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Taking Charge of Chronic Conditions

Don't cut corners on your health

If you have a chronic condition — such as diabetes or asthma — you know it’s not something that’s here today and gone tomorrow, but a health concern that you’ll have to address for the rest of your life.

And the key to successfully managing your chronic condition lies not entirely on medications or doctors but on you. Robin McConney, MHA, health education coordinator with Rush Health and Aging, offers insights on how you can better manage your chronic conditions.

Become a self-manager

Research shows that older adults who practice healthy behaviors (like eating right and exercising), use clinical preventive services and continue to engage with family and friends are more likely to remain healthy, live independently and incur fewer health-related costs.

So, taking charge of your own health can make all the difference. This includes the following:

  • Don’t skip meals: Eating regular meals is good for your brain, your bones and your immune system. And skipping breakfast, while tempting, can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels.
  • Exercise: Among its many benefits, exercise improves your body’s use of insulin, which is essential for people with type II diabetes. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise regimen; he or she may suggest taking precautions.
  • Take medications as prescribed: The American Association of Retired Persons estimates that 77 percent of older adults have at least two chronic conditions. If you are among this group, you know that tracking your medications can be challenging. Some tips:
    • If you don’t have one already, get a weekly pill organizer.
    • Like visual cues? Create a computer-generated or handwritten spreadsheet of your weekly medication schedule. Electronic pill reminders may also help.
  • Manage stress: Stress can lead to a host of physical problems, including triggering asthma attacks.

How to avoid stress? Identify what causes you anxiety and develop strategies to negate the stress, such as improving your time management skills and delegating tasks.

Making the most of preventive services can also help. Only about 25 percent of adults aged 50 to 64 are up-to-date on immunizations and cancer screenings. Preventive screenings can be lifesaving, and getting the recommended immunizations can ward off serious illnesses like pneumonia.

Need help?

Rush Health and Aging offers an array of programs and resources to help adults stay healthy and age well. They offer free workshops that help people learn how to better manage their chronic conditions and connect with others in a supportive environment. The workshops help with the following:

  • Creating action plans to make lifestyle changes that will stick
  • Learning decision-making skills and strategies to manage symptoms
  • Providing social support to help make change happen

For information about free self-management workshops for people with chronic conditions, call (800) 757-0202.