Americans are living longer than ever, but we are also dealing with a greater incidence of chronic diseases and health conditions. So, while we may get an extended period of “golden years” the quality of those years may be diminished due to these chronic illnesses. Chronic illnesses are unique in that, in general, there aren’t cures available. Instead, patients have to look to coping mechanisms or long term medications to manage symptoms. According to the CDC, approximately half of adults in the U.S. suffer from at least one chronic health condition. One of the biggest things you can do to help manage these illnesses is to get a solid family practice doctor that has experience in chronic disease management, and have him be the center of your health care needs, like TVFM for example.

Another benefit to a relationship with your family doctor is that if you do not yet have one of these conditions, but may have a family history or other risk factors, they can help lead you to a path of prevention. According to the American Public Health Association, chronic diseases account for many doctor visits, but they are also extremely preventable with lifestyle changes. So, if you have a family history of conditions or are concerned, reach out to your family physician and have them discuss any risk factors and ways you can mitigate your personal risk.

One mitigating factor that will have a positive impact on nearly any risk of chronic illnesses is to make sure you keep up a lifestyle of health. Exercise regularly, eat healthy foods, and ensure you are getting enough sleep. Nearly all chronic illnesses will be benefitted by these behaviors and these could be the difference between a diagnosis and avoidance.

Many chronic illnesses will require at least occasional visits with a specialist of some kind, and that is a part of the coping process. However, one mistake that too many people make is trying to manage their care on their own. You should be engaged and make final decisions with your care, but unless you are a doctor yourself you may end up in an endless cycle of specialists and second opinions. Specialists may come and go, but your family doctor should be the center and should help you manage your care. They can serve as a source of a second opinion, explain or research care options, and help interface with your specialists if you have concerns. Dealing with a chronic illness is a difficult and full-time undertaking on its own, so don’t avoid delegating some aspects of your care to your family doctor and lean on that trust.

Ultimately, chronic diseases are a difficult burden that many people have to live with. However, you don’t have to feel alone and you will have relief. A diagnosis may feel like a huge blow to your life, but it doesn’t have to be. Many people live with these conditions and lead their normal lifestyles. The key is to have a doctor that knows your history and can serve as a guide on this journey. You may need to make some minor changes, but your quality of life does not have to be reduced.