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Chronic Diseases

Managing Diabetes, Heart Disease and Other Chronic Conditions: Keep a Good Thing Going

It takes time and effort to keep long-lasting health issues like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease under control. So, if you’ve been successfully tackling a chronic condition, you’re to be commended. But don’t stop now.

Managing an underlying disease is even more important in times of increased risk from viruses, such as COVID-19. Despite the pandemic’s restrictions, it’s vital that you keep up with your regular wellness check-ins, tests, medication management and healthy lifestyle habits. Perhaps most important of all, keep working with your doctor.

Work with Your Doctor to Manage Your Condition

Because every chronic condition has unique symptoms and treatments, working in partnership with your medical expert is essential. Your doctor can counsel you on your disease state, ensure that medication is prescribed and managed properly, and uncover new symptoms you may not recognize. Plus, with every underlying disease there’s a lot of information you need to digest.

“We’re educators as well as medical experts,” says Frederick St. Goar, MD, a cardiologist and medical director of the Norma Melchor Heart & Vascular Institute at El Camino Health. “With heart disease, there’s a spectrum of symptoms that are not always easy to identify. The classic heart failure symptoms — chest pressure, neck pain, left arm pain — present in a lot of variety.”

To keep your condition in check, let your doctor know about any changes in your health, especially if they have begun to interfere with your day-to-day activities. Your doctor can modify treatment, adjust medications, research and discuss therapy options, and advise you on beneficial lifestyle changes. With chronic disease, there’s always the risk that a change in health will lead to complications if not addressed.

Don’t Let COVID-19 Stop You from Looking After Yourself

“The pandemic is at the forefront of our minds, which is totally appropriate,” says Archana Bindra, MD, an endocrinologist at El Camino Health specializing in diabetes. “But I tell my patients, it should not interfere with their non-COVID-19-related health and wellness.

“If anything, you should be even more cognizant of your health. Don’t get lost in the avalanche of COVID-19 news headlines and restrictions. In fact, the current slowdown has given my patients more free time. I advise them to use it for healthy habits, diet and exercise.”

For the most part, Dr. Bindra’s diabetic patients use medical devices at home that monitor glucose and blood pressure. To keep their condition under control, they visit her regularly via telehealth outlets like Zoom. However, diabetic patients must also get their hemoglobin A1c checked every three months, and a few of her patients have expressed fear of getting their labs done.

They need a doctor’s encouragement. Dr. Bindra assures them that test sites have embraced the safety protocols that prevent virus transmission. Labs are by appointment only with time limits, and the laboratory waiting room is arranged and marked to ensure social distancing.

Said Dr. St. Goar, “I tell my patients, if there is concern over the risk of coming to us for a test or a medical intervention, the benefits of care far outweigh the risk of the virus itself.”

Arthritis patients, due to their greater risk of developing infections and more severe infections, need the most reassurance that their medication will be available and their hospital visits will be safe. That makes it especially important that doctor and patient should stay in touch.

El Camino Health has taken numerous safety precautions and adopted all the guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Department of Public Health for California and Santa Clara County Public Health Department. Patients, visitors, staff and doctors are screened daily and provided with a clean mask to wear while in the facility.

“I assure them our hospitals and labs have made a herculean effort to keep everyone safe,” says Dr. St. Goar. “With all the precautions we’ve been taking, the hospital is probably the safest place to be.”

Don’t Delay Care for Any Reason

Living with chronic illness comes with many challenges. It’s expected that patients with chronic disease may experience a new symptom from time to time. Some patients may require frequent interventions to make sure their condition doesn’t worsen. Don’t ignore symptoms. If your doctor recommends a visit to a local emergency room, go.

Taking responsibility for your health, working closely with your doctor and taking advantage of the safe and substantial resources at El Camino Health is the best way to look after yourself — with or without a pandemic.

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