Chronic Conditions in Ohio

Nearly half of Ohio adults live with at least one chronic condition.

This jumps to four out of five for adults age 65 and older.

Learn to be a healthier you!

Learn to be a healthier you!

Chronic Conditions in Ohio

29 percent of all Ohio adults live with two or more chronic conditions.

This climbs to 47 percent of Ohioans age 65 and older living with multiple chronic conditions.

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Healthy U - Well Beyond 60!Nearly half (47.2 percent) of all Ohio adults live with a chronic condition, such as arthritis or diabetes. Twenty-nine percent have more than one chronic condition. Chronic conditions become more common with age. By comparison, four out of five (80.3 percent) of Ohioans age 65 or older have at least one chronic condition and 46.5 percent live with more than one. (Ohio Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Ohio Department of Health)

Chronic conditions can affect your quality of life and independence. The HEALTHY U Ohio initiative helps Ohioans stay active, make healthy choices and manage chronic conditions so that they can have the highest possible quality of life and better health outcomes, maintaining their independence as they age.

HEALTHY U can help you live a healthy life with chronic conditions through resources on this page, as well as through chronic disease self-management workshops held in your community.

HEALTHY U Ohio helps you take control of your health

Taking Charge of Your Health

Self-management of your chronic conditions starts with adopting skills to help you break the cycle and successfully manage your illness so that you can continue your daily activities. Taking an active role in managing your chronic conditions also can help you deal with the emotions that can come with chronic illness.

With help, you can cope with pain without medication

With help, you can cope with pain without medication

Are you hurting? If so, you have company. According to the 2017 Ohio Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 46 percent of Ohio adults have at least one chronic condition, and 20 percent have two or more. These numbers nearly double among adults age 65 and older.

Chronic pain is one of the most prevalent chronic conditions, especially in older adults. About 80 percent of older adults experience chronic pain that persists for three months or more.

Pain is more than just what your body feels. Your emotional reaction to pain and the thoughts you have about your pain are all part of what you experience. Stress and anxiety can greatly increase your body’s sensitivity to pain. That’s why experts suggest committing to at least 10-15 minutes a day to relax and de-stress. You may not be able to change what your body is feeling, but you can change the way your mind reacts and what you choose to focus on.

Patient education is another approach to pain management. Learning about your conditions, including chronic pain, not only helps to manage those conditions, but it can also encourage a healthier lifestyle. By taking small steps, you can improve your overall health.

Self-management education programs and workshops are available around the state to help people who have chronic conditions learn how to better manage their condition. Self-management starts with learning to break the cycle of problematic symptoms and determining which techniques work for you.

Chronic conditions, including chronic pain, can affect your quality of life and your independence. The Ohio Department of Aging’s Healthy U self-management programs have been proven effective to improve confidence to meet your health goals and manage symptoms.

Visit HEALTHY U Ohio for more information and resources on how you can begin to take charge of your health.

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When you have a chronic condition, you are a self-manager. Some people manage by withdrawing, staying in bed and socializing less. Other people with the same condition and symptoms somehow manage to continue with their lives. They may have to change the way they do things, but life continues. By applying self-management tools they are able to gain confidence in their ability to manage symptoms. The difference is how the person decides to manage the chronic condition.

Self-management is a skill that can be learned and practiced. Keep the tips below in your self-management toolbox. For additional resources, consider participating in a HEALTHY U: Chronic Disease Self-Management program in your community.

Goal Setting

Set Goals to Be a Healthier You

Living with a chronic condition can mean having to change habits you’ve had for years, even decades. Change is rarely easy, but it is possible. It starts with you deciding you want to change and committing to being successful. It’s easier when you can change in stages – or series of plans – to get you there.

Start by setting your goal. A goal has to be something you want to do; if it isn’t, you will probably not be successful. You’ll also find more success with short-term goals that build on previous successes. Goals must be realistic, specific and achievable. Examples of strong goals include:

  • “I will lose five pounds in the next month.”
  • “I will increase my physical activity by 10 minutes each week for the next three months.”
  • “I will use distraction techniques every time I feel depressed.”

Your plan should also be action-specific. Know exactly how you will work toward your goal. Answer the questions: What? How much? When? and How Often?

  • “To lose five pounds in the next month, I will: 1) exercise 20 minutes each day, 2) cut my meal portion sizes by 25 percent, and avoid French fries.”
  • “To increase my physical activity by 10 minutes each week, I will walk 40 minutes on Monday, swim 25 minutes on Tuesday, lift weights for 20 minutes on Wednesday.”
  • “When I feel depressed, I will walk 10 minutes or play a game on my phone for 15 minutes or until I feel better.”

Commit your plan(s) to paper (or your computer, phone or tablet). Post it where you will see it every day. Set aside the same time each week to write your plan and evaluate your progress. Most importantly, give yourself permission to be imperfect. If you fall short of your plan, adjust it and keep going. Give yourself more time to achieve your goal and re-evaluate if your goal and action steps are attainable. Most importantly, reward and celebrate your successes.

For more help to develop and work with an action plan, consider participating in a HEALTHY U: Chronic Disease Self-Management program in your community.


Relax to Be a Healthier You

Simple relaxation can help decrease the intensity or severity of symptoms that come with many chronic conditions. Relaxation quite simply means the reduction or elimination of tension from both mind and body. The goal of relaxation is to turn off the outside world so that you truly get some mental and physical rest. When you are relaxed, you will typically sleep better and have less stress and pain. Relaxation is not a cure-all, but it can be an effective part of a treatment plan.

Try to do something daily to relax, but at a minimum, set aside 15-20 minutes to relax at least four days a week. If necessary, pick a quiet place and time when you will not be disturbed. Be patient. It may take three to four weeks of regular relaxation to start noticing benefits.

Some simple things you can do to relax include:

  • Read a good book, listen to music or watch a TV show or movie you enjoy. Curl up and read or listen to a good book.
  • Try relaxing physical activities like walking, gardening, swimming, sports or working out.
  • Do some crafts, such as knitting, pottery, or woodworking, or indulge in a hobby, like collecting.
  • Sing like nobody is listening and dance like nobody is watching.
  • Enjoy nature: watch the water on a lake or stream, or view the clouds rolling by.
  • Do something nice and unexpected for someone else.
  • Chat with a friend on the phone or online.
  • Get a massage.
  • Play with a pet.

Healthy Eating

Eat Well to Be a Healthier You

Your body needs food to function. While almost all foods provide energy for your body, the right mix of nutritious foods will keep it running well. As a general rule, you want to eat a diet that includes a wide variety of natural and colorful food – think fruits and vegetables and unprocessed low-fat meats and proteins. While you can take vitamin and mineral supplements, it’s better to get most of your nutrients from the foods you eat. It’s also important to eat only as much food as your body needs; both overeating and undereating can have consequences.

Eating well when you are living with a chronic condition can be particularly challenging. Your body’s nutritional requirements can change with age and illness. Further, certain conditions and medications may change how food tastes or how well your body digests. It also can be hard to change eating habits that you’ve developed over the decades, but it can be worth it.

  • Food doesn’t taste as good as it used to. Surgery, medications, using oxygen and even minor illness can change how food tastes. As a result, you may eat less or use more salt to make it taste better. Instead, use herbs and spices and fresh fruit juices and vinegars during and after cooking to enhance flavor. Also, chew your food more – the longer it’s in your mouth, the more flavor you’ll get.
  • You get tired when preparing meals. With lower energy levels, you may rely more on packaged, canned and frozen “convenience foods,” or fast food and take-out, which typically gives you less good nutrients and more of the stuff you should avoid, such as fat, salt and calories. When you do feel like cooking, try cooking multiple servings that you can store for later meals. Identify food prep you can do when you have more energy, then finish the meal later.
  • Eating causes discomfort. People who experience shortness of breath or who find it difficult and uncomfortable to chew and swallow tend to eat less. On the other hand, overeating can cause stomach problems such as indigestion, discomfort or nausea, and can also lead to shortness of breath. Try eating smaller and more frequent meals. Take time to relax before eating. Avoid foods that cause gas or bloating and add more foods that your body seems to tolerate.

Communicating with Your Health Care Providers

Communicate to Be a Healthier You

Effectively managing your chronic condition includes communicating well with your health care providers. Your providers are there to help you and are experts about your condition, its symptoms and its treatments. While there can be barriers to communicating with your provider, such as time, jargon, pride and embarrassment, most can be overcome when you “Take P.A.R.T.” in your own care

  • P = Prepare: Before a doctor’s appointment or procedure, make an agenda. Write down your concerns or questions and prioritize them to ensure you have time to discuss what is most important to you. Share the list with your provider. Also prepare information you might be asked for, including your medications, sleep patterns, eating habits and other care providers you are seeing.
  • A = Ask: Your health care provider is an expert; let him or her help you understand your condition. Ask about your diagnosis, prognosis (how the condition will progress), tests, treatments and follow-up. Don’t be embarrassed to ask; it is your provider’s job to make sure you understand.
  • R = Repeat: Another way to ensure you understand is to briefly repeat or restate what you heard your provider say, especially instructions such as when to take your medications or what side effects to expect. Take notes or bring someone with you to help you catch and remember the important details.
  • T = Take action: Once you understand what your provider is recommending for you, it is your responsibility – not theirs – to make it happen. If you forget instructions or go off-plan, follow-up with your provider to get back on track. Also contact your provider if, for some reason, you cannot follow his or her advice. He or she may be able to suggest a different course of action.

Ultimately, you are the one who should be making decisions about your medical care, but your care providers have the tools and the responsibility to make sure you make informed decisions that are in your best interest and lead to the best health outcomes for you. The best medical care for you combines your doctor's medical expertise with your own knowledge, skills and values.

To learn more techniques for communicating with your health care provider, consider participating in a HEALTHY U: Chronic Disease Self-Management program in your community.

While many of the symptoms you will need to manage are specific to your particular condition, most people who live with chronic conditions experience common physical and emotional symptoms, such as fatigue, pain, shortness of breath, sleep issues, depression and stress.

Below are a few tips for managing the most common symptoms associated with chronic conditions. For more help managing your chronic condition and its symptoms, consider participating in a HEALTHY U: Self Management program in your community.


Some people living with chronic conditions experience pain or discomfort. The pain may be a symptom of the condition and come from inflammation, joint damage, irritated nerves, blood flow and more. However, pain can be caused by things you do to cope with your conditions. Muscle tenseness, loss of muscle mass, poor-quality sleep, stress and anxiety can all contribute to the pain or discomfort you experience. While medication is one tool to manage pain, it’s important to note that certain medications can cause or worsen pain.

Because pain can have multiple causes, there are also different strategies for managing it. Understanding the cause of your pain can help address it, but sometimes it can be a process of trial and error.

Your pain management tool kit can include:

Medications – There are many medications available to treat pain, but not all are equally effective for every type of pain. Common pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can provide temporary relief for mild or moderate acute pain. Prescription medications, including narcotics, may offer relief when others don’t, but generally are not suitable for chronic pain because they can become less effective over time and can become addictive. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the right medication to manage your pain.

Exercise – Keeping your muscles and joints strong and flexible can help reduce pain. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about exercises you can do to maintain strength and flexibility and control pain.

Ice, heat and massage – For pain in a local area such as the back or knee, the application of heat, cold and massage have all been found to be helpful. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about the right therapy for your pain.

Positive thinking – Your mind is powerful. Techniques include relaxation, imagery, visualization, and distraction. Focus on what you can do to get through your pain to do the things you enjoy doing, instead of how your pain might limit you.

For more help managing pain, consider participating in a HEALTHY U: Chronic Pain program in your community.

Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath is frightening and prevents your body from getting the oxygen it needs. It can have a range of root causes. For example, carrying excess weight increases the amount of energy and oxygen you need to perform everyday activities. Similarly, muscles that are out of shape don't work as efficiently, particularly those that aid in breathing, which can make it harder to get the good air in and the bad air out.

Tools for Managing Shortness of Breath

  • When you feel short of breath, slow down, but don't stop what you are doing. Avoid the urge to hurry up and finish a task. If you still can't catch your breath, take a short break until you feel better.
  • Don't avoid physical activity because you lose your breath. Instead, do as much as you can before running out of breath. Over time, you'll find it easier to do the task longer. Keep track of how long you can go, and try to improve by no more than 25 percent each week.
  • Don't smoke, and if you do smoke, quit. Quitting smoking can have immediate health benefits, regardless of your age or how long you smoked.
  • Avoid smokers. Second-hand smoke also contributes to shortness of breath. Make your house and car "no smoking" zones. Ask people to smoke outside.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated helps keep your respiratory system working at its peak and helps it get rid of obstructions and toxins that can cause shortness of breath. Using a humidifier may also be helpful.
  • If your doctor has prescribed medicine or oxygen to help you breathe, such as an inhaler, use them as exactly directed. Avoid using more or less than recommended.
  • Stay away from places where air is polluted and try to limit outdoor activities during a poor air quality warning. This includes avoiding dusty areas inside and outside of your home.
  • Get an annual flu shot and pneumonia vaccine to prevent lung infections.


Fatigue with chronic conditions can be related to factors such as:

  • The condition itself. When you have a chronic condition, energy your body would usually use for everyday activities is also being used to help heal your body. Similarly, symptoms that are part of the condition, such as anemia (low blood hemoglobin) can also contribute to fatigue.
  • Inactivity. When we have less energy and more pain, we tend to move less. Muscles that are not used regularly become less efficient at doing what they are supposed to do, and tire more easily than muscles in good condition.
  • Poor nutrition. Food is our basic source of energy. Some chronic conditions can affect how our body digests food, but our food choices are equally important. If we eat the wrong kinds or amounts of food, our bodies can struggle to digest, which leaves less energy for other tasks. Additionally, being overweight or underweight means your body will need more energy to do daily tasks than someone of a healthier weight.
  • Not enough rest. Perhaps the first thing we think of when we feel fatigued is that we are not getting enough quality sleep. Our bodies need regular sleep to recharge and heal. Chronic conditions and symptoms can affect your sleep cycles and habits.
  • Emotions. Stress, anxiety, fear, and depression can also cause fatigue. Fatigue is a major symptom of depression.
  • Medications. Some medications can cause fatigue. If you think your fatigue is medication-related, talk to your doctor. Sometimes medications or the dose can be changed.

Start with the easiest things that are within your control to improve. Are you eating healthy foods? Are you exercising? Are you getting enough good-quality sleep? Are you effectively managing stress? If you answer no to any of these questions, you may be well on your way to finding one or more of the reasons for your fatigue.

Sleep Issues

Sleep is a basic human need, like food and water. Sleep helps your body heal and have the energy you need for everyday activities. Most people do well with between six and eight hours of sleep, but the amount of sleep you need depends on several factors. If you are alert, feel rested, and function well during the day, chances are you're getting enough sleep.

When you don’t get enough quality sleep, you may feel tired, have trouble concentrating, gain weight or have increased pain. Some symptoms associated with chronic conditions can also affect your sleep. Similarly, sleeping poorly can cause some symptoms to get worse. Depending on what is causing your sleep difficulties, you can improve your sleep with some healthy habits before bedtime as well as in the bedroom. The longer you stick to these habits, the more benefit you will see.

Before Bedtime

  • Avoid eating or drinking for at least an hour before you plan on going to sleep.
  • Trade TVs, computers and tablets for a soothing book or magazine before bed.
  • Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about how the medications you take can affect your sleep. Ask if you should avoid certain medicines before bedtime.
  • Avoid coffee, tea, colas and foods that contain caffeine for at least two hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol before bedtime, as it can affect your breathing and disrupt your sleep cycle.

At Bedtime

  • Make sure your bed is as comfortable as possible, offers good body support and is easy to move around in as well as get in and out of.
  • Keep the room a comfortable temperature. Most people sleep best in a cool environment, but a warmer, more humid environment might be better if you have trouble breathing at night.
  • Control the light in the room. Use blinds or light-blocking curtains to keep outside light from coming in. Keep alarm clocks and other electronics with lights to a minimum.
  • Use pillows and furniture lifters to create the most comfortable sleeping position.
  • If you sleep better in a chair, move or add a chair to your bedroom, rather than sleep in another room.
  • Avoid watching TV or eating in bed.


People with a chronic condition often feel sad or hopeless. When these feelings interfere with your willingness or ability to the things you enjoy or manage the symptoms of you condition, it may be depression. Many factors may cause you to feel depressed, including pain, diet, medications and more.

Symptoms of depression include feeling tired, having trouble falling asleep, sleeping too much, changes in eating habits, trouble concentrating, restlessness. Other symptoms include feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, lack of interest in things you used to enjoy and a desire to harm yourself or others.

If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor or other health care provider immediately. Most depression can be effectively managed through medications or counseling. Antidepressant medications help balance brain chemistry to keep depression symptoms under control. Similarly, some medications can cause depressive symptoms. Talk with your doctor about depression and the medicines you take, and take your medicines exactly as prescribed.

Counseling, including several types of psychotherapy, can be very effective at treating depression. Therapy can be brief and may focus on learning new skills to think and relate. As with most therapies, it is most effective over time, and you may not see immediate improvement, but the positive effects can be long-lasting and actually reduce the risk of your depressive symptoms coming back.

In addition, there are several self-help strategies that can help you control your mood and stay positive:

  • Eliminate the negative. Avoid activities that make you feel down or hopeless, like being alone, crying, and getting angry at people and situations beyond your control. Be aware that alcohol and some medications can also cause negative thoughts and feelings.
  • Plan for pleasure. Maintain or increase activities you enjoy. Go for a walk, look at a sunset, watch a funny movie, get a massage, learn a new skill or join a social club.
  • Take action. Force yourself to do things even if you don't feel like it, but keep your expectations realistic. Break small tasks into small ones and do what you can as best as you can.
  • Socialize. Get involved with others who share your interests and can help lighten your heavy feelings. If you can't get out, consider finding a group of like-minded people on the Internet.
  • Move your mood. Physical activity lifts depression and negative moods. Try to get at least 20 to 30 minutes a day of some type of exercise, even walking.
  • Think positive. Avoid criticizing yourself and others. Make note of the good things that have happened or are happening in your life and focus on them when you are feeling down.
  • Do something for someone else. Lending a helping hand to someone in need is one of the most effective ways to change a bad mood.


Your body is used to functioning at a certain level. Certain situations or conditions can force your body to work harder, which can lead to both physical and emotional stress. In most cases, feelings of stress will ease when the cause of the stress goes away. Sometimes, however, your body may be slower to recover from stress, and if the cause of the stress lasts a long time, it may cause your body to see the stressed state as the new normal, which can lead to chronic stress.

Symptoms of stress can include faster heart rate, higher blood pressure, pain or tension in your neck and shoulders, rapid breathing, lost appetite or trouble digesting, headache, dry mouth and sweating. You may also adopt certain behaviors when stressed, such as biting your nails, grinding your teeth, fidgeting or other repetitive habits.

Causes of stress can be physical, such as pain or soreness, emotional, such as a significant life event or situation, or environmental, such as extreme conditions and noise.

To manage your stress, identify the things that cause you to feel stressed. Create a list and ask yourself 1) “How important is this factor in my life,” and 2) “Can I change it?”

  • Important and changeable stressors. These types of stressors are best managed by taking action to change the situation and to reduce the stress associated with them. Useful problem-solving skills include planning and goal setting, positive healthy thinking, effective communication and seeking social support.
  • Important and unchangeable stressors. These stressors are often the most difficult to manage. Even though you may not be able to change the situation, you may be able change the way you think about the problem, reclassify some part of the problem as changeable, reassess how important the problem is in light of your overall life and priorities or change your emotional reactions to the situation, thereby reducing the stress.
  • Unimportant and changeable stressors. If the stressor is unimportant, try just letting it go. If you can control it with relatively little effort, go ahead and deal with it. Solving small problems helps build your skills and confidence to tackle bigger ones.
  • Unimportant and unchangeable stressors. The best solution for these problems is to ignore them. These are common hassles, and everybody has their share of them. You can distract yourself with humor, relaxation or imagery, or focusing on more pleasurable things.

Of course, there will always be stressful situations you don’t see coming and can’t prepare for. If you know that certain situations will be stressful, develop ways to deal with them before they happen. Learn good problem-solving techniques and rehearse in your mind what you will do when a situation arises.

Other tools for dealing with stress include getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating well. When stress is overwhelming or cannot be controlled by self-help, a counselor, social worker, clergy member or psychologist may be able to help.



Common Chronic Conditions

Chronic conditions usually begin slowly and develop gradually. They can have multiple causes and symptoms that vary over time. The symptoms you experience can be caused by the condition or from complications from other conditions or treatments. Multiple conditions and treatments can often make day-to-day living more difficult, as well as make the decisions we make about our health much more important. One of the most important steps in managing your condition is understanding as much about it as you can, such as the symptoms, what can make it better and what will make it worse. The information below is intended as a brief introduction to some of the most common conditions. However, it is not intended as medical advice. Talk to your health care professional about your condition and the treatments that are right for you.

What it is

High blood pressure occurs when your blood creates too much pressure on the walls of your blood vessels.High blood pressure, also called HBP or hypertension, occurs when your blood creates too much pressure on the walls of your blood vessels as it moves through your body. Your health care professional measures your blood pressure with two numbers. The first number, called the systolic pressure, represents the amount of pressure when your heart is pushing out blood. The second number, called the diastolic pressure, represents the amount of pressure on the blood vessel walls when the heart is resting between beats. For most people, a healthy blood pressure reading would be around 120/80.

High blood pressure can cause your heart and blood vessels to work harder and be less efficient at feeding your body’s tissues and organs. Over time, high blood pressure can damage the heart and arteries, which can lead to other, more serious conditions, such as irregular heart beat, heart attack and stroke. Causes of high blood pressure include dietary fat and salt, smoking, stress and family history of heart disease.

For diagnosis and treatment of high blood pressure, consult your health care professional. To learn strategies to manage your blood pressure, consider participating in a HEALTHY U: Chronic Disease program in your community.

Common symptoms

High blood pressure is sometimes called the “silent killer” because most people who have it do not notice any symptoms. Since you usually can’t feel high blood pressure, the only reliable way to know if you have it is to have it checked regularly by a medical professional. Your blood pressure will vary over time. It is generally lower when you’re resting and higher when you are physically active or feeling stress. It takes several readings at different times and different days to determine if your blood pressure is consistently high.

Things that can make it worse

  • Smoking – Smoking damages the inner lining of the blood vessels and raises blood pressure.
  • Stress – Stress increases your blood pressure and heart rate, which can damage the lining of the blood vessels, leading to heart disease.
  • Alcohol – Heavy or binge drinking (more than five drinks at one time) can increase the risk of both heart disease and high blood pressure.
  • Diabetes – High blood sugar damages your blood vessels over time, which can more than double your risk for heart disease.
  • Being overweight – Carrying extra weight makes your body – especially your heart – work harder to pump blood and feed its organs and tissues.

Things that can make it better

  • Exercise – Even small amounts of daily exercise can strengthen your heart and lower your cholesterol levels, which contribute to high blood pressure. It also may help you control blood sugar levels and lose weight.
  • Healthy eating – A balanced diet that is low in fat and sodium and high in fiber and other essential nutrients can reduce cholesterol levels and help maintain your blood pressure in a healthy range. Like exercise, it also may help you control blood sugar levels and lose weight.
  • Medication – Your health care professional may prescribe medication to manage your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Take your medications exactly as prescribed.

What it is

There are many types of lung disease that together are known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. The most common are asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Mild COPD can affect how well you breathe and can make it harder to do daily activities and sleep comfortably. In severe cases, COPD can require emergency medical treatment, as it can prevent your body from getting the oxygen it needs to work properly. There are no cures for COPD, but its symptoms are treatable by working with your health care providers.

For diagnosis and treatment of COPD, consult your health care professional. To learn strategies to manage your COPD symptoms, consider participating in a HEALTHY U: Chronic Disease program in your community.

Common symptoms

COPD symptoms often don't appear until significant lung damage has occurred, and they usually worsen over time. Symptoms of COPD may include:

  • Shortness of breath or lack of energy
  • Wheezing, coughing or feeling that you need to clear your throat
  • Chest tightness
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Swelling in ankles, feet or legs

Things that can make it worse

  • Smoking – Smoking and second-hand smoke irritates and damages the lungs, is the main cause of chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and is a major trigger of asthma.
  • Allergens and air pollution – COPD symptoms are often worse when the levels of fumes, chemicals and allergens (pollen, dust, etc.) in the air are higher. Check your radio and TV weather forecasts for air pollution alerts.
  • Extreme temperatures – Cold, dry air and warm, moist air make your lungs work harder and can make COPD symptoms worse.
  • Medications – In some cases, medications for other conditions can aggravate your COPD, including common medicines taken for pain and inflammation. Talk to your health care provider about the medicines you take, but don’t change your medication without your doctor’s advice.
  • Other things that can make your COPD worse include infections (such as cold and flu), stress and physical exertion.

Things that can make it better

  • Exercise – Although regular exercise won’t repair the damage that caused your COPD, it can make your heart and lungs stronger and more efficient. Talk to your doctor about the best activity for you.
  • Posture – How you hold your body while standing, walking and resting can affect how well you breath. Avoid slouching and hunching while standing or sitting. Use extra pillows raise your body and improve breathing while sleeping.
  • Medicines – Your doctor may prescribe or recommend over-the-counter medications to treat some or all of your COPD symptoms. These may include allergy pills, nasal sprays or inhalers. Use your medications exactly as prescribed.
  • Other things that can make your COPD better include controlled coughing, staying hydrated, breathing treatments and controlled environments.

What it is

Diabetes describes a group of conditions that can make it difficult for your body to turn food into energy. When you digest, the sugars, starches and carbohydrates you eat are broken down into the simple sugar called glucose that your body can use. A hormone called insulin then helps the glucose move from your blood stream to your cells, where it is turned into energy.

When you have diabetes, insulin does not work as it should. In some cases, your body may not produce enough insulin; this is called Type 1 diabetes. In other cases, the insulin that is produced cannot be used efficiently by the body; this is called Type 2 diabetes. In both cases, glucose that can’t be used by your cells builds up in the blood stream, causing high blood sugar or high blood glucose. When your body’s tissues and organs can’t get the energy to function properly, they can work less efficiently and begin to break down. Diabetes also makes it harder for your body to fight infections and other illnesses. Blood glucose levels that are extremely high or extremely low can be life-threatening.

Treatments for diabetes depend of the type of the condition you have and the symptoms you are experiencing, but strategies for managing diabetes include regularly checking your blood glucose levels and modifying your diet and exercise habits. Your health care provider may also prescribe medications to help control blood glucose levels and prevent or lessen damage to your body.

For diagnosis and treatment of diabetes, consult your health care professional. To learn strategies to manage your diabetes, consider participating in a HEALTHY U: Diabetes program in your community.

Common symptoms

  • Increased thirst and hunger, or weight loss or gain with no obvious cause
  • Fatigue, nausea or irritability
  • Skin infections or wounds that heal slowly
  • Reduced sensitivity in your hands or feet

If you experience extreme tiredness and thirst, a sudden change in vision, dizziness, confusion, sudden mood changes, weakness or rapid breathing and heartbeat, this may indicate extremely high or low blood glucose levels. Seek medical attention immediately.

Things that can make it worse

  • Being overweight – Excess body fat can interfere with your body’s ability to use insulin.
  • Stress – Emotional situations, such as anger, fear and frustration can raise blood sugar levels.
  • Smoking – Smoking can keep your body’s cells and tissues from getting the oxygen they need to process glucose.
  • Alcohol – Alcohol can cause a sudden and drastic drop in blood glucose levels, and it adds calories that can lead to weight gain.
  • Complications – Diabetes can cause other problems in the body, including heart disease, nerve or kidney damage, infections, vision problems and gum disease.

Things that can make it better

  • Regular monitoring – In addition to regular medical tests, your doctor may recommend you regularly check your blood glucose levels at home. Doing so is relatively easy and requires a small drop of blood. Monitoring tells you how your habits affect your blood glucose levels and helps you make changes to your diet and exercise habits.
  • Healthy eating – When you live with diabetes, you have to be more careful than other people about when, how much and what types of food you eat. A nutritionist may be able to help you develop a healthy aging plan to address the factors that increase your blood glucose levels.
  • Exercise – Mild to moderate exercise that increases your breathing and heart rate decreases your body’s need for insulin and helps control blood glucose levels. It can also help with weight loss, which will improve how your body uses insulin.
  • Medication – Your health care professional may prescribe medications to help control your blood glucose levels and treat other medical conditions and complications. Use your medications exactly as prescribed.

What it is

Arthritis commonly refers to any kind of damage to a joint in your body. It can create pain, swelling or stiffness wherever two or more bones or related structures in our bodies meet, such as elbows, knees, hips, even fingers and the spine. Arthritis can make it harder to do day-to-day activities and can interfere with important activities like sleeping and eating. Most forms of arthritis cannot be cured.  Treatment depends on the type and location of the joint damage and is generally intended to control inflammation, swelling and pain to help you maintain and improve how well you can move around. Strategies include diet, exercise, medications and surgery to replace or repair damaged joints.

For diagnosis and treatment of arthritis, consult your health care professional. To learn strategies to manage your arthritis, consider participating in a HEALTHY U: Chronic Disease program in your community.

Common symptoms

  • Pain or stiffness
  • Swelling, redness or deformity
  • Decreased range of motion

Things that can make it worse

  • Inactivity – When it hurts to move, we tend to move less. However, being less active can cause your joints to weaken, making it easier to damage them further.
  • Poor posture – Improper posture puts extra stress on bones and joints, which can reduce flexibility and cause weakness.
  • Being overweight – Carrying excess body fat puts extra strain on joints, especially those that bear weight, such as the hips, knees and feet.
  • Food allergies – In rare cases, certain food allergies can cause attacks of arthritis. Gout, a certain type of arthritis, is particularly affected by what you eat.

Things that can make it better

  • Exercise – Daily exercise maintains joint mobility, strengthens ligaments and tendons around the joint, and maintains or increases the strength of muscles that move the joint. Gentle flexibility exercises also can help with stiffness.
  • Heat – Heat combined with rest can provide temporary relief of pain in joints and muscles.
  • Ice – Some people find cooling a warm joint with ice to be helpful at reducing swelling and inflammation.
  • Rest – Rest periods between activities and restful sleep at night can help control pain. When pain disturbs sleep at night, different types of beds and the use of mild sleep medications can be of significant help.
  • Assistive devices – When it remains hard to move certain joints over time, devices like braces, canes, special shoes, grippers, reachers and walkers can help with day-to-day activities and reduce pain.
  • Medication – Your health care professional may prescribe or recommend over-the-counter medicines to control pain, reduce swelling or help with sleep and rest. Use your medicines exactly as prescribed.

Older Adults and the Flu

Older adults are at increased risk for complications from the flu. Flu is highly contagious and is spread by coughing and contact. Symptoms include fever, cough, aches and tiredness. The best way to avoid getting the flu is by getting a flu shot. Ask about special high-dose vaccines specifically for older adults.

For more information, visit:


Learn How To Manage Your Chronic Condition and Symptoms

A HEALTHY U workshop in your community connects you to others living with chronic conditions while you learn together about proven strategies to manage your symptoms and live a healthier life.

Well Beyond 60! Health & Wellness Calendar

Volunteer as a health and wellness program leader.

Contact us for more information.



Below are links to state and federal websites and resources that provide more information on these topics.


SmokeFree 60+

Ohio's Aging Eye Public Private Partnership

Recovery Ohio

Start Talking! to your grandchildren about drug abuse.
Take Charge, Ohio! Manage pain and prevent medication abuse.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline - 1-800-273-8255
Text "4help" to 741741