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Managing chronic conditions during a global health crisis

Managing chronic conditions during a global health crisis

Elderly people and those with underlying chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and cancer are at higher risk of severe complications with novel coronavirus

By IANSlife Features

April 2, 2020 (IANSlife) In light of the rapid onset of coronavirus, there are many questions and concerns on how to best keep in good health, especially for those with chronic conditions. And do these conditions make one more vulnerable and at a higher risk of complications, in the event of COVID-19. 
 

As per the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, elderly people and those with underlying chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and cancer are at higher risk of severe complications with novel coronavirus. This is because as we age, our immune systems weaken naturally and those with an underlying heart issue or diabetes mellitus might have an immune system that is further compromised, making it difficult to battle infection. 

 

Dr Siddhesh Kolwankar, AVP - Clinical and Product, Wellthy Therapeutics, suggests ways to manage chronic conditions during a global health crisis.

 

Don’t panic and be prepared

There is no need to panic. We need to be precautious and prepare for the days ahead. 
The best thing for a person with a chronic condition is to continue managing that condition. This means taking medicines on time, monitoring blood sugar or blood pressure levels, following the diet as prescribed and exercising regularly. In addition, patients with diabetes, hypertension or a history of heart disease must be more alert for COVID-19 symptoms. 
It’s a good idea to keep your doctor’s contact details handy and call on a friend or relative to regularly check up on you.


Precautions and diabetes care-

For a person with diabetes, viral infections increase inflammation or internal swelling. This is also caused by above-target blood sugars, and both could contribute to more severe complications.

Precautions to take for diabetic patients

  • Stay hydrated and keep a constant check on your blood sugar levels 
  • Ensure that you are equipped with sufficient medications, along with glucose monitoring devices and diabetes supplies for the near future.  
  • Be prepared for high sugar and low sugar episodes: 
  • If your blood sugar level is low (below 70 mg/dl or your target range): Supplies such as hard candy, jelly, honey and fruits grapes, banana, and fast-acting carbohydrates to be consumed in 15g doses (roughly 3 teaspoons full)
  • If your blood sugar level is high (greater than 240mg/dl) more than 2 times in a row, contact your doctor to get further assistance
  • In addition to basic hygiene, make sure injection/ infusion devices and finger-stick sites are sanitized with soap and water or alcohol sterilizers.

 

Precautions and cardiovascular care

In a similar way, infections like COVID-19 increase pressure on the heart and lungs to circulate blood and oxygen throughout the body this could exacerbate issues in individuals where the heart is already not pumping efficiently. Patients with high cholesterol face the added complication where virus infections can destabilise plaques. This can potentially result in the blockage of an artery feeding blood to the heart which increases the risk of a heart attack6.


Precautions to take for cardiovascular care

  • Monitor your blood pressure levels regularly and record the reading in case you need to share it with your doctor.
  • Create an at-home circuit workout to stay active and de-stress. Practice simple exercises and meditation to beat stress. 
  • Stay connected with friends and family over calls and social media to lift your mood. And try to get enough sleep.
  • Follow a diet as recommended by your doctor. This means limiting salt and adding immune-boosting ingredients like dried fruit, grains, oatmeal. These are also good shelf-stable options which means you can stock up for days.
  • Use the additional time at home as an opportunity to pursue hobbies and therapeutic activities such as gardening, reading or cooking.

 

Building preventative habits 

As per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare guidelines, we must practice — social distancing, frequent handwashing, avoiding high-touch surfaces and refrain from touching our face when outdoors. It may seem like touching your face is an involuntary action but there are small recommended actions that can make this behaviour change easy!

 

Try these hacks to train your mind towards safety precautions during COVID-19: 

  • Sing your favourite song aloud while washing your hands and make sure it’s longer than 20 seconds
  • Set aside a jar in the house where you put a coin in every time you touch your mouth, eyes or nose
  • Every time you sneeze into your elbow, don’t forget to celebrate by saying “good job” aloud. Encourage others to offer congratulations as well! 
  • This encouragement will make it easy to build a tiny habit 


In Conclusion

Healthcare professionals, coaches and therapeutic interventions play a key role in guiding patients in such times. Fortunately, the digitization of healthcare is equipped to support patients and doctors alike. 

Remain calm, monitor your health, continue to manage your lifestyle better following the precautions and don’t hesitate to call up your doctor if you experience any anomalies or symptoms. They will advise you on the right course of action. 

Unless extremely ill, patients with chronic conditions must not visit crowded hospitals or clinics as it can lead to a higher risk of exposing yourself to more illnesses. Constant preventive care is the best remedy to deal with any kind of infection.

 

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