It’s no secret that our bodies and minds change as we age. And, chronic conditions become more of a concern. The good news is there are things we can do to help reduce risk of chronic conditions.
What is a chronic condition?
A chronic condition is a health issue that requires ongoing medical attention. Health conditions are considered chronic when they last more than one year, limit daily activities, or both. Cancer, diabetes and heart disease are the chronic conditions that are the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S. 1
Know your family’s history of chronic conditions
Genetics and environmental factors can play a big role in chronic conditions. If you have a family history of certain chronic conditions, you may be more apt to get them. Make sure you know and share your family’s health history with your primary care doctor. They can then help you prevent or catch a condition early.2
If you already have a chronic condition, you can get help to manage it. We offer care and support for diabetes, hypertension and weight management.
Adopt these five healthy habits to help lower your chronic-condition risk
1. Check in for checkups
Prevention can truly be the best medicine. You can get ahead of many conditions by having regular checkups. The most important checkup is the annual wellness exam, also known as an annual physical. You can have this exam with your primary care doctor. Your doctor will let you know what health screenings you need and when.
Screenings are important because they help detect conditions early, oftentimes before you have symptoms. Conditions that screenings can help detect include diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. When you find conditions early, you have a better chance of delaying, managing or even reversing them.
If you don’t already have a primary care doctor, think about getting one. Our primary care service makes it easy.
It’s also important to take care of your oral health. So, you’ll want to see your dentist regularly. They will check your mouth’s health, which affects your overall health. They can also screen you for oral cancer.
2. Eat and drink in a way your body will love
Our bodies perform better with healthy foods and beverages on board. People who adopt healthy eating practices can live longer. They also have less risk of certain cancers, heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.3
The basic ingredients of a healthy diet
- Stay hydrated. Plain water—tap, bottled and unsweetened sparkling—has zero calories. It also helps keep your digestive and urinary systems working well, maintains a normal body temperature and prevents dehydration. Dehydration can cause your body to overheat. It can also cause mood change, unclear thinking and kidney stones. Your daily intake of fluid should come from a variety of foods and beverages. How much should you drink? There is no magic number. Daily recommendations vary by your age, sex, activity level and whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding.4
- Eat the rainbow. Meaning, eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Many fruits and vegetables are high in water content, which will help you stay hydrated. You can also get in your fruits and veggies by adding them to other foods. Add fruit to yogurt. Mix veggies in sandwiches, soups, salads, baked dishes and wraps.
- Be purposeful about protein. Choose lean meats, unsalted seeds and nuts, beans and seafood.
- Consume calcium. Select low-fat dairy over full-fat varieties. You will get the same amount of calcium from skim milk and cheeses as from their full-fat friends.
- Go with the grain. Select fiber-rich whole-grain breads, pasta and tortillas over white flour versions. Eating whole grains may reduce risk for heart disease and help with weight management.5
If you’d like help finding a healthy eating plan, talk to one of our dietitians. They will find the right fit for you and offer support.
3. Sleep well
How you feel when awake partly depends on how you slept. During sleep, your body rests and renews. You need quality sleep to help your brain and body function.
Lack of healthy sleep has been linked to chronic diseases and conditions like depression, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Adults need around seven to nine hours of sleep a night.6
4. Avoid tobacco and limit alcohol
Smoking and tobacco use have been shown to raise your risk of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and lung disease. There are many resources that help people quit. We offer Tobacco Cessation, which provides this help to quit with doctor-prescribed medications (if right for you) and ongoing support from a registered nurse. Get started with Teladoc Health to learn more.
Limit alcohol to lower your risk for some cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and liver disease.7
Moving more matters. Regular physical activity is key to being healthier. It also can be fun. Adults need two kinds of physical activity: aerobic and muscle strengthening.
Aerobic activity is anything that makes your heart beat faster. Examples include walking, yard work and biking. Muscle strengthening works your major muscle groups. Examples include lifting weights and doing body weight exercises like squats and pushups.7
Before you start any new exercise routine, talk to your doctor to make sure it’s safe.
We’re here with help for your whole body. And, we make accessing care easy.
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Published September 21, 2023