Like women, fine wines get better with time. Wines become more nuanced and complex with age, also like women. Our value increases as we age and come into our own. We are powerful. However, we’re vulnerable too. Many women who are north of forty have found themselves facing a chronic illness. It can put a damper on our health and affect our mind, body, and soul. The key is to take ownership of it, so we have the condition, but it doesn’t have us.
What is a chronic illness?
Chronic illnesses are defined broadly as conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both. Chronic diseases can include heart disease and autoimmune diseases like MS, Lupus, Epilepsy, and Diabetes. It also encompasses injuries sustained that affect your knees, back, or hips.
According to the CDC, six in ten adults are living with a chronic illness. Four in ten adults have two or more chronic conditions. The leading causes of death and disability are heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease. The key risks for these diseases are tobacco use, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and excessive alcohol use (CDC 2020)
Ben Franklin wisely stated that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Many women who are north of forty and fifty-plus, are used to being the person who is counted on. Whether as a wife, mother, daughter, or sister, women tend to be natural caretakers and nurturers. All of us have a role we play in our families, and it’s something we take to heart. Nevertheless, we must realize that if we don’t take care of ourselves, no one else will do it for us. We are our own best resource. So, find the time to take care and deal with your chronic condition.
The right doctor, nurse, or physician’s assistant is an essential part of your healthcare team. A doctor who is knowledgeable and has your full health history is an important asset in determining the measures taken to mitigate any issues of pain and discomfort that arise from your condition. Talk to them if you’re on medication and would like to add vitamin supplements to boost your health. Vitamins, like over-the-counter medications, can interact with doctor-prescribed medications. Also, if you’re on medication, and you lose weight, be sure to see the doctor particularly if you’re taking something for a condition like hypertension. Your doctor takes your weight and height into consideration when figuring out the dosage. If you lose a significant amount of weight, he or she may want to reevaluate it. The same goes for pain medication.
While your doctor has a lot to do with your well-being, you are always in control. Try to find activities that relieve stress. Low-impact exercises like walking and swimming, provide a workout that lessens stress on your joints if you have issues with your legs, knees, or back. Many things like yoga, pilates, and Tai-Chi, can be modified to accommodate your level of fitness and disability. If you don’t want to join a gym, you can go on YouTube where they have channels dedicated to different types of workouts. Fitbit, Peleton, and more have apps to assist you with finding an exercise program suited to your needs. Find a physical activity you can commit to. You’re more likely to keep up with it when it’s something you enjoy.
Design a diet that works for you
Moderation is the way
Think about your diet. No need to subscribe to any diet program with pre-measured food that comes in a box. Create a diet that works for you. Drastic changes like veganism or no-carb can be a shock to the body. Eating a healthy diet filled with vegetables, lean protein, fruits, and lots of water is a great way to go. Limit processed foods, salt, and too much sugar. That doesn’t mean you are going to graze and eat tofu for dessert for the rest of your life. The key is moderation. Before there were Weight Watchers, Nutri-System, Jenny Craig, or Keto-anything, there was moderation and portion control. Portions in the United States are larger than most countries. In France, they consume butter, cream, and cheese, but they have a low rate of heart disease. By eating smaller portions throughout the day, the French keep their bodies fueled efficiently. It makes a difference.
Focus on your likes and dislikes to come up with a diet that works for you and your lifestyle. If you can afford it, try a pre-made meal service that delivers weekly. If that doesn’t fit your budget, but you’re not crazy about cooking, keep it simple with recipes that require a minimal amount of ingredients and don’t take much time. Eating healthy is possible on a budget. Shop around to find the best deals and sales. Also, change things up with different cuisines. Or try new food. Variety is the spice of life, and it keeps mealtime interesting.
Lean on family, friends, or call a professional for support
We all need a support system. Many of us are used to being the one who is there for others. There are days when even the toughest and strongest of us need an ear and a shoulder to lean on. Allow your friends and family to be there for you. Moreover, feel free to talk to a professional about your feelings. A little talk therapy goes a long way. Then again when all else fails, try chocolate. This one-bowl chocolate cake recipe from King Arthur is low-fat, dairy-free, and a snap to make.