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New Ulm Medical Center

Living your best life with a chronic illness

Delbert Kosbab, a 79-year-old New Ulm resident, has been struggling with heart disease since 1983, when he had to undergo his first bypass procedure.

Delbert Kosbab finds maintaining his interest in woodworking a vital component to living his best life with a chronic illness.

Delbert Kosbab finds maintaining his interest in woodworking a vital component to living his best life with a chronic illness.

Things aren’t always easy for Kosbab in his battle with the illness. He’s had more than one bypass surgery, and now has a pacemaker and defibrillator in his heart. He’s also dealt with struggles due to kidney disease, as well as arthritis in his back and hips.

But he tries to stay active through his main passion, woodworking. He also eats a healthy, low-sodium diet with the help of his wife, Phyllis, and keeps a positive outlook about his illness.

Also helpful in maintaining his quality of life with chronic heart problems is the thorough care and attention to detail offered by Sanjay K. Mishra, MD, an internal medicine specialist at the New Ulm Medical Center. “I see Dr. Mishra every three months, but I can call him anytime I need him,” said Delbert. “He’s been a great doctor for me. He’s very thorough, very honest, and doesn’t beat around the bush.”

Tips for Coping with Chronic Illness

With a combination of changes in lifestyle and strict adherence to the proper medical regimen, others can live their best life with a chronic illness, too. Here’s what can help:

  • See your doctor about symptoms that concern you. “Usually early diagnosis is the key,” said Mishra. “Try to recognize the symptoms of chronic illness and get evaluation. For example, early diagnosis and adequate management of hypertension and diabetes mellitus can result in prevention of most of the complications.”
  • Learn all you can. Consult your doctor, get books from the library, or seek information from health organizations. Find out what causes your condition to worsen and what may improve it. Check around for a class that will teach you about managing your illness, as well as self-care skills.
  • Take your medications as instructed and on time. That’s vital to managing many chronic conditions.
  • Make lifestyle changes if needed. Quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, improving your diet, starting an exercise routine, or losing weight can make you feel better in the short and long term. “Weight management and regular exercise is probably equally important as medication,” said Dr. Mishra.
  • Rely on the support of others. Seek support from friends and family and keep up social connections. Consider joining a support group. Studies show that social support is important in coping with losses you experience as a result of chronic illness.
  • Try to stay passionate. Preserve as much of your normal routine as you can. Keep up hobbies or find new ones that fit better with your condition. Try to continue with work and household chores, adapting them as needed.
  • Check your symptoms regularly. This is especially important for people with diabetes, who should monitor their blood sugar levels every day.
  • Take action when your symptoms indicate a problem. For example, if you have asthma and your peak flow is down, or you have diabetes and your blood sugar is low, take the corrective steps your doctor has advised.
  • Put it all together. Studies show that people with chronic illnesses who play an active role in their own care do better than those who do not take an active role. What works best? A partnership that combines the training of health care professionals with patients’ knowledge of their own lives.

Source: Health Edition September 2011
Reviewed by: Sanjay Mishra, MD
First Published: 09/09/2011
Last Reviewed: 09/09/2011