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Coping with Chronic Illness

Chronic illnesses—such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis—are the leading causes of death and disability in the US. They’re also the most common and the most costly. Despite these facts, however, chronic conditions are also distinctive because even though they can’t be cured, they are the most preventable. Tobacco use, lack of physical activity, poor eating habits and other health damaging behaviors are major contributors to leading chronic diseases, which is why it’s important to take care of yourself by watching what you eat, exercising regularly, and getting a physical every year. (Remember: when you see an in-network provider, your annual wellness exam is free!)

If you or a family member suffer from a chronic condition, here are ways to help you cope:

  • Be involved in your treatment. Explore all treatment options and develop relationships with providers. Do not be afraid to ask questions or express differing opinions. Read about your Fund medical benefits.
  • Decrease your stress level. Take a long walk, meditate, sit quietly and listen to music. If you’re having trouble chilling out, the Fund offers a Member Assistance Program (MAP) at no cost to you. Providing professional and confidential counseling services, the MAP can help you handle personal and/or work concerns constructively, before they become major issues.
  • Follow a healthy diet. Good nutrition always results in better health. If you have special dietary instructions from your treatment provider, follow them. If not, be conscious of decisions when it comes to your daily food intake. For tips on what to eat, visit the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute website.
  • Seek support. Whether you find strength in sharing with close friends or reaching out to a support group, get involved with others and share your experiences and hope. If you feel a little shy or are more private, consider an online support group where you can remain anonymous. Read more about online support groups.