The Importance of Whole-body Care When Managing Chronic Illness

Anna Jeter avatar

by Anna Jeter |

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Throughout March and April, I found myself playing a hectic game of catch-up with my health management. Due to the pandemic, many of my nonemergent checkups were on hold for quite some time. So with decreasing COVID-19 infection rates here in the state of Minnesota, it was time to take care of some long overdue appointments.

After living with pulmonary hypertension for 19 years and having a heart and lung transplant three years ago, I have learned the importance of whole-body health. While some aspects of my health are out of my control, putting effort into maintaining the rest of my body has improved my overall well-being while preventing any unnecessary setbacks.

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One facet of health that’s important to attend to when living with any heart illness is dental work. Of course, this means regular dentist appointments, but the more immediate action that should be attended to is daily care, such as meticulous brushing and flossing. By staying on top of overall dental health, things like cavities and other relatively small annoyances can be avoided. This means fewer compiling health risks and less overall time spent at the doctor’s office.

This concept can be applied to a lot of different areas of well-being. Throughout my life, my healthcare has always been managed by my PH and transplant specialists. As a result, I never attended routine physicals like most people. I’m honestly not sure if this is common for people who grow up with a complex chronic illness, but it remains my norm.

As a result, I make sure to seek consultations in areas of health that may be overlooked during more focused meetings with my primary providers. This includes routine appointments with specialties like gynecology and dermatology. Again, the goal is to keep up with these areas of my health that are at baseline, so that any change can be caught quickly and further jeopardy to my health can be avoided.

There may be other miscellaneous items that need attention for one’s specific needs. For example, during my time with PH, I struggled with significant nosebleeds, a result of blood thinners, vasodilators, and oxygen use, which are common PH treatments. This meant frequently checking in with an ear, nose, and throat doctor. I also have a history of thyroid disease, which can significantly affect my health when my thyroid levels are out of control, so close monitoring of my thyroid health is vital.

Finally, a crucial aspect of whole-body care is close attention to one’s mental health. Not only can certain medications and health conditions cause fluctuations in mood and disposition, but also the weight of living with a serious illness can wreak havoc on one’s daily perspective.

In my sophomore year of college, I caught myself in an unprecedented state of depression. It wasn’t until I came out of it that I fully understood how much it had been affecting my life, my relationships, and even my hope for the future. Since then, I have worked hard to be genuinely aware of my mental state, using the treatments that work for me as needed. For me, mental health has truly become a priority, as my mental and spiritual resilience allows me to face and manage the rest of my care.

Whole-body care can feel overwhelming, especially when there are critical areas that require so much daily attention. It can sometimes be hard to prioritize anything past those higher-level needs. But ultimately, I have found that caring for my whole body and being is the best way to support the areas that are already fighting such a difficult battle.

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Judy Baker avatar

Judy Baker

Thank you Anna. This was so well put. My laundry list of self care tasks seems a bit long, but I know that ignoring them could mean development of more serious problems like infections. It's a lot to juggle and I am constantly trying to learn more about all my conditions. This newsletter has alerted me to new possibilities due to research. That gives me hope for the future. People sharing their lived experiences so honestly and openly makes me feel less alone because they really "get it". When I'm feeling a little down, you will remind me of what's possible when I just care for myself as best I can. Thank you!


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