How to manage a chronic disease
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, around half of all Australians suffer from a chronic disease, and 20 per cent have more than one chronic condition.
A chronic disease is any persistent aliment that cannot be cured. That is, there is no simple course of medication that will make it go away. The most common chronic diseases are high-blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, airway diseases such as asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Some people can be stable for years, while others may experience very frequent flare-ups and need acute management. While chronic diseases can’t be cured, many can be effectively managed to reduce the frequency or severity of flare-ups, and limit their impact on the patient’s life.
Effectively managing a chronic disease requires a strong commitment from the patient. It may require significant lifestyle changes and the patient will need plenty of family support to help keep their long-term health goals on track.
Here is some of the most important advice I give my patients when they are diagnosed with a chronic disease:
Tip 1: Take control
If you suffer from a chronic disease, the most important thing you can do is take control. That means actively working to understand what’s happening in your body, and what course of action to take in any situation. In other words, you need to know how to help yourself and which treatments are most effective for your body.
Tip 2: Be accountable
Diet and lifestyle are immensely important when you’re managing a chronic disease, such as diabetes. If you have chronic obstructive lung disease, for instance, the only thing that really works is to stop smoking. And the only person who can actively stop smoking is the patient. As a GP, I can advise, I can offer counselling, I can refer to the different support services that are available but at the end of the day, the person has to do it him or herself.
Tip 3: Stay active when possible
A chronic disease like osteoarthritis can be terribly de-capacitating. The only thing that really works in order to maintain functionality is to actually move. It’s important to support any pain medication with exercise and physiotherapy programs.
Tip 4: Communicate with your doctor
How often you should visit your doctor depends on the condition you are suffering and whether this condition is stable. Some people can stay away from the doctor for six months, and some people need regular follow-ups to adjust medication and other treatment programs. It’s very personal.
Tip 5: Monitor your symptoms
Chronic diseases, such as asthma, are manageable but require frequent follow-ups to assess if the medication is helping in combination with the patient’s lifestyle. If symptoms are still present, we can work on helping you to get a little bit better. Or if you’re no longer experiencing serious symptoms, we may be able to reduce your medication. It all depends on the very individual patterns of life.Contact Us