10 Tips for Living Better with a Chronic Condition

26 Jan 2023

Being diagnosed with a chronic illness means daily health checks and monitoring of various vital signs. It is, of course, up to us as chronically ill individuals to devote the necessary time to health management and balancing the condition. Support in the care of patients with chronic conditions comes not only from the attending physician, medical specialists and the health system of the country, but most of all from ourselves, our families, friends, colleagues and relatives.

Self-health management is at the heart of a good life despite the presence of a chronic illness. In this regard, it is necessary to accumulate knowledge about the disease itself, potential risk factors, complications and, of course, the daily application of good practices determining the quality of life. Supporting and encouraging people to properly and purposefully manage their illnesses can reduce the negative impact on health and the likelihood of complications, hospitalizations and even life-threatening conditions.

To live well with a chronic illness, we must first accept the diagnosis and the fact that our life will be different from that point onwards. Therefore, we should not compare ourselves with others, as this would lead to negative emotions. It would also be good to find a group of people with the same disease to help each other. In most cases, they would understand us better, and communicating with them would make us feel part of a community, rather than isolated (as many people with chronic problems feel).

This text aims to give useful advice to people with chronic diseases on how to improve their quality of life by managing their health.

1. Goal setting - every person with a chronic diagnosis needs a plan - be it a medical plan, a treatment plan, a disease monitoring plan, an emergency plan, a medication plan, and other relevant ones. Due to the very nature of the disease, namely the duration and possible complications with age, it is necessary to plan for the future which will significantly help increase the quality of life. Follow the prescriptions of your treating doctors and medical professionals to have a good lifestyle.

2. Action planning – primarily required by the patient. A proactive attitude toward health management is an important indicator of disease management. Because it mostly calls for daily measurements of body parameters, systematic doctor’s visits, following a certain diet and regular training, it is extremely important to record and track all activities.

3. Prioritizing tasks – usually, during the planning phase, the urgent tasks that the chronically ill person must complete are also written down. Prescriptions of doctors and medical specialists should be entered as priority tasks in the action plan. Those related to improving health and lifestyle are pushed to the front.

4. Regular consultations/examinations/tests - due to the fact that chronic conditions accompany our lives for years, regular examinations with specialists are mandatory in order to carry out the necessary tests and analyze the data from them. In some cases, it may be necessary to adjust the prescribed therapy or consider options for changing the dosage. Most of the time even routine examinations should not be missed when having even one chronic disease.

5. Improving communication between doctor and patient, family, relatives, friends, colleagues, and neighbors - it is important that everybody around us is well aware of our condition so that they can respond accordingly to emergency health situations. Communication about our current health status, upcoming manipulations or other relevant details is important to be done on a regular basis so that everyone is well informed.

6. Effective and timely problem-solving – chronic conditions such as diabetes affect many parts of the human body. One example is the eyes, where vision can be impaired (blurred vision, reduced peripheral vision, etc.) due to elevated blood sugar levels. This directly affects the quality of life and a timely measure, in this case, is a visit to an ophthalmologist. Complications of chronic diseases are many and dangerous, so they should not be ignored.

7. Our environment - there are many external factors that affect health and quality of life, but each of us can control them to some extent. For asthmatics, for example, poor air quality, pollution, dust and other irritants triggering the chronic condition asthma can be avoided or minimized by ventilating the space regularly during the day, avoiding rush hour travel, etc. It is important to think one step ahead and take preventive measures so that we do not get an unexpected complication such as an asthma attack for example.

8. Lifestyle - many chronically ill people are advised at their first doctor’s visit that they need to change their lifestyle in order to improve their health. Follow the advice of specialists regarding your diet, suitable training according to your condition (load, duration) and carefully choose your hobbies so that they can have a positive effect on your general health condition.

9. Manage stress and emotions – a number of studies show that stress can make many diseases worse. Negative emotions also contribute to this. We, humans, can manage our emotional state to be as close to positive as possible and avoid stressful situations whenever possible. Because life is always better when we are at peace and experiencing positive feelings.

10. Making Informed Treatment Decisions - Last but not least, I want to emphasize the importance of reading only accredited sources of medical information. To make treatment decisions that work for us, the opinion of at least two specialists is needed, as well as familiarization with good world practices, if treatment abroad is required.

These 10 tips come from my personal life as a chronically ill person, and I hope they’ve been helpful. My first-hand experience with managing one such disease and my professional experience as a software developer led to the creation of the Medrec:M mobile health tracking app. I put my knowledge and the needs of a chronically ill person into it, as well as the advice of doctors who specialize in chronic conditions. In the app, you can track all your symptoms, store your medical records and even have online consultations with a doctor via video or chat. Download Medrec:M now from here.

Author: Rosen Varbanov, CEO of Sirma Medical Systems and person with type 1 diabetes.