Chronic diseases are defined broadly as conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both. Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability.
Many chronic diseases are caused by a short list of risk behaviors:
- Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Poor nutrition, including diets low in fruits and vegetables and high in sodium and saturated fats.
- Lack of physical activity.
- Excessive alcohol use.
Chronic diseases tend to become more common with age. The leading chronic diseases in developed countries include (in alphabetical order) arthritis, cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and stroke, cancer such as breast and colon cancer, diabetes, epilepsy and seizures, obesity, and oral health problems.
Chronic conditions are rarely cured completely, so looking after yourself will be about good medical advice, living a healthy lifestyle and having a positive attitude.
To maintain your best quality of life, you or your carer can help by:
- finding reliable information about the disease, its treatment and management – will help you feel you are taking a positive step and give you a feeling of control over your illness
- understanding your medication, including what it is specifically for, any special instructions and potential side effects
- setting yourself goals – short-term goals will give you a sense of how you are progressing
- developing skills to manage your pain and fatigue
- getting emotional support – speak to others who are going through what you are, as well as leaning on family and friends when you need to
- planning for the future – be realistic about your future health and discuss this with your doctor.