By Michelle Fritsch, PharmD, BCGP, BCACP, and Kathleen Cameron, BS Pharm, MPH. This article originally appeared on the National Council on Aging (NCOA) blog.
As we’re all navigating a lot of uncertainty, upsetting news, isolation, and grief, all of the self-care activities that were important for staying healthy before the pandemic may be even more critical now. Even though there is a lot of emphasis on COVID-19 right now, your overall health is just as important as any other time. The better controlled your chronic conditions, the better you’ll be able to fight the virus if you get it. Consider the following steps for managing chronic conditions during this time and after.
Even though you are staying home, remember to keep moving. Back pain, muscle tension, weight management, blood pressure, blood sugar, and even your emotional health can improve with movement.
- Walk around your home
- Walk around your neighborhood (while physically distancing from others!)
- Sit down and stand up from a stable chair to keep your legs strong
- Dance to your favorite music
- Take advantage free online resources and exercise videos
It is so easy to eat more often or to eat less healthy foods when we are stressed or bored or lonely. But now more than ever, eating healthy foods can be an important part of improving your health and strengthening your immune system.
- Add more color to your plate by eating fruits and vegetables each day
- If eating canned vegetables, rinse them in water first (to lessen the salt)
- Minimize sugary treats or high processed food (cookies, crackers, chips)
- Drink plenty of water
- Minimize sugary drinks
The more information you have to share with your doctor, the better. As the pandemic continues, chronic conditions can be impacted by stress and grief. Think about ways you can monitor and record aspects of your health (some require special equipment) and bring this information to medical appointments. This will help your doctor understand your symptoms.
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar and other factors that impact diabetes management
- Lung function
- Changes in moods and emotions
- Pain: Where do you have pain? What is the severity of the pain on a scale of 1-10? How long does the pain last? What causes the pain? What makes it better or worse?
- Falls, near falls, or injuries from falls
- Episodes of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, chest pain, or shortness of breath
- Any other factors that are important to you
Although we can protect ourselves and others by staying six feet apart and not going to public places, we can and should still stay socially connected. This will be different than it was a few short weeks ago. Here are some ways to avoid feeling isolated and stay in contact with the important people in your life.
- Telephone calls.
- Porch conversations. Talking with neighbors porch to porch or porch to sidewalk.
- Family gatherings. Family can communicate through the window or from within vehicles pulled into the driveway.
- Video calls via smart phones and computers. (If you aren’t comfortable with computers or do not have access to them, reach out to a younger family member to help.)
Michelle Fritsch, Pharm.D., BCGP, BCACP is a pharmacist and director of Meds MASH, LLC, a service that supports older adults in maintaining and extending their independence through improved medication management.
Kathleen A. Cameron, BSPharm, MPH, is Senior Director of NCOA’s Center for Healthy Aging. Kathy has more than 25 years of experience in the health care field as a pharmacist, researcher, and program director focusing on falls prevention, geriatric pharmacotherapy, mental health, long-term services and supports, and caregiving. She is also the Senior Director of the National Falls Prevention Resource Center.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.