A chronic illness is one that is ongoing versus an acute illness which doesn’t last very long, typically less than 12 weeks. An example of a chronic illness is diabetes or asthma whereas pneumonia would be an example of an acute illness. Acute illnesses may lead to a chronic condition if left untreated1.
Chronic or Acute?
Whether your condition is chronic or acute, it is important that you take care of your body to prevent further illness or complications. Self-management means that you are taking responsibility for your health such as taking your medications as prescribed, monitoring your vital signs such as weight or blood pressure, and making good lifestyle choices like being active and eating a healthy diet. According to a study published in the American Journal of Managed Care, individuals who do not feel capable of managing their own health are more likely to develop a new chronic disease over a 3-year period when compared to individuals with good self-management skills2.
Your health care provider may make recommendations to help improve or maintain your condition. It’s up to you to follow them when in between your provider visits. Below are a few steps you can take to manage your condition3:
Be active- get at least 30 min of physical activity each day.
Eat a well-balanced diet: make sure to get the colors of the rainbow, lean proteins and whole grains.
Take your medications as prescribed- this includes over-the counter and prescription medications as recommended by your provider.
Keep all scheduled provider appointments and new appointments for worsening symptoms.
Complete your preventive screenings, exams and immunizations as recommended.
Know your condition triggers- avoid activities, environments, or foods that can make you feel worse.
Self-monitor your vital signs and blood values- if you are a diabetic or prediabetic it may be important for you to check your glucose in between visits with your provider. It is also important to keep track of your blood pressure, heart rate, and weight at least once a week.
Remember to take control of your health and don’t let your condition take control of you!
Did you know the American Heart Association now considers high blood pressure (hypertension) 130/80 mm Hg and higher? The optimal blood pressure for people 20 years and older is 120/80 mm Hg or lower. It is estimated that 46% of adults in the U.S. 20 years and older have hypertension. There are no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not know they have it.1
In 2015, there were 78,862 deaths primarily attributable to high blood pressure.1 This is why it’s important to check your blood pressure regularly. You can check your blood pressure at a doctor’s office, at a pharmacy, or at home. Take steps to prevent high blood pressure or to control it if your blood pressure is already high.
You can manage high blood pressure and lower your risk for heart disease and stroke by living a healthy lifestyle, which includes:
Eating a healthy diet
Maintaining a healthy weight
Getting enough physical activity
Limiting alcohol use
Eating foods low in salt (sodium) and high in potassium can lower your blood pressure. Following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan is a healthy diet proven to help people lower their blood pressure.
Being overweight or obese increases your risk for high blood pressure. Calculate your body mass index (BMI) to find out if your weight is in a healthy range.
Being physically active can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking or bicycling, every week.
Smoking raises your blood pressure and puts you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. For more information about quitting, see CDC’s smoking and tobacco use website at www.cdc.gov/tobacco.
Avoid drinking too much alcohol – it can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than 2 drinks per day, and women only 1. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/alcohol.2
Work with Your Health Care Team
If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medications and lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes are just as important as medications. Follow your doctor’s instructions and stay on your medications. Do not stop taking your medications before talking to your doctor. All drugs may have side effects, so speak to your doctor regularly.3
Know Your Numbers
Learn what’s considered normal, as recommended by the American Heart Association. A diagnosis of high blood pressure must be confirmed with a medical professional.4
Normal blood pressure: Numbers are within the normal (optimal) range of less than 120/80 mm Hg.
Elevated blood pressure: Readings are consistently ranging from 120-129 systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic. People with elevated blood pressure are likely to develop high blood pressure unless steps are taken to control it.
Hypertension Stage 1: Blood pressure is consistently ranging from 130-139 systolic or 80-89 mm Hg diastolic. At this stage of high blood pressure, doctors are likely to prescribe lifestyle changes and may consider adding blood pressure medication based on your risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) such as heart attack or stroke.
Hypertension Stage 2: Blood pressure is consistently ranging at levels of 140/90 mm Hg or higher. At this stage of high blood pressure, doctors are likely to prescribe a combination of blood pressure medications along with lifestyle changes.
Hypertensive crisis: High blood pressure requires medical attention. If your blood pressure readings suddenly exceed 180/120 mm Hg, wait five minutes and test again. If your readings are still unusually high, contact your doctor immediately. You could be experiencing a hypertensive crisis. If your blood pressure is higher than 180/120 mm Hg and you are experiencing signs of possible organ damage such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, change in vision, difficulty speaking, do not wait to see if your pressure comes down on its own. Call 9-1-1.
6 Simple Tips to Reduce Your Blood Pressure
Lose weight. The most effective way of reducing elevated blood pressure is by losing weight. Even losing as little as 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure.
Read labels. Aim for less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily – which is just 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt. Beware of the “salty six”: Breads and rolls, Cold cuts and cured meats, Pizza, Poultry, Soup, and Sandwiches.
Get moving. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity a day for at least five days a week. Whether it’s dancing, jogging, biking or walking – Do something you enjoy, and stick with it!
Pump some iron. Add some weight lifting to your exercise regimen to increase muscle, help lose weight, and stay fit.
Limit alcohol. Limit alcohol to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. Alcohol can increase your blood pressure.
Relieve stress. Stress hormones constrict your blood vessels and can lead to temporary spikes in blood pressure. Stress can trigger unhealthy habits like overeating, poor sleep, and misusing drugs and alcohol. Reducing stress should be a priority to lower your blood pressure.5