Understanding chronic disease
A chronic disease encompasses everything from asthma, allergies and cancer to depression, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis and stroke. As devastating as chronic diseases can be, many are preventable and can be effectively controlled when addressed early.
It’s impossible to talk about chronic disease without discussing the three behaviors that feed most chronic conditions: lack of exercise or physical activity; poor nutrition; and tobacco use. Non-modifiable risks of age and heredity aside, this trio of modifiable behaviors drives most of the chronic health threats that are faced today. It’s important to get screened to know your numbers and your associated risk. You should know your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and BMI and what they mean. From there, you can work with your physician on a plan of action to reduce your chronic disease risk.
Stress and chronic disease: A toxic relationship
When stress is encountered, a chain reaction occurs in the body that releases a surge of hormones. In an ideal world, after a stress has passed, hormone levels drop to normal and body functions return to baseline levels. But when stress becomes chronic, the fight-or-flight process remains activated and the effects of long-term activation of the stress-response system can be crippling. Chronic stress weakens the immune system and can lead to a myriad of problems like chronic disease, weight gain, and heart disease.
Battling chronic stress can feel like a cycle of stress causing health issues, and health issues then causing stress. Studies show that a positive attitude focused on feelings of happiness, joy and enthusiasm can reduce the risk of heart disease. But when you’re stressed, shifting to a mood of contentment may be hard to do. It is essential to work with your provider to identify what’s causing your stress, take note of the physical effects, and make a commitment to yourself to develop a healthier relationship with stress.