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Chronic condition care

We offer extra care for those who have serious, ongoing medical problems. We work together to offer support, advice and therapies that help keep you as healthy as possible.

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What is a chronic condition?

Chronic conditions are long-term medical problems. A few common ones include:

  • Congestive heart failure, also known as CHF (when the heart isn't strong enough to pump blood as well as it should)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD (a lung disease that makes it hard for you to breathe)
  • Chronic kidney disease or kidney failure also known as CKD (your kidneys are damaged and no longer work as they should)
  • Diabetes (a disease that makes your blood sugar levels higher than they should be, which can cause many other health problems)
  • Asthma (a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe)
  • Cancer (a disease that causes cells to grow out of control; it can spread to tissues and organs throughout the body)
  • Arthritis (joint pain, swelling and stiffness)

Our care for chronic conditions

We have several health care professionals who work together to help you understand your chronic condition and stay as healthy as possible. We offer: 

  • A care plan tailored to your needs 
  • A team of doctors, nurses, social workers, care managers, dietitians and educators who share information about your care plan
  • A team that works with you one-on-one
  • An extra layer of support, encouragement and information that’s in addition to the care you get from your doctor
  • Education about what your symptoms mean so you know when to call us for care and support; this can help you stay out of the hospital and keep your problem from getting worse
  • The right care in the right place and at the right time

When you have the right tools, team, equipment and motivation, you can have a better quality of life.  

If you have a chronic condition, talk to your doctor. He or she may suggest chronic condition care that can help you.


Living with congestive heart failure (CHF)

Congestive heart failure, or CHF, means your heart muscle does not pump blood as well as it should. This makes it weaker than normal. 

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  • Patients usually get CHF after having a heart attack, which damages the heart. It can also happen because of ongoing high blood pressure.

  • CHF symptoms include:

    • Shortness of breath, wheezing or coughing with or without activity 
    • Problems with breathing when lying down
    • Feeling week or tired 
    • Swelling of the stomach, feet and ankles
    • Weight gain 
    • Uneven or rapid pulse
    • Feeling like your heart is beating too hard, too fast, skipping a beat or fluttering
    • Loss of appetite or upset stomach
    • Feeling like you can’t focus or are not alert 
    • Not urinating enough during the day or urinating too much at night
    • Nausea or vomiting
  • CHF is considered chronic, or ongoing. You may always have CHF. But there are ways to care for it so you can still enjoy most of your usual activities. 

    Here are some ways to care for CHF:

    • Take your medicine as prescribed by your doctor and report any side effects.
    • Weigh yourself daily to see if you’re keeping extra fluid. If you gain weight quickly, it could be a sign that your heart is not working as well as it should.
    • Cut back on salt. Salt makes your body keep fluids and causes your heart to work harder.
    • Stay active to help strengthen your heart muscle.
    • Ask your doctor about getting the flu and pneumonia shots. Getting these illnesses can make CHF worse.
    • Ask your doctor about taking a low-dose aspirin (81 mg) every day.
    • Always contact your doctor when you have any questions about symptoms. 

Living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Two lung diseases, emphysema and chronic bronchitis, are together known as COPD. This lung disease makes it hard for you to breathe. 

COPD can:

  • Damage the lungs
  • Make your heart work harder, which can lead to heart failure
  • Increase blood pressure in your lungs
  • Make it hard to eat because you’re short of breath 
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  • Risk factors include: 

    • Cigarette smoking, which is to blame for 80% to 90% of all cases
    • Second-hand smoke
    • Having lung-related problems as a child
    • Working or living around dust, coal dust or chemicals
    • Indoor pollution from cooking fumes and bad air quality
    • Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (a rare, inherited disorder)
  • COPD symptoms include: 

    • Shortness of breath during routine tasks
    • More coughing or mucus (thick fluid that builds up in the body)
    • Wheezing (breathing is hard to do and makes a whistling sound)
    • Feeling tired
    • Don’t feel like eating
    • Losing weight
    • Swollen ankles
    • Not being able to focus (due to low oxygen levels)
    • Having lung infections again and again
  • COPD slowly gets worse over time and cannot be cured. But your doctor can help you take care of your COPD. With the right care plan, we can help improve your quality of life. We can also help keep the disease from getting worse too fast.

     Your doctor may ask you to make some lifestyle changes. These will help you feel better and make it easier to do daily activities. They may also keep COPD from getting worse fast.

    Here are some ways to care for COPD:

    • Take prescribed medicines as directed.
    • Stay as active as you can and as approved by your doctor. Aerobic exercise can help increase your energy. Strengthening your upper body can improve breathing.
    • Quit smoking. Ask your doctor about ways to help you quit.
    • Stay away from things such as fumes, dust and strong odors. They may cause symptoms to get worse. Also, don’t exercise too much when air pollution is high.
    • Get your flu and pneumonia shots.
    • Reduce your stress.
    • Learn and practice breathing exercises. “Pursed lip breathing” and “abdominal breathing” will help get more oxygen into your lungs and move the “bad air” out.

    Eating right can also help you care for your COPD. Use these tips to get the most out of your meals:

    • Eat small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals.
    • Don’t eat gas-producing foods such as apples, broccoli, cabbage and fizzy drinks.
    • Try to stay at a healthy weight, as recommended by your doctor.
    • Cut food into small pieces, eat slowly and try not to talk while eating.
    • If you are short of breath when you eat, slow down.
    • Drink plenty of fluids to keep mucus thin and easier to cough up. Ask your doctor about how much fluid you should drink.
    • Eat and drink dairy products, especially if you are taking steroids, such as prednisone.
    • Use quick and easy food recipes to save your energy. Try cooking extra food to store so that a future meal only needs to be heated.
    • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables. This can help you fight infections, keep you from getting sick, give you more energy and help you grow stronger.

Living with type 2 diabetes

There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. The more common is type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes causes sugar to build up in the blood. When you eat, your body has a harder time changing the food into the energy you need. 

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  • Risk factors include:

    • Being overweight and having too much body fat (obesity)
    • Being over age 45
    • Having a family history of diabetes
    • Having high blood pressure
    • Having low HDL cholesterol and high triglyceride levels
    • Having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
    • Having a certain ethnic background

    Illness, infection, surgery and stress can also raise your blood sugar level. Sometimes diabetes develops even if you are at a healthy weight and no one else in your family has it.

  • Symptoms include:

    • Feeling very thirsty
    • Urinating often
    • Feeling tired all the time
    • Blurred vision
    • Having skin wounds or infections that won’t heal
    • Losing weight

    Some people with diabetes don’t have any symptoms, but their condition is just as serious as those who do. 

    Others get very sick. If untreated for a long time, diabetes can damage blood vessels and nerves. This can lead to heart attacks, strokes, kidney damage, eye damage and problems with circulation and feeling in the feet.  

  • Diabetes is a life-long disease, but you can control it and live a better life. It’s important to focus on five key areas:

    • Learn more about diabetes
      • Optum offers diabetes classes. They will teach you how to care for your diabetes by making healthy changes. Over time, this can make a big difference in how you feel.
    • Eat right
      • Eat three balanced meals per day, four to five hours apart.
      • Follow the healthy plate method for your meals. Fill half of your plate with vegetables, one quarter with lean protein and one quarter with carbohydrates — foods that have starch or sugar and give your body energy.
      • Eat more fiber, such as whole grains, beans, lentils and vegetables. Fiber helps to control blood sugars. 
      • Drink water, unsweetened coffee or tea. Do not drink sugar-sweetened drinks such as soda and juice.
      • For more information about healthy eating, ask your doctor or registered dietitian about a food plan.
    • Be active
      • Physical activity, such as walking, helps to lower your blood sugar.
    • Check your blood sugar.
    • Take your diabetes medications as prescribed by your doctor.

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