By Dr Attia Anwar
In my practice, I meet different types of patients every day. They have different problems and are from different socioeconomic groups.
Now imagine a woman having three kids youngest is 5 years old. Kids are school-going. Lady is a housewife taking care of the house and children. One day she came for her check-up for feeling tired I checked her blood glucose and she was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus because her blood sugar was very high.
Out of chronic diseases diabetes mellitus is one of least disabling
She became upset, frustrated, and almost in denial. She has to change the fixed pattern of her life. I told her about lifestyle modification and medicines. She does not want to cook separately for herself. So decided to skip breakfast took her medicine and fell down due to low blood sugar. Fortunately, she has no injury on her head but her ankle is scratched and has a small wound. Her blood sugar is not controlled properly so wound healing is delayed. She is finding difficulty in looking after her house. Her husband and children are suffering too. They want to help but they do not know how. This is the story of every non-communicable chronic disease.
A diabetic diet is a normal healthy diet suitable for everybody
Out of chronic diseases diabetes mellitus is one of least disabling. And do not have immediate effects. But it also requires coping mechanisms and acceptance. So when she came for a follow-up I involved husband and children. Told them that she does not require a separate diet.
A diabetic diet is a normal healthy diet suitable for everybody. Diabetic patients have to restrict their calories according to need. In contrast to popular opinion, they can occasionally have sweet dishes like a piece of cake or a small scoop of ice cream. A healthy diet is also important for the rest of the family. It will help in the prevention of diabetes in children as their mother is diabetic. Regular monitoring of glucose is also important because it requires motivation. Children can be involved in that process too.
When a disease lasts longer than three months and it does not have any cure or vaccination, it is said to be a chronic disease. 6 in 10 adults have some kind of chronic disorder. Another estimate is one in three people have some chronic disease. It includes hypertension, diabetes, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and the list goes on.
Living with a chronic disease has its own implications. You may have physical jeopardy of the condition and a lot of mental anxiety also. When somebody is diagnosed with some chronic condition he may have to say goodbye to certain things. They may have to set up different life goals and change their dreams. There is a strong feeling of uncertainty about where I am going. They may feel social isolation after being unable to do certain hobbies.
Acceptance is a big part of the road to recovery. Then you will understand what it means in terms of partner, job, having kids, raising kids and so many other things. People may be unkind.
Accept that there is nothing normal, there is a spectrum and we can be on one end of something and at the other end of something else. No one is normal. Knowing as we discussed in an example that I have above normal blood glucose, somebody else has higher numbers in blood pressure. So this is very prevalent. One out of three persons is suffering from some kind of problem
Learn about your disease as much as you can, and learn about the natural history of the disease. Learning about the disease will make you feel in control. When your mind feels under control and feels something can be done. Healing starts and immunity increases.
Play with your strengths, do not focus much on your weaknesses. If you do things more often than you can, you will become strong, and gradually your weaknesses will subside, and disappear. So after learning about your disease set realistic goals and work towards them.
Do your regular healthcare like taking medicine, Monitoring, and going to a doctor. Monitoring of your disease is important whether it is blood sugar or blood pressure. Regular monitoring will keep you away from complications of the disease. And you will be healthy and feel good about that.
Stay active. 150 minutes of physical activity per week is necessary for anybody with chronic disease. If you can do more that is better. Activity and movement are important tools to boost your immune system and feel positive. Be as active as your disease allows you.
Eat a healthy diet. Take care of yourself. You should have a colorful plate according to your taste. Enjoy your food as much as you can. Add healthy options to your diet, and avoid preservatives. The family should also focus on eating healthy. The family will benefit from that and the patient will not feel left out.
Do regular social activities. Join a support group. Become an expert on your disease and educate others, helping them overcome their fears and anxiety. Expert patients are very helpful to others because they are actually walking in their shoes. So people with diseases are motivated by them and actually listen to them
Indulge yourself in regular relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, and other therapies. Your body has the immense power of healing. Keep your hopes on and set some realistic goals for yourself. Spend time with loved ones. Communicate your needs clearly with family and friends. They should know about your limitations and strengths.
In the end, I would like to say that people who do not have any chronic disease should show some empathy. And our society should be a more inclusive paradigm for everybody. So that no one feels left out.
The author Dr. Attia Anwar is a consultant family physician with a postgraduate degree from the Royal College of GP UK. She is a strong advocate of health and well-being and wants patient participation in decision-making regarding health.