The current situation has shed light on the need for preventive measures to avoid chronic disease. “Physicians, patients, communities, and care teams will need to work together to make chronic disease prevention a top priority moving forward,” explains the American Medical Association. Below are strategies to maintain a healthy lifestyle, reduce risk of developing chronic disease, and manage care from home.
Chronic disease prevention
Nutrition: Proper nutrition is a powerful tool in achieving optimal health and avoiding chronic disease. Healthy eating is known to lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other health conditions, says the National Institutes of Health. Eating a diet full of nutrient-dense foods and drinking plenty of water will have a lasting effect on your health. Here are strategies for consuming more water, un-processing your diet, and addressing your sugar, salt, and oil intake.
Physical activity: When it comes to regular exercise, we know it contributes to overall health and well-being. According to Mayo Clinic, regular exercise improves mood, increases energy, helps control weight, promotes better sleep, reduces stress, and strengthens bones, among other benefits. Here are 6 healthy summer activities that follow social distancing guidelines.
Stress management: Stress is a normal, healthy response to overwhelming situations. However, long-term stress can have negative effects on physical health and well-being. Types of stress you want to avoid include:
- Acute stress results from traumatic experiences (i.e. pandemic and isolation) and can lead to emotional detachment and unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol and drug abuse. If left untreated, acute stress can turn into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which can have a lasting effect on individual health.
- Chronic stress happens when a reoccurring stressor affects the individual over a prolonged period of time. Examples include an unhealthy relationship or a stressful job. If left unmanaged, chronic stress lead to insomnia, high blood pressure, and anxiety.
Negative effects of prolonged stress include gastrointestinal issues, depression, anxiety, poor heart health, weight gain, and an increased risk in developing diabetes. Daily meditation and deep breathing exercises, eating nutritious foods, and exercising regularly are effective strategies for keeping stress levels under control. Developing resiliency, especially during times of uncertainty, is another useful skill for managing stress.
Quit smoking: If you are smoking tobacco, you are at risk of developing cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) due to damaged lungs and a weakened immune system, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Visit this blog for tips on how to quit.
Chronic disease management
For individuals living with chronic conditions, delays in medication and new routines have made care management challenging during quarantine. In a recent report, about half of patients with a chronic illness said they are worried about visiting their health care provider for a non-coronavirus healthcare need. Ten percent of those respondents said they were so concerned they would forego care altogether. This could be disastrous for those requiring wellness checks to ensure their illness does not worsen and require an acute care crisis, explains Patient Engagement Hit. If care is needed, it is important to seek professional care and not ignore the issue. Here are strategies to maintain care:
- Avoid crowds as much as possible. Those with chronic diseases are at an increased risk of complications from COVID-19. Consider grocery delivery or asking a neighbor to pick up items for you.
- Maintain your medication schedule. If your pharmacy is experiencing delays due to COVID-19, ask your doctor if ordering an extra supply is an option. This will alleviate unnecessary stress as your medication starts to run low. Do not skip a dose or change medications without first consulting your doctor.
- If you have hypertension or diabetes, set aside time to measure and record your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. With changing routines, it can be easy to forget.
- Take advantage of telehealth services to maintain regular visits with your doctor. Keeping up with appointments now could prevent you from visiting the emergency room later. If your health insurance provider is Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, here are ways to access telehealth care.