What are chronic illnesses (or diseases)?
Updated: Nov 12, 2019
Let's get down to business, shall we? What exactly are chronic illnesses (or diseases)? How common are they? Who gets a diagnosis?
Chronic illnesses (or 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 (CDC, 2019). These diseases can include, but aren't limited to:
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Alzheimer's Disease and other Dementias
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
Heart (cardiovascular) Disease (Hypertension and Stroke)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Mental illness (mood and/or anxiety disorders)
Neurological conditions (Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinsonism, including Parkinson's Disease)
As you can imagine, as the world population (specifically the Baby Boomers population) grows older, more and more people are being diagnosed with a chronic illness every year. Today, 60% of all deaths are due to chronic diseases (WHO, 2019). And in Canada, 44% of adults 20+ have at least 1 of 10 common chronic conditions (Government of Canada, 2019). Most individuals who receive a chronic illness diagnosis are older adults, however some individuals may be diagnosed as a young adult.
To help reduce individual's risk to developing a chronic illness, there are major risk factors that should be avoided:
the harmful use of alcohol
raised blood pressure (or hypertension)
raised blood glucose
Some sources (e.g., BetterHealth) also highlight the impact that stress has on developing a chronic illness. You need to learn how to: live with the physical effects of the illness, deal with the treatments, make sure there is clear communication with healthcare professionals, maintain emotional balance to cope with negative feelings, maintain confidence and a positive self-image. All these can be completely overwhelming to do when faced with a diagnosis of any kind.
And so, when it comes to finding the right treatment options, it's important to broaden the lens. Who you include on your treatment team is just as important as what medications you may take. Think about including healthcare professionals, such as:
and of course, a counsellor!