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Katelin Krystowiak, MD, is a family medicine physician at the Froedtert & MCW Manitowoc Harbor Town Clinic at 1650 South 41st Street.

Chronic health conditions are diseases that are slower to develop and progress over time, often becoming lifelong illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. Other common chronic conditions include high blood pressure, arthritis and osteoporosis. Six in 10 Americans have at least one chronic condition and four in 10 have at least two.

Chronic conditions are most treatable when they are diagnosed early, and the best way to reduce your risk is to live a healthy lifestyle.

Here are four steps you can take to prevent chronic health conditions:

1. Eat Healthy and Add Fiber to Your Diet

A poor diet, low in fruits and vegetables and high in sodium and saturated fats, is an important risk factor for chronic diseases. Research has shown that good nutrition habits help prevent chronic conditions. It also helps people who have already been diagnosed with a chronic condition to better manage it and avoid complications.

Tips for a healthy diet

  • Choose foods and drinks without added sugars, saturated fat and less than 20% sodium
  • Focus on fruits and vegetables
  • Choose whole grains over refined grains
  • Eat a variety of lean proteins
  • Reduce alcohol consumption
  • Add fiber to your diet

We often think of protein as the most important nutrient, but fiber is underrated. It acts as a cleanser for your digestive system, preventing the body from absorbing unneeded sugars and fats, and it helps keep you full at the same time. Dietary guidelines recommend a minimum of 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories, but most Americans consume far less. Good sources of fiber include beans and legumes, such as lentils, peas and chickpeas and whole grains such as quinoa, barley, oats and brown rice. Adding steel cut oats to your breakfast is a simple way to add in fiber each day.

2. Increase Your Exercise

Exercising regularly is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your health and prevent chronic conditions. Regardless of your age or fitness level, scientific evidence has shown that sitting less and moving more has positive effects on the body, from preventing weight gain to improving mental health and keeping bones and joints healthy.

It’s important to choose exercise that is appropriate for your fitness level and to increase it gradually. If you have questions or concerns, your primary care provider can offer tips to safely increase physical activity in your daily life. It is recommended that healthy adults do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Older adults, adults with chronic conditions and pregnant women may have different exercise needs.

3. Get Routine Health Screenings

The CDC says 41% of Americans delayed or avoided medical care, including screenings, because of the pandemic. Routine health screenings are important because they increase the chances of detecting certain chronic conditions early, when there are more treatment options and a better chance for a good outcome. In some cases, there is even an opportunity to reverse the chronic condition, through lifestyle changes, medication or both.

Discuss which screenings are appropriate for you with your primary care provider. Most adults should get a yearly physical exam, cholesterol and blood pressure screening and a skin check. Other screenings, such as PAP and HPV tests, mammograms and colonoscopies may also be recommended.

4. Partner With Your Health Care Team

A primary care provider can work with you to prevent a condition from becoming chronic or help you manage a chronic condition to prevent it from worsening. When you choose your primary care provider with the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network, your doctors, nurses and pharmacists all work together to support you. Your primary care provider can quickly and easily refer you to specialists, if needed. Our access to academic medicine connects you with world-class experts in their fields who are up-to-date on the latest clinical trials, use groundbreaking diagnostic and treatment options and have access to advanced medical technologies that may not be offered elsewhere.

Your health care team wants to support you in reaching your health goals. We’ll do our best to keep you healthy, reduce complications from illnesses and make our best recommendations for care. We will help you make the most of life when you’re dealing with a chronic condition, and in many cases, can help monitor it.

To learn more about providers in the Sheboygan area, visit froedtert.com/Sheboygan or call (920) 476-6300.

Holy Family Memorial is part of the Sheboygan Sun's Preferred Business Sponsor program.

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