By Helen Varvi, Deputy Director
Half of all Americans have at least one chronic disease, and about 100 million Americans – one in three people – have ongoing pain, often referred to as chronic pain. An average of 7 in 10 deaths annually are due to chronic diseases. Conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer are among the most common, costly and preventable health conditions facing Americans, especially older adults. In fact, pain is the most common reason people visit their doctor.
But recent surveys of older Americans indicate that they are taking more proactive steps to improve their overall health – things like daily exercise and setting realistic health goals. And when these goals are supported by loved ones or caregivers, they are more likely to be reached.
Here are some tips about things to do to manage or even prevent your chronic conditions:
1. Stop smoking
Stopping smoking (or even better, never starting) lowers the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and lung disease, as well as premature death—even for longtime smokers. So it is never too late to stop. Take the first step to become tobacco-free with help from the NJ Quitline. Call 1-866-NJ-STOPS for FREE resources.
The simple act of eating healthy can help prevent, put off, and manage type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. A balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products is important at any age. If you are overweight, losing even 5% to 7% of your body weight can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.
Regular physical activity can help you prevent, delay, or manage chronic diseases. Start with light or moderate physical activity like walking or gardening, (now that spring is in the air!) Exercising for even 30 minutes a week can make a difference.
4. Avoid drinking too much alcohol
Over time, excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure, various cancers, heart disease, stroke, and liver disease. By not drinking too much, you can reduce these health risks. The National Institutes of Health and the CDC recommend that for those over 65, men should not have more than two drinks a day and women only one. Do you have a health problem? You may need to drink less or not at all.
5. Get regular screenings
To prevent chronic diseases or catch them early, visit your doctor regularly for preventive services.
Insufficient sleep has been linked to the development and poor management of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. Adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep daily.
7. Make all your choices healthy ones!
By making healthy behaviors part of your daily life, you can prevent conditions such as high blood pressure or obesity, which raise your risk of developing the most common and serious chronic diseases. Learn more about healthy actions you or your loved ones can take.
Image credit: Photo by Matthias Zomer from Pexels