Chronic disease health facts
Chronic disease refers to a group of health disorders that persist over time.
The chronic conditions we often treat include:
- Diabetes and prediabetes.
- High blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Thyroid disorders
Many chronic conditions can be reversed, or at least minimized, with the implementation of healthy lifestyle habits. Others, like type 1 diabetes, are not curable but can be controlled to the degree that the patient can live a full, active and healthy life.
Our approach to chronic diseases is a holistic one, going beyond mere symptom alleviation and focusing on root, systemic causes. Our team of healthcare providers works in partnership with patients to tailor a treatment plan that helps end suffering from chronic disease and get them back on the path to thriving.
Outlined below are some of the more common chronic diseases that we see and an overview of their causes, symptoms and treatments.
Diabetes refers to a group of conditions that effects how your body uses glucose (also called blood sugar). Left uncontrolled, high blood glucose levels can lead to serious and even fatal complications including kidney disease, heart disease, blindness and stroke.
At HealthFit Family Medicine, we focus on diet and exercise as a primary treatment option for those who are prediabetic or have type 2 diabetes.
High blood pressure
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a chronic disease condition in which the amount of force exerted by the blood onto the walls of the veins and arteries is too high. Untreated, this can lead to various complications including heart failure and stroke. Because people often experience no symptoms, the American Heart Association calls high blood pressure “the silent killer.” That’s why HealthFit physicians look for it in their patient discussions and examinations.
High blood pressure may run in the family, and can develop in otherwise healthy individuals simply due to genetics. However, high blood pressure is often due at least in part to certain lifestyle factors including:
- Lack of exercise.
- Unhealthy diet.
- Drinking too much alcohol.
We can effectively control high blood pressure with medication. High blood pressure may also be reversed by addressing the root causes outlined above.
High cholesterol is a condition in which an elevated level of fats (lipids) are in the blood. These blood lipids can build up, forming plaque in the arteries, thereby increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
High cholesterol may run in the family, but is more commonly caused by unhealthy lifestyle habits including poor diet, lack of physical activity, obesity, smoking and diabetes.
High cholesterol can be managed with the following lifestyle modifications:
- Weight loss.
- Regular exercise.
- A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and grains.
- Quitting smoking.
- Drinking alcohol in moderation.
At HealthFit, we can regularly monitor cholesterol levels at our in-house laboratory. We find that, with a commitment to a healthy lifestyle and motivation to make healthy choices, most chronic diseases can be well controlled, oftentimes reducing or eliminating the need for medications.
Obesity & weight loss
Obesity is the condition of being significantly overweight, which is medically defined as having a body max index (BMI) of 30 or higher. BMI is a simple calculation that factors the ratio of height to weight. It is a good tool to get a rough estimate of one’s health as it relates to weight.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity affects over 1 in 3 adults in the United States. Obesity is linked with an array of chronic diseases including coronary heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.
While it is one of the most common causes of health problems in America, obesity is also one of the most preventable and reversible. Medication, genetics and certain health conditions can leave one predisposed to obesity.
Improper diet and lack of exercise can directly cause obesity. But we would like to help patients improve their diet and exercise habits and help them maintain good habits for life.
The thyroid is a gland in the neck responsible for making certain hormones related to metabolism. The two primary chronic disease disorders related to the thyroid are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid produces an inadequate amount of thyroid hormone. This can lead to symptoms that cause fatigue, weight gain, constipation, body aches and depression. Hypothyroidism is more common in older female adults, but can occur at any age. It is diagnosed with a blood test and treated effectively with medication.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone, which may lead to an array of symptoms including nervousness, moodiness, fatigue, tremors, weight loss and a goiter (enlargement of the thyroid). It is most commonly caused by an autoimmune disorder called Graves’ disease. This chronic disease can be diagnosed by blood test, and may require referral to a specialist for appropriate treatment, depending on severity.
Osteoporosis is a chronic disease involving the weakening of the bones as the body gets older. It is most commonly diagnosed in postmenopausal women, but it can affect men too. Osteoporosis leaves one at increased risk for breaks and fractures, and for this reason preventing falls becomes very important for elderly patients diagnosed with the condition.
While osteoporosis is a progressive and chronic disease that advances with age, it can be prevented and slowed. To prevent or slow the progression of osteoporosis, patients may be advised to:
- Take calcium and vitamin D supplements and/or consume foods rich in these nutrients.
- Quit smoking and drink only in moderation.
- Get regular exercise.
Migraines are severe, often debilitating headaches that affect more than 1 in 10 Americans. In contrast to the more common tension headache, which affects nearly everyone at one time or another, migraines come on suddenly and usually only affect one side of the head. They may also cause nausea and vomiting. It is thought that migraines are caused by abnormal activity in the brain.
Treating migraines and reducing their frequency often comes down to understanding what triggers them in any one individual. For some, they are triggered by changes in the weather, lack of sleep, certain foods or flashing lights. Others may find that a migraine occurs after a stressful or emotionally taxing event.
Botox for migraines
Botox, an injectable neurotoxic chemical, is most commonly used in the treatment of wrinkles on the face. It works by temporarily reducing the activity of the nerves in and near the site of injection, and has many applications beyond cosmetics including the treatment of chronic migraine headaches.
While clinical studies have shown that Botox facial injections can effectively treat chronic migraines, the reason it works for many patients is not fully understood. It is thought that Botox suppresses nerves that send pain signals to the brain and/or relaxes muscles, making them less prone to become tense and painful.