Chronic Disease Self-Management

Three older men sit and chat.
Chronic Diseases are long-lasting illnesses that develop over time. Some common types of chronic disease are diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

  • Chronic diseases are the most common cause of death and disability in the U.S., but many of them are preventable.
  • Some chronic diseases run in families. It’s important to be screened if you have close relatives with high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes.
  • Some chronic diseases may have no symptoms. Chronic diseases can get worse over time, and they tend to become more common with age. It is important to know your risk factors for chronic disease and to talk with your healthcare provider about how to prevent or manage chronic disease.

If you do not have access to health care services, the Angelina County and Cities Health District provides health care services for moderate- to lower-income and uninsured families in Angelina County. Contact ACCHD at (936) 632-1139 for more information on how and where you can receive chronic disease screening and treatment.

Risk Factors and Prevention

The best way to prevent a chronic disease is to control your risk factors. The most common risk factors for chronic diseases that you can control are:

  • Unhealthy diet
  • Excessive weight
  • Lack of exercise
  • Tobacco use

Many chronic diseases are preventable. Here are some steps you can take to keep you from developing a chronic disease:

  • Get regular check-ups
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Get regular exercise
  • Avoid tobacco
  • Limit alcohol use

Managing Chronic Diseases

If you have a chronic health problem, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, there are some simple but very important changes you can make to improve your quality of life. Each chronic disease is different, but the self-management steps are similar.

Eat Healthy
For those with a chronic health problem, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, eating healthy can be the most important step you take toward managing your condition.

Being overweight is one of the leading risk factors for chronic health problems. More than one-third of U.S. adults are considered obese, and a lot of chronic health problems that are caused by obesity can be prevented with a few simple steps.

Try one change at a time. Pick the ones you can stick with, and work steadily toward, your long-term goals.

Get more of what you need:

  • Eat more nutrient-rich foods that are high in fiber, like vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
  • Eat fish that provides omega-3 fatty acids, like tuna, at least twice a week.
  • Drink water instead of sodas or other sugary drinks.

Cut out what you don’t need:

  • Limit sodium to 1,500 mg a day: Don’t buy anything that contains more than 600 milligrams of salt per serving. Use herbs, spices or lemon juice instead of salt.
  • Limit cholesterol to 300 mg a day: Cut back on egg yolks, high-fat dairy products and high-fat meats.
  • Eat less saturated and trans fat: Check the labels and avoid trans fat, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Instead, buy plant-based unsaturated fats to help maintain a healthy weight and keep cholesterol levels low.

REMEMBER:

Good fats: Unsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature.

Bad fats: Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature.

Eat the right amount of the right food

Your daily calorie limit will vary on your age and how active you are. Ask your doctor to help you figure out your calorie limit. Counting calories will help you maintain your weight, and if you lower your calories a little over the long term, you’ll even lose some weight.

Get Regular Exercise
If you have chronic health problems, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, exercise can play a key role in managing your symptoms. It is recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week. 

Studies show regular exercise can lower blood pressure and help keep your cholesterol and blood glucose levels on target.

If you have a chronic health problem, it’s very important to make that first step a small one. Talk to your health care provider first and ask for recommendations.

You want physical activity that is appropriate for your current fitness level and goals, and some types of exercise may be safer for you than others. Start low and slow, especially if you haven’t been very active up to this point. You want to begin at a level that’s safe and comfortable, and gradually increase how long and how often you do the activity.

Remember, a little activity is better than none, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t do very much at the beginning. The important thing is to take small steps at first and do as much as your abilities and condition allow.

KNOW YOUR NUMBERS

Hypertension
Your blood pressure is measured with two numbers. The top number, called “systolic pressure,” measures the pressure when the heart pumps. A normal, healthy top number is less than 120. The bottom number, your “diastolic pressure,” measures the pressure when your heart is at rest. A normal, healthy bottom number is 80 or below. Your blood pressure varies all the time, and your body can handle temporary rises. When repeated measurements show consistently high pressure, you need to start paying attention. Remember, Uncontrolled Hypertension is the number one reason people have strokes! It is also called the “Silent Killer” because often people have no symptoms of high blood pressure. 

Top Number: Systolic pressure should be less than 120.

Bottom Number: Diastolic pressure should be less than 80.

High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy substance in your blood that's necessary for building healthy cells. However, too much cholesterol can be a very bad thing.

Your body makes 75 percent of the cholesterol in your blood, and you get the other 25 percent from food. There are two types: HDL is the good cholesterol that keeps the bad cholesterol, the LDL, from sticking to your artery walls. When you have high cholesterol, fatty deposits can develop in your blood vessels.

There are no symptoms of high cholesterol, so a blood test is the only way to detect the problem. The American Heart Association recommends that all adults over 20 have a fasting lipoprotein profile every five years.

Total cholesterol level should be less than 200 mg/dl.

HDL level should be more than 60 mg/dl.

LDL level should be less than 130 mg/dl.

Triglyceride level should be less than 150 mg/dl.

Diabetes
When your blood sugar level drops below your safe level, you suffer from hypoglycemia.

Early signs of low blood sugar include sweating, shakiness, weakness and dizziness, and sometimes adults suffering from low blood sugar may appear to be intoxicated. If you suffer from low blood sugar, drink juice or regular soda or eat some hard candy (containing sugar), retest your blood sugar in about 15 minutes, and repeat until you get a normal reading.

On the other end of the spectrum, hyperglycemia is when your blood sugar rises above a safe level.

Symptoms of high blood sugar include frequent urination, increased thirst, blurred vision and difficulty concentrating.

If left untreated, high blood sugar can lead to serious complications, including a diabetic coma. To treat high blood sugar, you’ll have to administer a dose of insulin to get your blood sugar level back to normal.

If you’re diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor may ask you to regularly monitor your blood sugar level. Keeping a log is very important, because it gives your doctor a good understanding of how your body is responding to the treatment plan. Ask your doctor what numbers are too high and too low for you and find out what to do if your numbers fall outside of that safe range.

Contact ACCHD
503 Hill Street
Lufkin, TX
(936) 632-1139

HOURS
Monday - Friday
7:30 am - 4:30 pm

Please arrive 45 minutes before closing to ensure time for processing for needed services.
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