A chronic health condition is a condition or a set of symptoms that last for more than several months at a time. It can be a set of symptoms that people experience every day or that come and go but is defined as something that they have to learn to manage, such as headaches, depression, or type 2 diabetes.
Headaches are very, very common. The most common cause of headaches is actually migraines, which is a very specific type of headache.
Headaches can also be due to sinus pain and pressure, which can be triggered by changes in the atmosphere and weather.
Headaches can be due to hormonal changes. Stress can cause headaches. There are many different causes of different types of headaches that we see.
Depression and headaches can be common conditions found in the same person.
Depression is much more commonly identified now among millennials, as they have so many more factors that feed into causes for depression, so many more different types of stressors that they have to manage and navigate.
We’re now really trying to destigmatize and acknowledge the presence of depression in our community and really making it okay to talk about. So, it is reported much more now, even though it may have been present just as much in older generations.
We are unfortunately seeing some persistence of type 2 diabetes, which goes hand in hand with obesity.
Obesity is still a significant problem among millennials in our culture. Type two diabetes is also very much related to genetics. If you have a family history of diabetes, that may predispose you to that very common condition. We are diagnosing diabetes all the time, even in younger people.
First, it’s very important to have a good relationship with a primary care physician. Chronic conditions by definition are not a one time in and one time out in an urgent care or a health express clinic. They need to be managed by somebody that you know and trust on a regular basis. So that is the first thing I would say.
The second thing is to be aware and to educate yourself about your own chronic conditions so you can take steps to manage it based on what your doctor tells you, you need to do.
There are many lifestyle measures that we can do to help ourselves from acquiring many chronic conditions. Type 2 diabetes is a perfect example. High blood pressure is another one.
Maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a diet that is low in saturated fat, low in sodium or salt, eating a diet that is high in fiber and exercising regularly can help prevent those two very common chronic conditions.
There are things we can do, such as recognizing symptoms, for example, if one has shortness of breath with asthma.
It’s important to be willing to talk about things like depression or common headaches. It’s important to be aware of what your body is trying to tell you and having that conversation with your primary care physician.
Getting regular sleep and exercise is helpful to help manage headaches, also depression. There are many lifestyle factors that go into managing these conditions. Some of them overlap, such as healthy eating, exercise, proper sleep and avoiding smoking and vaping.
I would always recommend starting with a primary care physician. Your primary care physician is going to be your friend for a long time and is going to help guide you in terms of when you should see a specialist.
In this day and age, when information is so easily accessible, we sometimes fall victim to information overload, and we think we may know what specialists we need to see. I would say, let your primary care physician do that work for you so they can guide you to the specialist if needed.
There is a lot primary care physicians can manage in their office without referring you to a specialist, particularly for chronic conditions.
Video visits are huge and they’re very useful for certain chronic conditions. This is the way the world has gone, especially with the onset of the COVID pandemic, where a lot of people began using video visits to access healthcare in a safe way. We realize now that is a silver lining that’s here to stay. It is an option to manage several conditions.
You may use video visits if you need to do frequent visits to assess progress of depression, or to review your headache diary, to see if your headaches are getting better or worse.
Video visits are very easy to schedule at Scripps. We have several different options with not just primary care, but also specialty care for video visit management if that is indicated.
It’s very simple. All you need is a device, and we all have one of those, especially millennials.
The benefits are multifold. It includes awareness of what the triggers are. Migraines may have many different triggers and they can vary for different people. Migraines are a form of headaches.
For depression or asthma, it’s helpful to understand what are the triggers that you can manage or avoid, when to use certain medications. These are discussions to have in sync with your primary care physician, to come up with a customized plan to manage your own health. It can vary from person to person, even for the same diagnosis.
Managing these conditions and finding ways to help prevent them, if you have genetic risk for them, will of course lead to better health outcomes, fewer reasons or fewer risks to go into the hospital, better health and less risk for severe disease or death.
Long term, every single one of these conditions can have severe consequences and there may be hospitalizations that can happen. There can be fatal outcomes with consequences of some of these conditions. So, the consequences are actually quite huge and all of that can be prevented with managing appropriately with your regular doctor.
Many of these health conditions are interrelated. Depression and headaches, for example. Getting a handle on one of them may help manage one of the other conditions. Diabetes and hypertension are also closely related. Sometimes managing one means managing both. We’re doing a lot when we go visit our doctor and talk about all of these chronic conditions.
If you suspect that you may have chronic headaches, depression, asthma, type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, then it’s important to establish a relationship with a primary care physician. You should not wait. You should not think that they will just go away on their own or resolve themselves or that you can manage it all on your own with doing your own Google search or WebMD search. It’s tempting but let us help you.
Please go and find a primary care physician and establish that relationship so you can take control of your health.
Lightly edited for clarity.
Watch the San Diego Health video with host Susan Taylor and Dr. Lodhi discussing the top health issues for millennials.