Don’t let chronic illness catch you by surprise

The statements contained in this document are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of CMS. The authors assume responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of the information contained in this document.

Nobody likes to be caught off guard by a health condition, but the signs of illness aren’t always obvious, and health scares have a way of sneaking up on us.

Many of these illnesses can become chronic conditions that might feel scary and overwhelming. If you deal with a chronic condition, know that you’re not alone. According to research by the National Council on Aging, nearly 95% of adults aged 60 and older have at least one chronic condition, and nearly 80% have two or more.

Fortunately, a healthy lifestyle can help prevent and manage illnesses. Plus, knowing the signs to look for, getting regular exams and talking to your doctor can help catch and treat chronic illness before it gets worse.

Want to get the jump on chronic illness rather than the other way around? Here are five common chronic conditions among people aged 65 and older—along with some top tips to keep illness from catching you by surprise.

Tips to keep chronic illness from creeping up on you

Hypertension (high blood pressure)

Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, can lead to serious health conditions like stroke or heart attack. Hypertension can fly under the radar for years because there might not be obvious signs that you have it.

– Have your blood pressure checked as often as quarterly with your in-network ilumed provider

– Reduce stress as much as possible

– Eat a diet low in salt, and limit alcohol consumption

– Exercise regularly to improve heart health

– Shed excess weight; losing even a few pounds can reduce blood pressure

High cholesterol

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood. Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. With high cholesterol, you can develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels.” Like high blood pressure, there aren’t always visible signs before high cholesterol leads to further problems.

– Get your cholesterol levels tested at checkups with your doctor

– Reduce consumption of saturated fats (such as dairy and fatty cuts of meat), trans fats (such as commercial baked goods and fried foods) and sugar

– Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption

– Stay active and manage your weight


Arthritis is inflammation in your joints that causes pain and stiffness. Besides being painful, arthritis can keep you from doing activities you love.

– Avoid foods with sugar and carbohydrates, dairy, fatty foods, and gluten, which all contribute to inflammation

– Avoid tobacco and alcohol use

– Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight; every extra pound could multiply joint pressure

– Take care to prevent joint injury and joint stress, such as from impacts or repetitive motions


Diabetes is the condition of high blood sugar caused by insulin resistance or insulin underproduction. High blood sugar can lead to serious conditions such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage and more.

– Watch for symptoms of prediabetes, including increased thirst, frequent urination, increased hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, numbness, frequent infections, slow-healing sores and unexpected weight loss

– Eat a healthy diet, stay active and try to lose excess weight

– Manage blood pressure and cholesterol

– Avoid smoking


Have you experienced persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, fatigue, loss of interest in activities or other negative thoughts or moods? These symptoms might be related to depression. Not only can depression feel bad and make it hard for you to function normally, it can also affect your physical health.

– Reduce stress by reaching out to friends and family

– Exercise regularly; exercise can improve mood, confidence and physical wellbeing

– Eat a nutritious diet and avoid alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners and processed foods

Get help preventing and managing health scares

Along with your doctors, ilumed is here to help you prevent, detect and manage chronic health conditions. You can visit your doctor every quarter with a $0 copay to monitor for and manage chronic conditions. Our case and disease managers can help with lifestyle changes, help you stay on track with treatment and connect you to local resources. ilumed’s outreach managers are also available to help schedule appointments and rides to make it easier to get to the doctor. ilumed’s team is here to listen to you, so you feel seen, heard and understood. With ilumed, you have a team to help you receive the compassionate care you need.

Chronic illness can come with age—but with lifestyle changes, regular checkups and proper care, it doesn’t have to catch you unprepared. Talk with your doctor to understand health concerns and your options for preventing, delaying and managing chronic conditions. The right support and tools can help you address chronic health risks and lead a healthier life doing the things you love. Visit ilumed for even more health resources.

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