How to think about chronic health conditions

Tapestry Talk

I’ll be giving a public presentation on “What You Should Know About Diabetes” at the Bonsor Recreation Complex at 7 pm on Wednesday, November 25th. You’ll learn if you are at risk for diabetes and how you can prevent it; how diabetes can affect your heart, circulation, nervous system and brain; and what you would need to know to effectively manage your health and avoid these complications.

To register for this free event, contact Leona Cullen at or (604) 259-4450. This presentation is part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients public education series.

An important focus of primary care is the management of chronic disease. This includes high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and chronic lung disease. The proactive, planned management of these conditions has been shown to reduce complications and hospitalizations, prevent premature death and improve quality of life.

The term, chronic disease carries a negative connotation. I prefer the term chronic condition. After all, each of us shares one chronic condition; it is sexually transmitted, incurable and has a 100% mortality rate. That condition is life.

On good days (and I’m hoping that for you that means most days), you recognize that it’s not all bad. We don’t choose the conditions of our lives and we don’t deserve misfortune, but we can choose to make the most of what we have.

We remain agents of positive change. We can learn and do what we can to maintain the best quality of life so that we can pursue our personal dreams and do what is most meaningful to us.

And we can be agents of positive change by helping others struggling with their own chronic conditions, providing the support that we can and empowering them to be active managers of their own lives.

That’s how I see my role as a family physician. In healthcare, we treat people not medical conditions. We help our patients manage their health in the context of their whole lives. That management has to be tailored to fit the unique life of each individual.

Doctors and nurses have traditionally had the habit of labeling patients with their conditions. They might call the first patient on the OR slate, “the 7:30 gallbladder.” There is a tendency to call people, asthmatics, diabetics or hypertensives.

Patients can label themselves when they are first diagnosed with a chronic condition. A first heart attack can sometimes be a wake-up call to finally quit smoking, start eating a healthy diet, exercise appropriately and reduce other risk factors. Some, however, become demoralized and surrender, seeing themselves as damaged goods on borrowed time.

With a new diagnosis of diabetes, some patients are in denial and fail to make lifestyle changes and monitor their condition while others take on the label of diabetes as a harbinger of impending doom. Those with a balanced approach do best. They accept the diagnosis of this chronic condition as life-preserving and life-enhancing news. They learn what areas of their health require more attention and how lifestyle changes reduce the potential for complications that would otherwise threaten their eyes and kidneys and the circulation to the heart, brain and feet. With knowledge comes power and a greater sense of control.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic condition, ask your family doctor what you need to know and do to take the best care of your health. As part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients public health education series, we are providing free unbiased information in public presentations and online


About Davidicus Wong

I am a family physician. I write a weekly newspaper column, Healthwise for the Vancouver Courier, Burnaby Now, Royal City Record and Richmond News.
This entry was posted in Burnaby Division of Family Practice, Empowering Healthcare, Healthy Living, patient-doctor relationship, Positive Potential, Preventive Health and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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