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Nurse Lisa Viviano has Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia, a complex, chronic illness. Here are her lifestyle suggestions for taking back some control over chronic illness.
Sometimes life hands us a difficult diagnosis. Conditions like Type I diabetes, Asthma, Crohn’s Disease, Fibromyalgia can make living a ‘normal’ life difficult to impossible. They can require frequent interventions and can put a halt to our dreams and make our family lives strained. Chronic illnesses are also known to lead to depression which comes with its own set of challenges.
What to do when we are giving the sticky end of the lollipop?
If you’re lucky and it is something treatable, like high blood pressure or Type II diabetes, listen to your doctor’s recommendations and look at the lifestyle changes you have within your control:
You might think “That’s easy for you to say Lisa!” but trust me, I know how hard it can be.
Nine years ago, I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes with a hemoglobin A1C of 13.1. For anyone familiar with diabetes testing you are rightly shocked (below 5.7 is normal, and 5.7-6.8 is considered “pre-diabetes)! My doctors didn’t know how I wasn’t in a coma (my spot glucose was 469 – normal is less than 100). As a nurse I knew what the risks of living with Diabetes were. Diabetes can cause blood flow restrictions to your hands and feet and kidneys and I wanted to keep my fingers and toes so I made big changes. I’m lucky because for me, these changes worked! Now, I no longer need insulin and my blood sugars are normal. It just goes to show you can take charge of your health if you educate yourself and decide to do the hard work.
There are plenty of chronic conditions where diet and exercise aren’t going to be the magic bullet. Every chronic illness has its own set of recommendations to help improve your health, but there are some general tips that apply to just about anyone:
You might need to overhaul your hobbies and activities. If you develop major problems with rheumatoid arthritis for instance, rock climbing may not be an option anymore. After a major heart attack, running might need to be replaced with power walking, while for other heart problems, cardio isn’t allowed at all. Long walks are still very good exercise and also give you a chance to get out of the house and get some sunshine. Your Vitamin D levels will thank you!
So, if you can’t go climb mountains what do you do with this extra time? Catch up on the reading you’ve been telling yourself you’ve wanted to do. Knitting is great! Clean out the garage or basement and organize it (you know it needs it Rachel). If you’re retired, volunteer at the local animal shelter answering phones or walking the dogs. There are so many things you can find to do that will continue to keep you off the sofa and feeling productive.
Living with chronic illnesses comes with many challenges but they don’t have to defeat you. Rise above them, take control of the parts of your life that you can and take advantage of the resources your insurer offers.
Lisa is a recently retired RN who practiced in several areas of nursing including medical/surgical, psychiatric, and hospice. She is also graduate of the University of Michigan in psychology and trained to a Masters in Social Work. Lisa is a monster football fan living in Southern Illinois with her daughter, who serves in the USAF and is also pursuing a nursing degree. They have three fur babies who they love and spoil daily.
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