The Health Self-Management Revolution

June 13, 2022
IN
COPD
BY
Andrew Gallagher
4 Min Read

The health self management revolution is upon us! No longer are we at the mercy of our doctors or health insurance companies. We now have the ability to take control of our own health and improve our lives by learning how to manage our own health.

This revolution is being fueled by the internet and social media, which are giving us access to information that was once only available to health professionals. We are also becoming more aware of the importance of nutrition and exercise, and how they can impact our health.

There are many different ways to learn about health self-management. You can read books, watch videos, or join online communities that offer support and advice. You can also find apps that help you track your progress and give you tips on how to improve your health.

No matter how you choose to learn about health self-management, the most important thing is that you take action and start making changes in your life. It's never too late to start managing your own health, and the sooner you start, the better!

As the world becomes more and more technology driven, there is no better time to learn about health self-management than now. This is your chance to take control of your own health and improve your life!

What is self management?

Self management is how a person with a long term health condition deals with their condition, how they get through every day. This can include:

  • Coping with the emotional effects of the condition
  • Managing other treatments
  • Recognising and dealing with symptoms (known as monitoring your condition)
  • Taking medication(s)
  • Attending various appointments
  • Making lifestyle changes

Self-management is the practice of taking control of one's own health, both short and long term. Learning how to manage your own health can help you live a longer, happier life.

To do this well a person needs to have the right information, education, support and services. Learning how to manage your condition may help you feel better, stay active and live well.

Why is self management important?

Self-management is an important part of long term health care because it allows people with chronic conditions to have a better quality of life. It also helps to prevent further health problems and can save both the person with the disease and the health care  system money.

Self-management is a key part of living with a long term health condition. It’s about taking control of your own health and making informed decisions about your care.

There are many benefits to learning how to manage your own health, both short and long term. These benefits can include:

Improved quality of life

Improved physical and mental health

Improved energy levels

Reduced anxiety and stress

Slow disease progression

More independence and confidence

How to self manage with a lung disease

People with any long-term condition, even if they attend regular reviews with their healthcare professionals, are responsible for their own care for the majority of the time; they are de facto “self-managing”. For the person this is more than a narrow biomedical approach to detecting and managing exacerbations. A commonly cited definition of self-management includes having the confidence to deal not only with medical management , but also the role and emotional management of their condition(s).

For people living with a chronic disabling condition such as COPD, coping with day-to-day activities (e.g. walking, dressing and eating) may be the priority self-management skills. Support for changing health behaviours (sustained smoking cessation and increased activity) is crucial.

Self-management is not a single event; for behaviour change to be maintained continued support is crucial.

Key areas of self management

Take your medicines

It's important to take any prescribed medicines. These include inhalers, as they can help prevent your condition getting worse (flare-up).

Read the information leaflet that comes with your medication. This will explain what will happen if you take this medication with other medicines or supplements.

Check with your doctor (this could be your GP or a hospital doctor) if you plan to take any over-the-counter remedies. For example, painkillers or nutritional supplements. These can sometimes cause problems with your medication.

Speak to your doctor if:

  • You have any concerns about the medication you're taking.
  • You're experiencing any side effects.

Exercise

Exercising can help improve your symptoms and quality of life. The amount of exercise you can do will differ from person to person. Exercising until you're a little breathless isn't dangerous. But don't push yourself too far. Talk to your GP before starting a new exercise programme. This is important if your symptoms are severe or you have not exercised in a while.

Your GP may advise you to take part in a Pulmonary Rehabilitation Programme. This will include a structured exercise plan tailored to your needs and ability.

Maintain a healthy weight

Carrying extra weight can make shortness of breath worse. You can lose weight through a combination of regular exercise and a healthy diet. Some people with COPD find that they lose weight without trying to. Eating food high in protein and taking in enough calories is important to maintain a health weight. You may be able to get advice from a dietitian as part of the pulmonary rehabilitation programme.

Monitor your condition

Record your symptoms – if they're affecting your normal activities or getting worse

Record your medicine – including if you are experiencing any side effects

Track mood and activity levels, what makes you feel good, what makes you feel bad.

Try to figure out what triggers your condition. Try to avoid:

  • dusty places
  • fumes, such as car exhausts
  • smoke
  • air freshener sprays or plug-ins
  • strong-smelling cleaning products (unless there is good ventilation)
  • hairspray
  • perfume

Regular reviews

You should have regular contact with your care team to check your condition.

These appointments may involve:

  • Talking about your symptoms
  • Talking about your medicine
  • Tests to check your health

Taking care of your mental health

Unfortunately, chronic conditions are not easy, and they will take a toll on your mental health. Self care is another key aspect of self management. Here are some ideas that you can use to do some self care.

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Music
  • Simply talking to someone (friend/therapist)

Overall, there is significant evidence that self-management can help people live higher quality lives with less symptoms and spend less time in hospital. For the person with the disease it may be hard to change health habits but slowly changing over time can have huge benefits to their lives.

References:

https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/48/1/6

https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/copd/copd-self-management/

Sign up to the Filter Newsletter below to stay up to date with the latest respiratory news.