Chronic Conditions 101
What are Chronic Conditions and How do I know if I Have One?
Chronic diseases are defined by the CDC as conditions lasting for a year or more that require on going medical attention and/or limit activities of daily life. More than half of all American adults have a chronic condition and many of them have a least two. Around two-thirds of deaths and 75% of healthcare spending are attributed to these diseases. The good news is that they are preventable, but what are the best ways to prevent them? First, we need to know some of the diseases that we are up against, and how to know what signs and risk factors to look for that indicate that we may be at risk.
First up we have a disease that effects roughly 30 million Americans, Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is when the cells in the body can’t properly handle insulin, or the pancreas does not release a sufficient amount of insulin to properly control the blood glucose levels in the blood, resulting in high blood sugar. High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can lead to a number of symptoms like slow healing, the feet and legs having numbness or pain, dehydration, and yeast infections (yes men, you can get those too). If left unchecked, it can eventually lead to severe dehydration and a diabetic coma, which can be fatal. Some early signs include increased thirst, increased urination, fatigue, and blurry vision. Diabetes has a long list of risk factors including lifestyle, diet, age, obesity, and family history. Knowing which risk factors you may have can be your best friend when it comes to preventing chronic illness.
The leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease, accounting for around a quarter of deaths, with almost 50% of the population being at risk. Heart disease is a blanket term for several conditions relating to your heart, blood, and arteries. Due to the number of conditions in this group, the symptoms are wide ranging and it can be difficult, if not impossible, to create a helpful list. Heart disease shares a lot of the same risk factors that diabetes does, and high blood sugar can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Smoking doubles the risk of heart disease, and it makes you smell bad, so that’s two great reasons to quit smoking.
Obesity is another serious problem in the United States, with around 40% of the population suffering from it. Obesity is defined as an individual having a body mass index of over 30. Lifestyle is obviously a major factor, with those that with poor diets and inactive lifestyles being far more likely to become obese, but genetics also play a large role as well, as obesity often runs in families. Obesity can influence almost everything a person does and has many symptoms like sleep apnea, increased stress, and fatigue, but it also greatly increases the risk of developing other chronic conditions. Two of these chronic conditions are, big surprise, diabetes and heart disease, but obesity also increases the risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, some cancers, and stroke. Working to avoid obesity or being overweight is vital to also keeping yourself from developing these other conditions.
As I stated above, these diseases have a lot of common risk factors, but that’s not all bad news because that means trying to prevent one of them can also help prevent the others as well. Eating a healthy diet and being active for example will help prevent all of the conditions in this article, as well as other chronic conditions and common short-term illnesses. If you have risk factors through family history like I do, it’s important for to know how well you are doing with the risk factors that you are able to control like blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Our blood tests do just that, helping you treat those risk factors before they even become a problem. Having that knowledge and having a more in-depth idea of how to keep those things in check, was my biggest goal with Ways2Well, and it is for many of our patients as well. Diagnosis of some chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes often require blood testing anyway, so it’s definitely better to get it done before it gets to that stage.
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