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New Ulm Medical Center

Doctor is key to coping with chronic disease

A chronic disease is one that a person will likely live with for a long time. And it often can be accompanied by feelings of despair — at least at first.

Whether you have diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or another chronic health condition, changing that mindset to have a positive outlook is a crucial step in living the best life you possibly can with the disease.

Diet, exercise, not smoking and other positive lifestyle changes can have an impact on chronic disease. “People have to change their lifestyle and take their health into their own hands,” said Terence Knowles, MD, a family medicine physician at New Ulm Medical Center. “Diet and exercise is really the key. Until we as patients take charge of this, it’s going to be an uphill battle.”

What is often overlooked in the fight against chronic disease, though, is the pivotal role that your doctor can play. Dr. Knowles says that a close partnership with your doctor is the key to success when managing any chronic illness.

How Your Doctor Can Help You

Your primary physician can do all kinds of things to help you cope with a chronic illness beyond the obvious.

  • The Power of Knowledge. One of the absolute best ways to fight the despair that often accompanies a diagnosis of a chronic disease is by knowing more about it. “Having a frank, open relationship between doctor and patient is critical,” said Knowles. “You need to share the truth with each other, even when the truth is hard to hear.”
  • The Right Prescription. Once the diagnosis has been made, most diseases now have medications that can help you manage that illness and minimize the symptoms as much as possible. By adhering to your doctor’s prescription, you can usually feel much better every day. Of course, if you ever have issues with your medication, simply see your doctor to make any necessary changes. “What happens way too frequently is that a patient will come see me with a problem, and I discover that they have gone off their medicine,” said Knowles. “It’s critical that they pick up the phone and call if they ever have problems with their medicine.”
  • Referrals When Needed. Your doctor will also have some information about nutrition, exercise and other important lifestyle changes you can make, and how they can help. In addition, your doctor can make referrals to other health care professionals who will further assist you in stabilizing your emotion and physical health. This team might include physical therapists, psychologists, dietitians or other specialists.
  • A Trusted Voice. Many individuals with chronic illness see their doctor every few months. As a result, your relationship with your doctor can grow to a point where you can trust the doctor with your health. Many New Ulm Medical Center patients with chronic illnesses have said that a close relationship with their doctor has been a key to them managing their health successfully.
  • Help in an Emergency. We don’t want to think about it, but chronic illnesses present the very real possibility of emergency care being needed at some point. By having a close relationship with your doctor, you can ensure that you will receive the absolute best emergency care possible if such a situation arises. Your doctor will know everything about your condition and will make sure your needs are met in the emergency room.