Managing chronic disease requires working closely with your GP as well as a range or other healthcare professionals to achieve the best possible results, says Dr Jaspal Singh.
It’s one of the fields of medicine in which I have a special interest.
Since moving to Adelaide and joining AHA Clinics Seaford from the UK, I have worked with a wide range of patients including an older demographic of patients who have a higher rate of chronic disease.
Nearly half of all Australians are battling at least one chronic condition.
The average age of onset varies depending on the disease but is around 53 years.
By the age of 65, 80 per cent or four in five people will be managing at least one chronic condition.
Chronic diseases include mental health as well as back problems, arthritis, asthma and diabetes as well as cancer and heart disease.
Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic disease in Australia with 1.2 million sufferers and another half a million people undiagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
Early detection is critical to best manage any chronic disease both in terms of both longevity and quality of life.
Here are some of the things I talk to my patients about when they are diagnosed with a chronic disease.
Chronic disease management tip 1: Educate yourself
I can only talk so much.
What’s really important is that my patients are invested in their own health.
That means educating themselves about their condition and everything they can do to make their lives better.
Know your symptoms, your triggers and potential complications.
Knowledge is power and allows you to make informed decisions in the best interests of your health.
Chronic disease management tip 2: Follow treatment plans
Treatment plans aren’t always convenient but they are important to follow rigidly to gain and maintain the best possible outcomes.
That means taking prescribed medications on time and in the right dosage.
Talk to your GP if you are struggling to remember to take your medications at the right time.
Chronic disease management tip 3: Maintain open communication
It’s really important to keep your GP informed of any change to your symptoms which may indicate a progression of your disease.
You should also report any possible side effects so adjustments to your medication can be made if necessary.
Communication is a two-way street so ask your GP about any concerns or questions you may have regarding your treatment plan. It’s really important that you are invested in it.
Chronic disease management tip 4: Set realistic goals
It’s a great idea to set goals in terms of managing your condition but it’s also really important that they are achievable.
These can be both short and long-term goals and may be regarding things like your mobility, your weight, pain management or really anything to do with your condition.
Achieving these goals can give you a real boost to your state of mind.
Chronic disease management tip 5: Maintain a healthy lifestyle
This is something we like to preach to all our patients but particularly those who are already dealing with chronic disease.
You’ve probably heard many of these before but they bear repeating:
- eat a balanced, nutritious diet that supports your condition
- maintain your fitness with physical activity as recommended by your GP
- ensure you get enough sleep
- manage stress with relaxation techniques, mindfulness and hobbies
- limit your alcohol intake and quit smoking
Chronic disease management tip 6: Monitor your condition
A chronic condition requires regular monitoring to ensure it has not advanced.
Don’t miss scheduled check-ups and screenings and use any diagnostic tools you have been given.
It’s a good idea to keep a diary to record any medical readings and log when you have taken your medication.
You can also keep track of your symptoms and any possible changes.
Chronic disease management tip 7: Stay positive and focussed
Managing a chronic disease can feel like a long and arduous journey.
This in turn can take a heavy toll on your mental health.
Talk to your GP if you are feeling the strain.
They will lend a sympathetic ear as well as recommend therapists and counsellors who can advise you about how to manage your stress, anxiety and depression.
Support groups and online communities of people battling similar conditions are also worth considering.
Mediation, deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques help a lot of people cope with negative feelings while battling a chronic condition.
Be sure to celebrate the little victories you have along the way with family and friends. It’s a great way to boost your spirits.
Chronic disease management tip 8: Advance care planning
Depending on your condition, you may want to talk with your family and detail your preferences for care in the event that your health deteriorates.
This will ensure your wishes are respected.
Where to start with chronic disease management
It’s important to find a GP who specialises in chronic disease management, and build a relationship. A GP that gets to know you, and the challenges you’re facing, will provide the support and also the empathy you need.
About Dr Jaspal Singh
I recently made the move from the UK to AHA Clinics at Seaford in South Australia, seeking a better career, lifestyle and opportunities for my young family.
It has been a great move – I am allowed more time to treat my patients during each and every appointment, and also have more time to spend with my wife and children.
I also work with patients from a wide range of cultures, speaking English, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu.
I would love to support your disease management needs, or any other health challenge.