Chronic conditions affect 6 in 10 adults in the United States. When you're the one receiving the diagnosis, it can feel overwhelming and leave you unsure of how to proceed. These tips can make it easier to handle your chronic health conditions and live your best possible life.
Finding out you have a chronic health condition can be scary. You might worry about your quality of life or assume the worst about your condition. The unknown can make it seem more overwhelming. It's natural to avoid scary topics, but getting the facts on your condition can help you manage it.
Most people have a basic understanding of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. However, you might not fully understand what goes into the disease and how to manage it. Ask lots of questions at your doctor's appointments and do your own research on the disease. Use reputable medical and government sites to ensure you get accurate information.
When you have a chronic health condition, you often benefit from having multiple medical professionals working on your case. Your primary care physician might diagnose the condition, but a specialist might be better suited to create and manage your treatment plan. For instance, if you're diagnosed with heart disease, your doctor might refer you to a cardiologist for additional testing and treatment options. Some chronic conditions might include occupational, physical or speech therapy, so you'll see therapists for those treatments.
Make sure you're comfortable with everyone on your team. If you're uncertain about any of your care providers, ask for a second opinion or find a provider who's a better fit. Trusting your care team can make your chronic illness less stressful.
Once you find care providers you feel comfortable with, keep up with your appointments. Your doctor or specialist will determine an appointment schedule to monitor your condition and treatments. Follow that plan exactly to keep the condition under control. If you notice new symptoms or start feeling worse, contact your doctor immediately. You might need to go in for additional appointments.
When you have a chronic condition, you might have prescription medications, lifestyle changes and other forms of treatment that your doctor recommends. Following your treatment plan precisely can help keep your condition under control. Treatments for chronic conditions often help control your symptoms and keep them from getting worse.
Many chronic conditions benefit from healthier lifestyle choices. Improving your diet, exercising, reducing alcohol consumption and getting enough sleep can be beneficial in many cases. For some conditions, your doctor might recommend a specific diet. When you have heart disease, for example, you might need a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains while limiting sodium intake. If you're diagnosed with diabetes, you might need to limit carbs or focus on nutrient-dense carbs.
Lifestyle changes aren't always easy, especially if you're making major changes like quitting smoking or completely overhauling your diet. Starting slow can make the changes easier and help you stick with them. Working with professionals can also help. A dietitian can create meal plans that fit your taste preferences and dietary needs, for instance. A personal trainer can develop an exercise plan that matches your physical abilities and keeps you active. They also check in with you and provide support.
Managing the physical aspect of your illness can keep it from getting worse, but your mental health is also essential. Rely on your friends and family to support you emotionally. Joining a support group for people with your condition may help you find people who understand what you're going through. A mental health professional can also help you work through your feelings and learn how to cope with your new reality.
If you have a busy schedule, it could be time to cut back on your obligations. Doing too much can wear you down, which could make your health condition worse. Stress can also make some conditions worse. If your commitments add to your stress, consider scaling back. You might ask others to help out or hire people to help with chores and other obligations.
A chronic disease diagnosis can bring up lots of feelings, including sadness, fear and anger. You might mourn the loss of the retirement years you thought you might have, which might change because of your illness. Give yourself time to feel those emotions, even if they're difficult to experience. Sitting with those feelings can help you overcome them and better handle your illness.
It can also help to rethink your life and make new plans that get you excited. Maybe you planned to spend your retirement hiking and exploring the country, but rheumatoid arthritis makes it difficult for you to get around. You might alter your travel plans to include activities that are better for your condition. Or you might take up a hobby at home that you're able to do with your physical limitations. Finding new sources of joy can help you enjoy a higher quality of life despite your condition.
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