Chronic Disease Care & Control

Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. With type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, the more common type, your body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, the glucose stays in your blood. You can also have prediabetes. This means that your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Having prediabetes puts you at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause serious problems. It can damage your eyeskidneys, and nerves. Diabetes can also cause heart disease, stroke and even the need to remove a limb. Pregnant women can also get diabetes, called gestational diabetes.

Blood tests can show if you have diabetes. One type of test, the A1C, can also check on how you are managing your diabetes. Exercise, weight control and sticking to your meal plan can help control your diabetes. You should also monitor your blood glucose level and take medicine if prescribed.

 

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Each time your heart beats, it pumps blood into the arteries. Your blood pressure is highest when your heart beats, pumping the blood. This is called systolic pressure. When your heart is at rest, between beats, your blood pressure falls. This is called diastolic pressure.

Your blood pressure reading uses these two numbers. Usually the systolic number comes before or above the diastolic number. A reading of:

  • 119/79 or lower is normal blood pressure

  • 140/90 or higher is high blood pressure

  • Between 120 and 139 for the top number, or between 80 and 89 for the bottom number is called prehypertension. Prehypertension means you may end up with high blood pressure, unless you take steps to prevent it.

High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, but it can cause serious problems such as strokeheart failureheart attack and kidney failure.

You can control high blood pressure through healthy lifestyle habits such as exercise and the DASH diet and taking medicines, if needed.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Thyroid

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, just above your collarbone. It is one of your endocrine glands, which make hormones. Thyroid hormones control the rate of many activities in your body. These include how fast you burn calories and how fast your heart beats. All of these activities are your body's metabolism.

Thyroid problems include

  • Goiter - enlargement of the thyroid gland

  • Hyperthyroidism: when your thyroid gland makes more thyroid hormones than your body needs

  • Hypothyroidism: when your thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormones

  • Thyroid cancer

  • Thyroid nodules: lumps in the thyroid gland

  • Thyroiditis: swelling of the thyroid

To diagnose thyroid diseases, doctors use a medical history, physical exam, and thyroid tests. They sometimes also use a biopsy. Treatment depends on the problem, but may include medicines, radioiodine therapy, or thyroid surgery.

Dept. of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health

High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that occurs naturally in all parts of the body. Your body needs some cholesterol to work properly. But if you have too much in your blood, it can combine with other substances in the blood and stick to the walls of your arteries. This is called plaque. Plaque can narrow your arteries or even block them.

High levels of cholesterol in the blood can increase your risk of heart disease. Your cholesterol levels tend to rise as you get older. There are usually no signs or symptoms that you have high blood cholesterol, but it can be detected with a blood test. You are likely to have high cholesterol if members of your family have it, if you are overweight or if you eat a lot of fatty foods.

You can lower your cholesterol by exercising more and eating more fruits and vegetables. You also may need to take medicine to lower your cholesterol.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Overweight and Obesity

Obesity means having too much body fat. It is different from being overweight, which means weighing too much. The weight may come from muscle, bone, fat, and/or body water. Both terms mean that a person's weight is greater than what's considered healthy for his or her height.

Obesity happens over time when you eat more calories than you use. The balance between calories-in and calories-out differs for each person. Factors that might affect your weight include your genetic makeup, overeating, eating high-fat foods, and not being physically active.

Obesity increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and some cancers. If you have obesity, losing even 5 to 10 percent of your weight can delay or prevent some of these diseases. For example, that means losing 10 to 20 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds.

 

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Weight Loss Program

Keeping a healthy weight is crucial. If you are underweight or overweight, or have obesity, you may have a higher risk of certain health problems.

About two thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or have obesity. Achieving a healthy weight can help you control your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. It might also help you prevent weight-related diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and some cancers.

Eating too much or not being physically active enough will make you overweight. To maintain your weight, the calories you eat must equal the energy you burn. To lose weight, you must use more calories than you eat. A weight-control strategy might include

  • Choosing low-fat, low-calorie foods

  • Eating smaller portions

  • Drinking water instead of sugary drinks

  • Being physically active

Eating extra calories within a well-balanced diet can help to add weight.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Skin Diseases

Your skin is your body's largest organ. It covers and protects your body. Your skin

  • Holds body fluids in, preventing dehydration

  • Keeps harmful microbes out, preventing infections

  • Helps you feel things like heat, cold, and pain

  • Keeps your body temperature even

  • Makes vitamin D when the sun shines on it

Anything that irritates, clogs, or inflames your skin can cause symptoms such as redness, swelling, burning, and itching. Allergies, irritants, your genetic makeup, and certain diseases and immune system problems can cause rashes, hives, and other skin conditions. Many skin problems, such as acne, also affect your appearance.

NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD)

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact. The causes of STDs are bacteria, parasites, yeast, and viruses. There are more than 20 types of STDs, including

  • Chlamydia

  • Genital herpes

  • Gonorrhea

  • HIV/AIDS

  • HPV

  • Syphilis

  • Trichomoniasis

Most STDs affect both men and women, but in many cases the health problems they cause can be more severe for women. If a pregnant woman has an STD, it can cause serious health problems for the baby.

Antibiotics can treat STDs caused by bacteria, yeast, or parasites. There is no cure for STDs caused by a virus, but medicines can often help with the symptoms and keep the disease under control.

Correct usage of latex condoms greatly reduces, but does not completely eliminate, the risk of catching or spreading STDs.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Gastrointesyinal Issues

When you eat, your body breaks food down to a form it can use to build and nourish cells and provide energy. This process is called digestion.

Your digestive system is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube. It runs from your mouth to your anus and includes your esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines. Your liver, gallbladder and pancreas are also involved. They produce juices to help digestion.

There are many types of digestive disorders. The symptoms vary widely depending on the problem. In general, you should see your doctor if you have

  • Blood in your stool

  • Changes in bowel habits

  • Severe abdominal pain

  • Unintentional weight loss

  • Heartburn not relieved by antacids

 

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Stomach Ulcers

A peptic ulcer is a sore in the lining of your stomach or your duodenum, the first part of your small intestine. A burning stomach pain is the most common symptom. The pain

  • Starts between meals or during the night

  • Briefly stops if you eat or take antacids

  • Lasts for minutes to hours

  • Comes and goes for several days or weeks

Peptic ulcers happen when the acids that help you digest food damage the walls of the stomach or duodenum. The most common cause is infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. Another cause is the long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Stress and spicy foods do not cause ulcers, but can make them worse.

To see if you have an H. pylori infection, your doctor will test your blood, breath, or stool. Your doctor also may look inside your stomach and duodenum by doing an endoscopy or x-ray.

Peptic ulcers will get worse if not treated. Treatment may include medicines to reduce stomach acids or antibiotics to kill H. pylori. Antacids and milk can't heal peptic ulcers. Not smoking and avoiding alcohol can help. You may need surgery if your ulcers don't heal.

 

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Asthma

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airways. Your airways are tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. If you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways become sore and swollen. That makes them very sensitive, and they may react strongly to things that you are allergic to or find irritating. When your airways react, they get narrower and your lungs get less air.

Symptoms of asthma include

  • Wheezing

  • Coughing, especially early in the morning or at night

  • Chest tightness

  • Shortness of breath

Not all people who have asthma have these symptoms. Having these symptoms doesn't always mean that you have asthma. Your doctor will diagnose asthma based on lung function tests, your medical history, and a physical exam. You may also have allergy tests.

When your asthma symptoms become worse than usual, it's called an asthma attack. Severe asthma attacks may require emergency care, and they can be fatal.

Asthma is treated with two kinds of medicines: quick-relief medicines to stop asthma symptoms and long-term control medicines to prevent symptoms.

 

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Allergies

An allergy is a reaction by your immune system to something that does not bother most other people. People who have allergies often are sensitive to more than one thing. Substances that often cause reactions are

  • Pollen

  • Dust mites

  • Mold spores

  • Pet dander

  • Food

  • Insect stings

  • Medicines

Normally, your immune system fights germs. It is your body's defense system. In most allergic reactions, however, it is responding to a false alarm. Genes and the environment probably both play a role.

Allergies can cause a variety of symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, itching, rashes, swelling, or asthma. Allergies can range from minor to severe. Anaphylaxis is a severe reaction that can be life-threatening. Doctors use skin and blood tests to diagnose allergies. Treatments include medicines, allergy shots, and avoiding the substances that cause the reactions.

 

NIH: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases