How to live well with a long term health problem

How to live well with a long term health problem

Living with a long term health problem can be a challenge - and it's a common problem in England, where more than a quarter of us are estimated to suffer with one. They range from diabetes and coronary heart disease to chronic lung disease, and while they can't be cured, their symptoms and risks can be eased with some careful management. 

Wendy Norton, Head of Health Coaching at My Clinical Coach offers her advice for living your best life:

Stop Smoking

Although smoking rates have declined over past decades, smoking is still the biggest cause of preventable illness and premature deaths in the country, accounting for almost 80,000 deaths in England a year. 

For people with long-term health conditions such as diabetes and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) smoking exacerbates symptoms and significantly decreases quality of life. If you have COPD and are still smoking, then the single most important way in which you can help yourself feel better is to stop. Research suggests that if you can stop smoking for 28 days, you are five times more likely to be able to quit for good.

Start exercising

Exercise is very important for your wellbeing if you have a long-term condition. However, it's essential that you talk to your doctor before starting an exercise routine, as depending on your condition, there may be exercises that are not safe. 

The key is to start off slowly and build up from there, this will also help you pick activities that are realistic for you and your abilities. Many patients we coach, find that having a firm goal in mind motivates them to move ahead, for example, writing an exercise plan can help patients to feel positive about their progress and reach their goal. 

For people with type 2 diabetes, research shows exercising for as little as 21 minutes a day dramatically reduces blood sugar levels, so something as simple as a stroll in your local park will have immediate benefits. 

Eat Healthily

Knowing the foods that can be a problem for you is crucial. For those with COPD, certain foods reduce the risk of breathing problems, bloating and gas. Apples, stone fruits (peaches and nectarines) and melons may be healthy but can cause bloating, so it is vital to know how your body works when starting your diet.

Never skip breakfast as this can lead to over-eating later in the day which can ruin your food plan and cause your blood sugar levels to rise, which can be harmful to people with diabetes. I would recommend aiming for three servings per day of fibre, fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains.


Overall, giving up anything is hard but a patient who has regular support that understands what they’re going through and has the right tools to help, is proven to be more successful than a patient doing it on their own.  My Clinical Coach provides personalised care for those who cannot access services through their local NHS or who wish to sign-up directly. To find out more about the service, click here