Chronic Disease Self-Management
Almost half of chronic disease deaths occur in people under the age of 70 (World Health Organization [WHO]). It’s about time that we take control of the things that affect our lives negatively so we can live longer, healthier lives. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. A chronic disease can be anything that affects your life on a daily basis over a long period of time – heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and osteoporosis (among many others) are all considered to be chronic conditions. Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and diabetes, account for nearly 70% of deaths and affect about 90 million Americans (Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion). The Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion also states that chronic diseases are among the most common and costly health problems. The good news is that they can be prevented by taking precautions. Exercising, eating healthy foods, and avoiding tobacco consumption can all improve quality of life and prevent or reduce the chance of developing a chronic disease.
Exercising can be used to prevent and treat several types of chronic diseases, such as, but not limited to Arthritis. Some of the benefits of exercise, specific to Arthritis patients include reduced pain and stiffness, restored and maintained joint range of motion, muscle strength, balance, and coordination. Exercise can also help to decrease fatigue, increase endurance and improve overall perceived health status. These benefits provide the stepping stones for improved ability to function independently in day to day life, decrease levels of depression, increase self-efficacy and belief in self-help strategies. Persistent exercise ultimately can improve overall health status and social activity in the life of Chronic disease patients.
The World Health Organization, or WHO, states that we can do a few things to help stop chronic disease, including promoting healthy living, preventing premature deaths by reducing or eliminating unhealthy behaviors and avoiding unnecessary disability due to chronic diseases, treating chronic disease effectively by using the latest knowledge, and providing appropriate health care to those with chronic diseases. If there is one thing to remember about chronic diseases, it is that they can be prevented by reducing or eliminating bad or unhealthy behaviors (risk factors). The WHO says that at least 80% of heart disease, stroke, and Type II diabetes would be prevented and 40% of cancer would be prevented if risk factors were reduced. Ultimately, we have control over the chronic disease. If someone engages in risk factors like smoking, not wearing sunscreen, eating too much junk food, not exercising, and drinking too much alcohol, he or she will greatly increase the risk of chronic disease.
In Missouri, the five most common chronic diseases present are diseases of the heart, cancers, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and unintentional injuries. Compared with the United States as a whole in 2005, Missouri had higher levels in all five categories, according to the CDC.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ (DHSS) most recent data for Clay County is consistent with the chart above. Heart disease is the number one killer of residents of Clay County and is responsible for the majority of hospital and emergency room visits. Cancers, especially lung cancer, are the second most common causes of death for Clay County. Other common chronic diseases mentioned for Clay County are a stroke, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and arthritis/lupus. According to the Missouri DHSS, more and more people in Clay County are smoking each year, increasing the number of cancer cases. The Missouri DHSS data also suggests that physical inactivity (due to less leisure time) and poor nutrition are increasing among residents of Clay County – these are both contributing greatly to the risk of obesity and heart disease, among other conditions. Because many of these conditions are connected by one risk factor (i.e. poor nutrition [risk factor] leads to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and osteoporosis [chronic conditions]) it can be easy to take care of. By simply increasing the amount of healthy foods eaten each day, the chance of chronic disease can be reduced.
As mentioned before, there are many things you can do to help yourself deal with the effects of chronic disease. One great and easy way to do that is by contacting your local public health department for more information on chronic disease. Many local health departments offer low-fee or free Chronic Disease Self-Management Programs (CDSMPs) to residents of their county. These classes encourage participation and support for each group member so that they can gain the confidence to manage their health and maintain active lives.
According to the Stanford School of Medicine’s Patient Education website, these classes can help you:
- Deal with the frustration, fatigue, pain, and isolation associated with chronic disease
- Learn how to do easy exercises to maintain and/or improve strength, flexibility, and endurance
- Learn how to use your medications the right way
- Communicate effectively with your loved ones about your chronic disease
- Eat a better diet
- Learn how to evaluate new treatments
- Gain confidence in living everyday life
- Manage health and be active
There are many other resources on the web that can help you get on the right track to becoming healthier. Below is a list of resources that you may find helpful.