Do you have a chronic condition? If you do, you’re not alone. Up to 45% of all Americans have been diagnosed with at least one chronic illness, and most of them take at least one medication for hypertension, high cholesterol, or diabetes. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 11% of Americans and up to 40% of those 60 years old and older take 5 or more medications daily. Once affected with a chronic illness, you need help to manage the symptoms, to minimize complications, and to stay as healthy as possible. With highly specialized education and training, your primary care physician is your best ally in managing all of your chronic disease states.
What Is Primary Care and What Are Its Benefits?
Primary care is like your medical home. When you develop a relationship with your primary care physician, you have the benefit of an advocate who understands not only the status of your health and your medical needs, but also your personal goals and what means the most to you. First and foremost, a primary care physician is there to help you achieve the highest level of wellness possible by educating you and by guiding your actions to help you promote your own health. A primary care physician helps you keep track of the special testing and screening that you need based on your age, sex, and history, as well as provides you with necessary immunizations.
When you are diagnosed with a chronic illness, your primary care physician will not only prescribe necessary medications and treatments, but also teach you what you can do to control the illness and watch for any complications. Then your primary care physician will monitor your progress, stepping in to assist you if complications arise. Unfortunately, new (related or unrelated) problems sometimes come up. This might be something as simple as a cold, or as complex as a new chronic illness. Your primary care doctor knows you better than any other doctor, and can treat the new illness without interfering with any of your other conditions, thus preventing further complications. He/she also knows what has worked for you in the past, so whatever problem you have will most likely be alleviated with their plan of action. And your primary care physician knows when it is time for you to see a specialist.
The bottom line is that patients do better over the long run, leading healthier and happier lives, when they have a primary care physician overseeing their care, communicating with their specialists, monitoring their medication lists, and teaching them how to live with their chronic illnesses.
Chronic Illnesses Managed in Primary Care
Most chronic illnesses can be managed in primary care but here are a few of the more common conditions, and some of the things your primary care physician can do to help you stay as healthy as possible.
is the most common endocrine disorder, affecting 16 to 18 million people in the United States, and can lead to many complications, including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, peripheral vascular disease, and blindness. The overall goal of diabetes management in primary care is to keep your blood sugar controlled and to prevent these life-altering complications. Your primary care physician can individualize your blood sugar goals based on your age and overall health, prescribe appropriate medications to meet these goals, educate you on lifestyle practices that will help control the illness, and routinely monitor for complications through diagnostic tests and routine exams.
is one of the most common chronic illnesses seen in primary care, and is usually defined in the adult as a consistent blood pressure over 140/90. Left untreated, hypertension can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. Your primary care physician can prescribe the right medications to bring your blood pressure down to an individualized target, while monitoring for the development of complications. In addition, you will benefit from learning about the lifestyle changes you can make to control your blood pressure, such as eating a healthy diet to maintain your weight, participating in regular exercise, and restricting sodium intake.
is a major risk factor for heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, and stroke. When treating this illness, the main goals of the primary care physician are to lower your total cholesterol but especially to lower your LDL (low-density lipoproteins), raise your HDL (high-density lipoproteins) and lower your triglycerides. This may be accomplished by diet and exercise, but often medications will need to be prescribed. By having knowledge about your specific health background, your primary care physician is able to tailor your treatment to best meet your individual goals.
These are but a few of the many chronic illnesses that your primary care physician can help you manage to improve your quality of life and minimize complications. A few more of the common conditions you could consult your primary care physician about include asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), allergies, arthritis, gout, depression, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, hypothyroidism, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, and osteoporosis, among many others.
If you have any questions about these or other chronic diseases and how a primary care physician can help you, call Rockville Concierge Doctors at (301) 545-1811 to request a meet-and-greet, or request a meet-and-greet online.