Chronic diseases and conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems. A chronic disease is any condition that lasts a year or more and requires ongoing medical attention or limits activities of daily living.
One in four Americans has more than one chronic condition, and for those over the age of 65, this number rises to three in four. Chronic diseases are responsible for 7 of 10 deaths each year, and treating people with chronic diseases accounts for 86% of our nation’s health care costs.
Although common and costly, many chronic diseases are also preventable. Health behaviors, such as lack of physical activity and poor nutrition, cause much of the illness, suffering, and early death related to chronic diseases and conditions. Although genetics and other factors contribute to the development of these chronic health conditions, individual behaviors play a major role as well. In fact, as much as fifty percent of individual health can be attributed to behavior alone.
There are many strategies that help prevent and reduce chronic disease. Success in controlling the prevalence of chronic disease, however, is dependent upon the coordinated and collaborative efforts of everyone. Working together at all levels is essential. From families and communities to businesses and governments, everyone has a responsibility for the health of the nation. At the public policy level, support for school-based and community-based programs, availability and access to healthy foods, and other public policy efforts are critical. Strategies must also be implemented at the clinical and worksite levels to provide screenings, counseling, and wellness programs. Communities must rally efforts to build active living opportunities into places where people live, work, and play. And all of us have a vested interest in helping our youth develop healthy habits.
As the saying goes, “it begins with you”. Many chronic diseases are linked to lifestyle choices that are within your own hands to change. Eating nutritious foods, becoming more physically active and avoiding tobacco can help keep you from developing many of these diseases and conditions. And, even if you already have diabetes, heart disease, arthritis or another chronic condition, eating more healthful food and getting more exercise, whether it’s a brisk walk, a bike ride, or a swim, can help you better manage your illness and avoid complications. Participating in educational classes, self-management programs, and other community-based activities can further your knowledge and skills for managing chronic disease.
Living Healthy with Chronic Disease is one of the self-management education programs which can help individuals become their own best advocate for health and wellness. Living Healthy with Chronic Disease will be held at the Senior Center each Wednesday morning for 6 weeks beginning July 20. This program focuses on managing a wide variety of chronic health conditions including heart disease, arthritis, and other chronic illnesses. Participants will learn how to manage stress and pain, make healthy food choices, increase physical endurance and balance, and improve communication and decision-making skills. The goal is to help participants become better self-managers of chronic health conditions. This program is led by 2 trained facilitators who follow the nationally known Stanford University’s Chronic Disease Self-Management Program. If you would like more information about this program, contact Cooperative Extension at 287-6010.
The prevalence of chronic disease can be reduced. Efforts in school, health care and wellness arenas to promote healthy food choices and active living must continue. Implementing policies and building environments that promote health will be essential. Equipping children with skills to form healthy habits at an early age, supporting the importance of balanced family meals and finding time for daily physical activity play an important role. And most importantly, as individuals, we have the power every day to make healthier food choices and move our bodies more. By working hand-in-hand, we will achieve success in reversing current trends and reducing the burden caused by chronic disease.