Learning that you or a loved one has a health condition that will never go away – such as diabetes or arthritis – can be scary. It can also be a positive wake-up call and an invitation to learn how to live a healthy life.  Chronic diseases are lifelong health conditions that include diseases such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, fibromyalgia, arthritis and others.  Individuals with lifelong health conditions can live a full and healthy life if they follow their doctor’s recommendations and take care of their condition.  A Living Healthy with Chronic Conditions workshop teaches participants to do just that.

Across Florida, and in Alachua County, people are learning how to manage their chronic health conditions by participating in the Living Healthy Workshop or a Chronic Disease Self Management Program.  The workshop is delivered in a series of six 2 ½ hour sessions and taught by two certified leaders.  Either one or both are non-professionals who have a chronic disease themselves and can speak from their own experience.

It’s a proven program, developed at Stanford University, supported by Elder Options, the Mid- Florida Area Agency on Aging and funded by the Department of Elder Affairs.  And it works. Participants have less pain, more energy and fewer hospitalizations. They are able to live the lives they want, and gain the ability and confidence to care for their condition.  This is especially significant when we consider the magnitude of chronic disease. Nationally, 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic condition, and 50 percent have at least two.

There is a significant need for support for people with chronic diseases, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls the most common, costly and preventable of all U.S. health problems.  They are also the leading causes of death and disability, responsible for seven out of ten deaths each year.  Much of this could be prevented or lessened by eating well, moving more, avoiding tobacco use and getting regular health screenings, and by creating communities that put those healthy options within reach for everyone.

In the meantime, for the many people who already have chronic diseases, and for those diseases we can’t entirely prevent, it’s critical that we help our residents live well with their conditions. Our county is fortunate to have funding to host Healthy Living workshops that teach people with chronic conditions to take the best care possible of themselves and, in many cases, lessen the impact of their symptoms or of the condition itself.  For more information on “Living Healthy” Workshops, contact Betty Flagg @ (352) 692-5219 or flaggb@agingresources.org.

 

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