s worth taking the time to become familiar with the management, progression and treatment of your chronic disease. Some patients read online articles; your online pharmacy may link you to websites it has vetted for accuracy and reliability. Some people attend information sessions at their clinic or hospital. Some even become their own experts by learning to read medical journals. Choose the level of learning that’s most comfortable for you.
As well, some illnesses require regular tracking, which is another form of learning, this time from your own body. For instance, controlling diabetes requires that you track your medication and test your blood sugar levels. For other illnesses, you may have to track symptoms by severity and frequency.
The more you know, the better you’ll be able to signal changes and challenges to your doctor, who can then best advise you on any changes to make to your lifestyle or medications.
Healthy lifestyle practices can help reduce or improve your symptoms.
Many of us know the positive benefits of eating well, being active, and living smoke-free or scent-free.
Diabetics, for example, benefit from a low-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. Other illnesses, like heart disease or hypertension (high blood pressure) can be managed with a low-sodium diet.
Physical activity can be incredibly helpful. For example, if you’re diabetic, regular physical exercise helps your body process sugars more efficiently and can also help your medication work better. People living with heart disease can improve their heart health by implementing a heart-healthy diet and a regular walking program.
Gentle forms of exercise such as yoga, tai chi and aqua-fit (pool-based exercise programs) can help people living with arthritis maintain flexibility. Research has found that people living with Parkinson’s disease can improve their mobility, balance and stability with regular exercise.
We can also help maintain our physical and mental health through activities like meditation, good sleep habits and keeping up to date with our immunizations. For example, influenza and shingles are two preventable illnesses that can pose a high risk to people living with chronic diseases.
Some people find it helps to participate in a support group with other individuals who share the same chronic disease. Peer support coupled with expert guidance from a health provider can help you manage your symptoms, your treatment protocols and your medications in a safe and consistent manner.
Don’t forget to take your medication regularly and properly.
If caught early, some chronic diseases, such as pre-diabetes and mild hypertension, can be managed with significant lifestyle changes.
But what happens when you require greater interventions? With many chronic diseases, managing medications is a key part of staying well after diagnosis. You may find creating a schedule helpful, especially if you have medications that need to be taken with meals or at a particular time of day.
If you, or a loved one, is growing older, you may have to manage multiple medications. Don’t leave it to chance! Find a system that works well for you. In a worst-case scenario, forgetting your medication could lead to a health crisis. Schedules and reminders may be tedious, but they can prevent you from ending up in the hospital.
Always share information with your health providers.
Let all your doctors know what medications you’re taking to avoid contraindications. If you source your prescriptions from both online pharmacies and brick-and-mortar operations locally, you should let all your pharmacists know about your full list of medications as well.
As of course you know, your care doesn’t end when you leave the doctor’s office. As such, your physicians and pharmacists aren’t the only ones who need to know how you’re doing. You may want to give a loved one a list of your conditions and medications, too. If you do have a health crisis, having someone at hand who can explain your chronic disease and list your prescriptions can be critical to ensuring you get the right treatment and support.
It can be scary to receive a chronic diagnosis, but you have lots of tools at hand to help you live a healthy, happy life. Use them and reap the benefits!