If you’re one of the more than 117 million Americans living with chronic health problems, your health may be causing you to miss work or may make it more difficult to do your job. There are a number of steps you can take to better manage chronic health problems, which can improve your overall wellbeing, prevent these problems from becoming worse, and reduce the amount of time you’re out of work due to health issues.
The most common chronic health problems affecting adults in the U.S. include:
- Heart disease: More than 27 million people have been diagnosed with heart disease.
- Diabetes: More than 21 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes and more than 8 million people have the disease but have not been diagnosed.
- Back pain: 8 out of 10 people experience back pain at some point in their lives, with 30% of men and 20% of women with this condition reporting that it affects their ability to work.
- Mental health issues: Approximately 1 in 5 adults experiences mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, in a given year, with those problems interfering with life and work for 1 in 25 adults.
Another health issue that causes people to miss work or be less productive at work is dealing with chronic health problems or serious diagnoses like cancer that are affecting family members. When a family member is ill, you may need to take time off to provide care or take them to doctors’ appointments or may find it difficult to focus on work because you’re worried or spending time trying to schedule doctor’s appointments and research treatment options.
What you can do to manage chronic health problems better
If you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic health problem, there are several proactive steps you can take that may help you manage your condition more effectively:
- Lifestyle changes: Eating a healthy diet, getting at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, getting an appropriate amount of sleep, and managing stress can help you lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, reduce stress on your back and other joints, and decrease the severity of depression symptoms.
- Connect with the right medical specialists: By partnering with a physician who has experience treating the condition or conditions you’ve been diagnosed with, you’ll receive the needed care and guidance to effectively manage your chronic health condition.
- Be an active partner in your healthcare: A health advisor can provide you with evidence-based information about your condition and the available treatments so that you can make an informed decision about which option will be most effective for you. It’s also important to talk frankly with your doctor and ask any questions you have about the condition and any proposed treatments. If you feel your doctor is not providing the information you need, consider finding a new one.
- Make sure your care is well coordinated: If you see multiple doctors to treat your chronic health problems, it’s important that all of them have access to your up-to-date, comprehensive medical record to avoid medical errors and inappropriate treatments.