How can I manage osteoarthritis?

As with all chronic conditions, you play a major role in day-to-day management. People with osteoarthritis benefit from exercises that strengthen the muscles and support the joints. Weights or exercise bands increase resistance. Regular aerobic exercise is important for overall health. Range-of-motion and agility exercises help you continue to perform the activities of daily living. Always talk with your doctor before starting or changing your exercise program. Your doctor may recommend the use of over-the-counter pain medications or ice after exercising.

Maintaining a healthy weight will reduce the stress on your joints. Learn to pay attention to your body and stop or slow down when necessary. Regular periods of rest help prevent pain. Some people use canes, splints, or braces to take the strain off the affected joint. Keep in mind that you will still want to exercise the affected part; otherwise muscles will get lax, giving the joint less support.

Learn to pay attention to your body and stop or slow down.

Applying heat increases blood flow and eases pain and stiffness. Cold packs reduce inflammation and also lessen pain. Ask your doctor which approach is best for you. Massage also increases blood flow. Be sure to tell the massage therapist about any affected joints.

Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain medications or prescriptions. In some cases, surgery may be an option. The surgeon may remove loose pieces of bone and cartilage, reposition the bones, resurface or smooth out the bone, or replace the joint with an artificial one. Artificial joints can last 10 to 15 years or longer. The decision to use surgery takes into account age, occupation, level of disability, pain intensity, and the degree to which arthritis interferes with life for the patient. Rehabilitation follows surgery.

What is cancer?

Normal cells in everyone's body live for a certain preprogrammed period of time, die, and are replaced by new cells. When cells genetically mutate, this normal process can go wrong. Cells don't die when they are supposed to, and new cells are created when they are not needed. This can result in cancer. Cancerous cells can spread to nearby tissues and to all parts of the body.

According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 1,437,180 men and women (745,180 men and 692,000 women) will be diagnosed with, and 565,650 men and women will die of cancer in 2008. Not many decades ago cancer was considered a death sentence. Although people do still die from cancer, it is increasingly falling into the category of chronic illness as better tests for detection of cancer and better treatments are being developed.

How can I reduce my risk of developing a chronic disease?

There are three areas that need attention if you are to reduce your risk of developing a chronic disease or condition: know your risk, get tested, and be proactive.

Risk

Learn about personal risk factors that are beyond your control. Take the time to learn about the medical history of family members. Tendencies to develop some diseases are genetic. Be sure to inform your doctor about chronic diseases in your family tree. If you have a higher risk of cancer or hypertension or autoimmunity, you can be alert to changes in your health and take action quickly. Your ethnicity or race, gender, and age can predispose you to certain diseases. Although you can't eliminate this risk factor, you can eliminate risky behaviors associated with the diseases you are more likely to develop.

Get Tested

Follow the schedule of testing that your doctor recommends. When things like high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol problems are detected in the earliest stages, treatment and management are most successful. If you are at risk for osteoporosis, have your bone density measured as your doctor suggests. It is far better to catch osteoporosis in the early stages than it is to end up with a hip replacement down the line. Have regular appropriate cancer screenings. Cancers caught early have a higher likelihood of cure than those that have progressed. Nancy Reagan said, "Don't fear the mammogram; fear the cancer." In other words, don't be an ostrich with your head in the sand. Just because you don't know you have a chronic illness brewing doesn't mean that it's not there!

Be Proactive

Care about yourself enough to take charge of your own health. No one else can do that for you. Here is a list of things that can help you reduce the risk of chronic illness.

• Know your risk factors

• Educate yourself about your health

• See your doctor regularly

• Get appropriate medical screenings

• Maintain a healthy weight

Care about yourself enough to take charge of your own health.

• Exercise to keep your heart healthy (cardio)

• Exercise to keep your muscles and bones strong (weight bearing)

• Exercise for flexibility (stretching)

• Don't smoke

• Limit alcohol intake

• Limit salt intake

• Eat whole, healthy foods

• Eat at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables

• Avoid trans fats and dietary cholesterol

• Reduce stress where possible

• Manage stress that you can't avoid

• Practice living in the present

• Stay connected to other people

• Protect yourself from the sun

• Keep your immunizations up to date

 
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