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Health Information Taking Charge: Maintaining Quality of Life

It's been said that living well is the best revenge. This takes on a deeper meaning when it comes to dealing with chronic health problems.

When the doctor tells us we have a condition or illness that's going to be part of our lives, our first reaction may be to begin to limit ourselves and our activities. But on closer reflection, taking charge of your life and living life to the fullest in the face of your medical situation is much more satisfying.

"Most people over 65 are living with an average of three chronic conditions," says Cheryl Rucker-Whitaker, MD, MPH, assistant professor in preventive medicine and internal medicine at Rush. "Some common conditions are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes or lung disease, like emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)."

"It can be very distressing to have been relatively healthy and then be given a medical diagnosis that requires significant alterations to your lifestyle," says Whitaker. "That's why it's so important to foster the use of positive strategies to integrate these new changes into your life."

Some of the changes that may be required are:
 

  • Taking daily medications
  • Making significant changes to your lifestyle, such as:
    • Changing your diet
    • Increasing your physical activity

Dr. Whitaker offers these suggestions for being successful with required recommendations:
 

  • Make small attainable steps towards larger goals

    For example, if your physician recommends increasing physical activity take it one step and a time. You can walk around the block one week, then add another block the next week until youre easily walking a mile or two per week. Or you can take one flight of stairs per day until youve built up to doing a number of flights per week.

     
  • Think of what you can do, rather than what you can't.

    "You want to shift the messages that you give yourself from negative to positive," says Whitaker.
    Instead of saying to yourself, I can't eat cake or ice cream anymore, say I'm going to increase the number of healthful and interesting foods I eat.

     
  • Think of yourself as a partner when you interact with your health care provider
    You and your health care provider are working together as a team to improve your quality of life.

     
  • Engage a supportive family member or friend in your continued health maintenance. He or she can help you with:
    • Remembering to take your medication or to do your therapy
    • Getting in your daily physical activity
    • Maintaining a healthful diet

Diabetes is a good example of a condition that, if managed well, can lead you to a lifestyle that is very rewarding. By maintaining good control of your blood sugar levels, eating right and getting moderate physical activity, your body may function so well that you decrease your risk of developing diabetes related complications.

"While living well with chronic health problems can be a challenge, it's definitely worth the effort. Life with a chronic medical condition may be a bit more challenging, but with some simple changes and a change in attitude, your life can be full and rich," says Whitaker.


Dr. Whitaker, along with expert self-management trainer, Maureen Gecht, will give a presentation on living well with chronic illnesses starting at noon on Wednesday, October 25, at the Searle Conference Center. This presentation will be sponsored by Rush Generations, a free health and aging membership program for older adults and the people who care for them.

Phone (888) 352-RUSH (7874) for more information or to register. You can also use the registration request form to register online.


More Information at Your Fingertips:

  • For information on medical services for older adults, visit the Geriatric Services home page. Or call (800) 757-0202.
  • To learn more about our a free health and aging membership program for older adults and the people who care for them, visit the Rush Generations home page. Or call (800) 757-0202. Rush Generations can help you with your goals for vital, healthy living.
  • Are you facing tough decisions as you or a loved one grow older? The Anne Byron Waud Patient and Family Resource Center for Healthy Aging offers help with your current needs and difficult questions. For more information, see their home page www.rush.edu/WaudCenter or phone (312) 563-2700 or (800) 755-4411.
  • Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874)

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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