Combat the Three Highs as a Family
High blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar are three common chronic conditions with few obvious symptoms. Caring for a loved one with these diseases can seem overwhelming emotionally, physically, and financially. As such, the role of the caregiver in management of chronic diseases cannot be undermined.
Patients with chronic disease need to monitor their levels, diet and exercise, and meet up with health care professionals regularly. If they are seniors, they may also have other health problems and complications that may make their condition more worrying.
Here’s how you can help care for your loved ones:
Ignorance is not bliss
Do not ignore the diagnosis. You can do something about it. Most chronic diseases can be properly managed and kept under control. If your family member has just been diagnosed, they may feel vulnerable, confused, worried, sad or angry. It may take time for one to adjust to and accept the realities of chronic disease. Stand by them and help them understand that it is not the end of the world.
Learn what the healthier food options are, and offer that to them. Encourage or remind them about the benefits of healthy eating. Nagging or forcing a person to eat healthy can be counterproductive. Ms Sarah Sinaram, Senior Dietitian, Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre recommends consuming more of the following foods: fruits, nuts, vegetables, fish, leaner meats, and whole grains. They should take less full fat dairy, drink alcohol in moderation, avoid sugar sweetened beverages and choose unsaturated fats and oils over high saturated fats or oils.
Encourage them to get active. Offer to accompany them to exercise. Exercise can lower cholesterol level, triglycerides, risk of blood pressure, insulin resistance, and risk of diabetes. According to Dr Abel Soh, Specialist in Endocrinology, Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre, research found that dietary changes and exercise aimed at reducing weight can lower one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by more than 50 per cent. And you need not do a marathon, just brisk walk for at least 30 minutes five times a week. Yes, it’s that easy.
Keep their weight in check. Encourage them to lose weight if they are overweight. Research also showed that by losing five to ten per cent of your body weight can potentially normalise blood pressure and blood sugar in people with mild to moderate hypertension or diabetes.
Encourage them to quit smoking as smoking increases their risk of having complications such as heart attacks and strokes. Dr Stanley Liew, Specialist in Endocrinology, Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre added: “Smoking cessation can help patients improve their cholesterol profiles by boosting their good HDL cholesterol levels”.
Finally, help them to check of their condition. Purchase relevant monitoring equipment to help with the monitoring. Accompany them on their doctor’s visits, show interest and cheer them on in the fight against their condition. You should also help examine a diabetic’s hands and legs to look out for sores or infections.
Diabetes Warning Signs
When should I bring my loved one to the emergency department if they have diabetes?
It’s an Emergency if your loved one is experiencing:
- Chest pain / pressure
- Fainting or fall unconscious
- Shortness of breath
*These can worsen and become emergency conditions. Head to the emergency department straight away.
When should I call a doctor if my loved one has diabetes?
You should call a doctor if your loved one experiences:
- Numbness, tingling, or pain in feet or legs
- Eyesight problems
- Sores / infections on feet
- High blood sugar
- Low blood sugar
Hypertension Warning Signs
- Blood pressure readings at 180/110 or higher
- Potential damage to the body’s organs
- Symptoms of Hypertensive Crisis
- Headache or blurred vision
- Increasing confusion
- Increasing chest pain
- Increasing shortness of breath
- Swelling or fluid build-up in tissues
When should I call a doctor if my loved one has hypertension?
- Blood pressure is still high despite prescribed medication
- Symptoms: fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, light-headedness, headache, excessive sweating, problems with your vision, or confusion
When should I bring my loved one to the emergency department if they have high cholesterol?
Signs to take note of complications:
- Chest pain
- Heart attack
*If your family member with high blood pressure experiences these, go to the emergency department right away.
When should I call a doctor if my loved one has high cholesterol?
Blood test for fasting lipids
- On medication: once to twice a year
- Achieved target on diet control: once every three years
- Upon diagnosis, and regularly subsequently
Follow up on complications
- As deemed necessary