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What You Can Do to Help Prevent Chronic Conditions  

Chronic conditions affect six in 10 adults in the U.S. – and account for the vast majority of the $3.5 trillion Americans spend each year on their health care.  

The definition of a chronic condition is broad: the term is applied to any condition that lasts one year or more and requires ongoing medical attention or limits daily activities. The primary chronic conditions affecting Americans are heart disease, cancer and diabetes.  

During the past year, MI Blues Perspectives has compiled a series to help you understand the facts about some of the major chronic conditions affecting Americans today. Click on the links below to see how we debunked the top five myths about each of these conditions  

Some chronic conditions are caused by a mix of genetic and environmental factors, while other chronic conditions are more directly influenced by diet and lifestyle choices.  

While not all chronic conditions can be prevented, there are steps that everyone can take that will both lower the risk of being diagnosed with some of the most prominent chronic conditionsand to better manage the symptoms of existing conditions:  

  • Check in with your doctor: Ensure you’re keeping regular checkups with your doctor on your schedule and are sticking to the recommended screening schedule for blood pressure, cholesterol and certain cancers.  
  • Decrease alcohol use: Excessive drinking can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems. Excessive drinking includes binge drinking – consuming four or more drinks on occasion for a woman or five or more drinks on occasion for a man – as well as heavy drinking, which means consuming eight or more drinks in a week for women or 15 or more drinks per week for men.  
  • Improve your diet: Fewer than one in 10 adults and adolescents eat enough fruit and vegetables, while most Americans eat too much sodium and over-consume sugary drinks. By making small changes to your diet like adding more fruits and vegetables, cutting out processed foods and switching to non-sweetened beverages, you can make a significant difference in your long-term health. Visit www.choosemyplate.gov/ for help in building healthy eating habits. 
  • Increase exercise: Most adults and high school-aged students don’t get enough physical activity – putting them at a higher risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Moving just a little bit more can improve your heart health – and doesn’t have to mean an intense workout. Moderate-intensity aerobic activities like brisk walking, gardening or biking boost your heart rate without too much effort, and at least 150 minutes of this kind of activity are recommended per week. Before changing your exercise routine, talk with your doctor.  
  • Prioritize sleep: Rest is essential to supporting your body’s systems as you navigate the challenges of everyday life. Insufficient sleep is linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Adults need at least seven hours of sleep every night. Find tips on how to improve your sleep here. 
  • Stop using tobacco: Tobacco use is linked to an increased risk of the major chronic conditions of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, as well as COPD. Within one year of quitting smoking, your risk of heart disease drops to half of that of someone who still smokes. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has resources available to help you quit tobacco. You can learn more here. 

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Photo credit: digitalskillet

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