Lessening Secondary Conditions While Gaining Health Through Activity
By Heather Pennington, MA Ed, CSCS, CSPS, CAPE
I have what?
Maybe you have seen the reports or heard the news from your doctor that individuals with a disability are three times more likely to have secondary health conditions. Secondary conditions are health related and not disability related. For example, let’s say I have Multiple Sclerosis and I have chosen not to use exercise as a way to move and live better. Over time, I could easily develop diabetes or hypertension as a secondary health condition in addition to Multiple Sclerosis.
We all know it is imperative to exercise in order to feel better, look better, lose weight, and sleep better, but what if exercise could truly ward off secondary conditions that can affect our well-being? It’s true! Through this column, we want to provide the individual and the professional information as well as practical application to avoid the chance of being diagnosed with said “secondary conditions.” What are these you might ask? Well, they could include but are not limited to diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart disease, cancer, stroke, metabolic syndrome, and others. Sometimes genetics plays a role in these conditions, but usually lack of activity can be linked to a cause for them as well. Actually most of the time these secondary conditions could be prevented by participating in some of just plain old movement. Moving is fun – why not participate in it?
The Center for Disease Control published information that may shock you and hopefully motivate you and our communities to increase activity in ALL populations. Adults with a disability are three times more likely to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer. They are 38.4% more likely to be obese, 41.7% more likely to have high blood pressure, and 36.3% more likely to be inactive. So, why are these larger concerns for people with disabilities? The reasons can be countless and I certainly don’t want to project any assumptions on anyone. According to the New Hampshire Disability and Public Health Project, several factors contribute to a higher risk of diabetes, including:
• Unhealthy eating habits that result, in part, from uninformed and limited food choices;
• Lack of physical activity due to social, environmental, and behavioral barriers; and
• Lack of knowledge and support to address risk factors for diabetes
Although these may be some reasons, what we would like to do is to provide solutions and resources so that individuals with disabilities can avoid these secondary conditions and maintain a healthy and high quality of life. Over the course of the next year, we would like to focus this column on education and support to combat these other conditions from being added to anyone with a disability. We will focus on the big four that the CDC mentions in their resource: diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. We then will teach the benefits of activity and how it directly relates to prevention of these conditions.
Here are some starter tips from the CDC with basic information on activity and nutrition to make steps in preventing our first condition.
When looking at your plate, divide into 3 sections – 1 large and 2 small.
• Biggest section: Start by filling the biggest sections with all vegetables that have bright colors like broccoli, greens, carrots, etc.
• 2 smaller sections make up protein and a carbohydrate. Examples are fish, grilled chicken, lean beef for the protein and rice, potatoes, noodles etc. for the carbohydrate.
As far as activity goes, the goal is to acquire 150 minutes of activity per week. The beauty of this is that it can be done in many different ways.
Examples of acquiring time:
30 minutes at one time five times a week.
15 minutes at a time 10 times a week.
10 minutes at a time several times a day.
To acquire this amount of activity, try a quick walk or roll up and down your neighborhood, back yard, or hallway. Sometimes gardening with raised beds or following a video at home are great options. Or try something more social like dancing or taking a class at your neighborhood fitness center. The most important aspect is to move as many major muscles as you have that are functioning at their best. So, whether that is your legs or arms or hands as long as we increase our heart rate and breathing rate, we are being active.
Take these steps today to ward off diabetes! More tips to come in the next articles.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Diabetes Home, Being More Active Is Better for You. Retrieved from CDC Online https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/active.html.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Diabetes Home, Eat Well! Retrieved from CDC Online https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/eat-well.html.