What is Chronic Disease?
Chronic disease — illness that is ongoing and long lasting — is the chief cause of death around the world. It lessens quality of life, causes disability, and requires costly health care. Many chronic diseases can be managed, but they rarely can be cured.
Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke are among the most widespread chronic diseases in Texas. In fact, Texas has a higher rate of chronic disease than most other states.
The most important thing to know about chronic disease is that it can be prevented. The keys to prevention are surprisingly simple:
- Eating healthy foods
- Being physically active
- Avoiding tobacco use
How Much Does Chronic Disease Cost Us?
The cost of chronic disease — in human and economic terms — to individuals, families, and communities is huge. It is the leading cause of death and disability in Texas:
- Chronic disease accounts for three of every four Texas deaths.
- More than one in four Texas deaths are due to heart disease.
- In 2012, it is estimated that more than 110,000 Texans will be told, “You have cancer.” It is also estimated that in 2012 over 39,000 Texans will lose their lives to cancer — more than 100 Texans lost each day to the disease.
- Approximately 1.8 million Texas adults have been diagnosed with diabetes. More than 440,468 others are believed to have undiagnosed diabetes.
- About 24 percent of Texans have been diagnosed with arthritis.
- Together, heart disease and stroke accounted for 30.5 percent of all deaths in Texas in 2010.
How Can I Prevent Chronic Disease?
Everyone can do something to prevent chronic disease. Likewise, if you already have a chronic disease, you can help control it. It comes down to choosing to do the three things that have the biggest impact on reducing your risk:
- Physical activity
- Healthy eating
- Tobacco-free living
For many people, making healthy choices will mean changing some habits. Even making minor changes helps. Doing something is better than doing nothing. And remember, you’re never too old to start. Discuss risk factors and recommended screenings with your health care provider.
Am I at Risk for Chronic Disease?
Some risk factors (causes), such as age and heredity, cannot be controlled. Yet, you can control the most common risk factors of our top five chronic diseases:
- Unhealthy diet
- Physical inactivity
- Tobacco use
Medical conditions that stem from these are also risk factors. These include:
- Overweight and obesity
- High blood pressure
- Raised blood glucose levels
- High cholesterol
Many chronic diseases share risk factors. For instance, physical inactivity and unhealthy diet are risk factors for diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. Obesity, a result of physical inactivity and unhealthy diet, is also a risk factor for these same chronic diseases. One in three Texans is obese and two in three are either overweight or obese.
Tobacco use raises your risk for heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Secondhand smoke is also dangerous to those around you. Avoiding tobacco use will reduce their risk as well.
Having one chronic disease makes you more likely to have another. People who have diabetes have an increased risk of stroke. People with heart disease or diabetes are likely to have arthritis, too. You can make simple changes in daily habits to reduce your risk for several diseases at the same time.
The Stanford Chronic Disease Self-Management Program is a workshop given 2 1/2 hours, once a week, for six weeks, in community settings such as senior centers, churches, libraries and hospitals.
People with different chronic health problems attend together. Workshops are facilitated by two trained leaders, one or both of whom are non-health professionals with chronic diseases themselves.
Subjects covered include:
- Techniques to deal with problems such as frustration, fatigue, pain and isolation
- Appropriate exercise for maintaining and improving strength, flexibility and endurance
- Appropriate use of medications
- Communicating effectively with family, friends and health professionals
- How to evaluate new treatments
Contact us for more information or to register.
Patients without insurance coverage may also visit the Healthy Education and Lifestyles Program (HELP)
HELP is designed to assist individuals with managing chronic disorders.
Classes will be offered monthly and will include an office visit, education, and support group, all within a one-hour session.
For more information, contact Gina McCommas at 817-270-1366.