Here’s what it actually means to have a chronic illness | Arena

Whether it’s heart disease, cancer, stroke or diabetes, 6 out of 10 adults You have a chronic disease. Even more alarming is that 4 out of 10 people have 2 or more people.

With chronic diseases affecting more and more people each year, it’s important to be aware of the causes of these health conditions and the steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing them.

What does it mean to have a chronic disease?

Chronic illness is a long-term condition that requires ongoing medical treatment. Usually, there is no cure for these diseases, however, many of them can be treated and controlled through tools such as integrative and functional medicine, Dr. Casey Kelly, MD, ABoIMfounder and medical director of Case Integrative Health, explains.

In addition, many patients with a chronic illness find that it severely affects their daily lives, even hindering their mobility or preventing them from working. Dr. Kelly adds that it’s important to remember that many chronic diseases are what we refer to as “invisible diseases.” That is, it does not appear immediately from the outside but continues to affect the patient’s daily life life. Remember that a person’s appearance does not always accurately represent his inner health.

Dr.. William Solomon, PhD, BCMASAnd the The founder and CEO of the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs explains that having a chronic illness usually means it’s a gradual illness that gets worse over time. Chronically ill individuals have had the disease for at least a year or more.

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Causes of chronic diseases

There are many different chronic diseases, each with its own cause.

Affecting nearly 21 million Americans, one common chronic disease is type 2 diabetes, in which your body does not use insulin properly (also known as insulin resistance). Dr. Kelly says this causes blood sugar to build up in the bloodstream, damaging parts of the body. People with type 2 diabetes are often more likely to develop stroke, kidney disease, and blindness without proper management. You can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight, following an active lifestyle, eating a balanced diet, and low carb diet.

Although Crohn’s disease is much rarer than type 2 diabetes, it is a chronic disease that affects more than 700,000 Americans. Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive system, leading to abdominal pain, fatigue, and poor nutrition. Dr. Kelly explains that there is no known cause of Crohn’s disease, although genes and the environment likely play a role. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, and symptoms can be debilitating and even life-limiting. However, many patients find that with appropriate treatment they can achieve at least temporary remission, and improve their quality of life.

Finally, one of the things that chronic illness thinks about is depression. Unfortunately, when we think of chronic illness, we often neglect to remember that it includes mental illness as well. Major depressive disorder is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness and apathy, and affects more than 17 million Americans.

Depression has many causes, from genetics and faulty brain chemistry to adverse life events. While depression may only occur once, most patients find that it recurs periodically throughout life, says Dr. Kelly. Unfortunately, there is no “cure” for depression. However, individuals can usually manage the condition with the appropriate treatment and therapeutic team.

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Dr. Solomon explains that the most common cause of chronic diseases is lifestyle. For example, sedentary individuals are more likely to develop chronic heart disease than those who exercise. Other major factors are environmental and genetic. Individuals with family A history of certain types of cancer, for example, colon cancer, may be more likely to develop colon cancer earlier than other patients.

How to reduce the risk of developing a chronic disease

Chronic diseases are a huge category, and while some of them are preventable, some are simply due to the genetic lottery, infection, or something else. However, you can take steps in your daily life to maximize your health and reduce the likelihood of developing some of these conditions.

Stop drinking and smoking

First, do the most obvious thing: quit smoking, and make sure you don’t drink too much alcohol. Dr. Kelly explains that smoking and alcohol consumption are linked to various types of cancer, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Eat a healthy and balanced diet

Do what you can to consume a nutritious diet and make sure you incorporate movement into your life, says Dr. Kelly. Both will help you maintain a healthy weight and prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Get enough sleep

Another step you can take is to create a healthy sleep schedule. Dr. Kelly says that inadequate sleep can lead to a range of chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, as well as depression.

Engage in physical activity

Regular exercise and movement play a very important role in reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases.

You don’t have to be a gym member to do this — simple things like a regular walk after dinner or every night yoga Dr. Kelly explains that routine can significantly reduce risk.

Find healthy coping mechanisms for stress

Stress management is crucial when it comes to protecting yourself from illness.

Mental health is just as important as physical health, so be sure to invest in it self careAnd seek treatment if you’re struggling, says Dr. Kelly. Although there is no 100% preventative method for chronic disease, mitigating risky behaviors and incorporating healthy alternatives will help you reduce your risk over time.

Next: Can lifestyle changes actually reverse—not just prevent or treat—chronic diseases?

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