Managing Multiple Chronic Conditions

Doshi PhotoBy Guest Blogger

Jay V. Doshi, MD, FACC
Director, Cardiac Electrophysiology
Phelps Memorial & Northern Westchester Hospitals
Assistant Clinical Professor of Cardiology
Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Increasingly adults, specifically seniors, are managing multiple chronic health conditions. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that approximately one of every four adults is currently managing more than one chronic condition.

This is often the case for those managing heart disease. For example, someone with bradycardia (a slower than normal heart rate) or tachycardia (a faster than normal heart rate) may also be recovering from a stroke, or managing diabetes, depression, arthritis or cancer. Managing one chronic condition can be challenging. Add another condition or two and life can become rather overwhelming and stressful. Managing your health and minimizing stress requires organization, effective communication and attitude. Here are some tips:

Get Organized: If you’re dealing with more than one diagnosis, you’re likely working with multiple doctors and specialists to manage your conditions. While many providers are able to share your medical records electronically these days, it’s not always the case. Arrive at appointments prepared to speak with your physician about your holistic health. Try to be proactive and obtain copies of your test results and reports to give to different providers.

It’s also important to keep a current list of all the medications you’re taking – including prescriptions, over the counter medications and herbal supplements. It’s critical that every healthcare provider treating you knows which medications you’re taking so they can treat you effectively and avoid any negative drug interactions. It is helpful to bring your prescription bottles to your appointments so all of your medications and dosages can be checked. The American Heart Association has developed a handy medicine chart that you can download to more easily track your medications.

Study Up & Ask Questions: The more involved in your treatment you become, the better your outcome is likely to be. Learn as much as you can about your diagnosed conditions so you’re prepared to ask the right questions when it’s time to make important care decisions.

For example, if you’re considering a pacemaker or ICD you should speak to your doctor about the benefits of choosing a cardiac rhythm management device that has been approved by the FDA for use during MRI scans. Approximately 75 percent of patients with an implanted cardiac device will need an MRI in their future. Since MRI is used to diagnose and treat issues with the heart, brain, spinal cord, kidneys, bones, joints and much more, having access to this powerful diagnostic tool is critically important. Being implanted with a device that is not MRI-compatible may preclude you from ever having an MRI scan in the future. Be sure to have a conversation with your doctor to ensure you receive a device that provides you with access to future diagnostic care critical to managing other diseases, illness and injury.

Stay Positive: There’s no doubt that managing multiple chronic health conditions can be overwhelming, upsetting and stressful at times. Try to stay positive. Negative talk, like “I can’t do this” and “everything is going wrong” only increases stress levels. Researchers have confirmed that positive thinking may provide health benefits such as increased life span, lower rates of depression, greater resistance to the common cold, and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association has some great tips on how to practice “positive self-talk” which will help to calm you down and control stress.

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