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Patient education: When you have multiple health problems (The Basics)

Patient education: When you have multiple health problems (The Basics)

Is it common to have multiple health problems? — Yes, it is common to have more than 1 ongoing health problem. Doctors call this having "multiple comorbidities." This is especially common as people get older.

Here are some medical conditions that often occur together:

Heart disease

Diabetes

High blood pressure

Arthritis or chronic pain

Depression or anxiety

What are the concerns about multiple health problems? — Sometimes, people with multiple health problems see different doctors about each of their problems. These doctors do not always realize how the problem they are working with fits into the "whole" of you. For example, they might focus on your blood sugar level, but you might be more worried about the pain you have from arthritis when you walk. Sometimes, treatment for 1 problem, such as a specific medicine, can make another problem worse. Your doctors need to know which other doctors you are seeing so they can work together to form the best care plan for you. You can help them do that by always keeping everyone informed.

What should I do if I have multiple health problems? — If you have multiple health problems, you should:

Work with your main doctor to decide what matters most to you about your care. Your "main doctor" is often your primary care provider, or "PCP." But it is sometimes a specialist, such as a diabetes doctor. Remember that you can choose which treatments you want and don't want. Think about these issues and talk to your doctor about them:

Which of your health problems bothers you most? Which one do you want to focus on first?

What matters most to you: living a long time, staying independent, or having the least amount of pain or other symptoms?

Are any of your treatments causing side effects or problems?

Plan for your doctor visits ahead of time. When you see your doctor, come prepared with written notes and questions. This is very helpful for your doctor. They might not be able to address everything at 1 visit, especially if you have a lot of problems or questions. It is important to allow enough time. If needed, your doctor will ask you to make more than 1 appointment.

Make sure that your main doctor, and any other doctor or nurse who prescribes medicines for you, knows all of the medicines that you take. This includes any over-the-counter or herbal medicines that you use on a regular basis. It is helpful to bring your medicines in their original bottles to each visit, so your doctors or nurses can review them. Ask any doctor or nurse who prescribes medicine for you to reviews your medicines with you at least once a year.

Keep a list of all of the medicines that you take. Carry this list with you at all times and bring it with you to all of your medical appointments. The list should include:

The name of each medicine

The dose you take

How many times a day you take it

Why you take it

The doctor or nurse who prescribed it

You should also include any over-the-counter medicines that you take, as well as any vitamins and herbal or other types of supplements. You can find an example of this kind of list at this website: www.fda.gov/drugs/resources-you-drugs/my-medicine-record.

Always ask your doctors and nurses if there are things that you can do on your own to help with any of your health problems. Many medical problems can improve with lifestyle or diet changes. If you can help your condition with lifestyle changes, you might be able to avoid the risks and side effects of some of your medicines or treatments.

Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better? — Yes. There are things that all people can do to improve their health. You can:

Choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, and low in sweets and processed flours. For example, choose whole-grain breads and whole-grain pastas rather than white bread or regular pasta.

Try to do some sort of physical activity most days of the week. Build up your activity level slowly as you can. If you're not sure how to start, your doctor or nurse can help you find activities that work for you and your body. Even small amounts of activity done several times a day can help you get stronger. Any physical activity is better than no physical activity.

Try to get enough sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor or nurse.

If you feel depressed or anxious, talk to your doctor or nurse. Depression and anxiety can make other health problems hard to manage.

Plan activities with other people, so you aren't stuck at home alone for days. If friends and family are not around, look for ways to meet new people through senior centers, religious groups, libraries, garden clubs, or other activity groups.

More on this topic

Patient education: When you have depression and another health problem (The Basics)
Patient education: Taking medicines when you're older (The Basics)
Patient education: Side effects from medicines (The Basics)
Patient education: Going home from the hospital (The Basics)
Patient education: Brand versus generic medicines (The Basics)
Patient education: Coping with high drug prices (The Basics)
Patient education: Medical care during advanced illness (The Basics)

Patient education: Coping with high prescription drug prices in the United States (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jun 02, 2024.
Disclaimer: This generalized information is a limited summary of diagnosis, treatment, and/or medication information. It is not meant to be comprehensive and should be used as a tool to help the user understand and/or assess potential diagnostic and treatment options. It does NOT include all information about conditions, treatments, medications, side effects, or risks that may apply to a specific patient. It is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for the medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of a health care provider based on the health care provider's examination and assessment of a patient's specific and unique circumstances. Patients must speak with a health care provider for complete information about their health, medical questions, and treatment options, including any risks or benefits regarding use of medications. This information does not endorse any treatments or medications as safe, effective, or approved for treating a specific patient. UpToDate, Inc. and its affiliates disclaim any warranty or liability relating to this information or the use thereof. The use of this information is governed by the Terms of Use, available at https://www.wolterskluwer.com/en/know/clinical-effectiveness-terms. 2024© UpToDate, Inc. and its affiliates and/or licensors. All rights reserved.
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