The ball has dropped and the new year has begun. This is a great opportunity for pulmonary hypertension patients, their caregivers, or anyone with a chronic disease to vow to improve their health this year. Below are 5 simple resolutions that may help make 2014 a healthier happier year.
1. Commit or Recommit to a Low Salt Diet
Many pulmonary hypertension patients go gang busters when they first learn of the effects salt has on their disease. They throw out the salt shaker, vow to never eat Chinese food again, and pass the pickle isle at the grocery store. Over time as they stabilize their medications and feel better they start to let salt creep back into their diet. For some it is more of a rush than a creep as they become bored of the same old low salt options. The new year is a great time to buy a new cook book or find a new website with low salt recipes. Having new food options will help patients refocus on their goal of maintaining a low salt diet.
2. Play the Parking Spot Game
Exercise is an important but sometimes intimidating part of treatment for PAH. Many patients are very ill and not able to walk around their house much less “exercise” when they are first diagnosed. As their health begins to improve they may be scared to start exercising as they remember the shortness of breath, light headedness, or chest pain that activity used to bring on. The new year is a great time to speak with your pulmonary hypertension specialists and ask about exercise.
If you are well enough to exercise walking is one of the best forms of exercise to start with. An easy way to increase the number of steps you take per day is to park 5 spots further back in the parking lot every time you go somewhere. It may be unnatural to pass up the closest open spot at first but try just moving a few spots further from the entrance. Over time increase the number of spots until you are parking in the back of the lot.
3. Spend Time Learning About Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension
If you are reading this blog you are already making good on resolution #3. PAH is a rare disease and you need to be the expert. Your pulmonary hypertension specialist will be well versed in the disease, treatment options, and research available but very few of your other health care providers will have experience with pulmonary hypertension. Keep yourself safe by being informed on what the disease is, what the treatment options are, and what is new in the pulmonary hypertension world.
There are patient dinners, support groups, books, and websites all devoted to educating patients, public, and caregivers about PH. If you find something interesting or new bring it up at your next doctor’s visit, it may be news to your physician or they may have additional information to expand on what you have already read or heard. Many of these resources are free so take advantage of as many of the opportunities available as you can.
4. Get involved in the PH Community
The pulmonary hypertension community is an impressive bunch of patients, caregivers, health care professionals, specialty pharmacies, and pharmaceutical companies. This community provides support to its members via support groups, fund raisers, and public awareness efforts. Many patients currently benefit from these efforts without even realizing it and future PAH patients will benefit from efforts put forth by the community today.
Many PAH patients feel like they are coping well with their disease and do not need to attend support groups. The new year is a great time to attend a local support group as a show of strength and support to a newly diagnosed patient or someone that is having a difficult time coping. You never know who you will effect in a positive way or who or what will effect you until you go.
If support groups aren’t your thing get involved with a local fundraiser. Don’t have funds to donate consider donating time or talent. You could help market the event, collect items for a silent auction, or simply offer to take tickets at the door. Patients have donated paintings, flute lessons, and photography sessions in the past to help make these events successful.
5. Stop Ignoring Other Health Issues
Unfortunately having pulmonary arterial hypertension does not prevent you from suffering from other diseases. Many patients focus in and spend energy treating their PAH but lose focus of other important health issues such as routine cancer screening and diabetes management. The new year is a great time to pick up the phone and make the appointment with the dermatologist, endocrinologist, or primary care physician. Make sure your pulmonary hypertension specialists has cleared any elective procedures such as colonoscopies or dental procedures prior to scheduling.
Your mental health is an important part of your well being. A majority of patients with chronic diseases such as PAH suffer from depression or anxiety. If you have not had an honest discussion with your heath care provider about your mental health status this new year is a great time to bring up the topic.
Make 2014 a happy and healthy year!