24 June 2014

What can YOU do to manage your metabolic syndrome?

Self-care, and not medical care is most important in metabolic syndrome, according to research and practice.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of lifestyle-related diseases and chronic disorders grouped together, as they are linked to an abnormal functioning of the metabolic processes. It is diagnosed when three or more lifestyle-related chronic conditions or disorders are found together.

Self-care: very important

Self-care, and not medical care is most important in metabolic syndrome, according to research and practice.

Medical care is of course important, but self-care – decisions about taking or not taking medicines, what to eat, how much exercise to get, what tests to do, keeping doctor appointments etc. – are all decisions almost always made by the person with the chronic disease and not their healthcare providers.

To illustrate the balance between medical care and self-care, consider someone with Type 2 diabetes (a metabolic syndrome chronic condition). This patient is likely to see their doctor four times a year for a check-up,  to have some blood tests done and to renew a prescription for chronic medication.

And let’s be generous and say the doctor gave our patient 30 minutes of undivided attention at each visit. Assuming  that there were no complications and our patient’s Type 2 diabetes was well controlled, this would mean that they would get two hours (4x30 minutes) of medical care in a year. There are 8 760 hours in a year, so medical care accounts for only 0.02% of the care involved in managing this disorder – the remaining 99.98% of the time is all about self-care.

Authors of the well-accepted Chronic Care Model state that of all the elements that influence patient health outcomes across almost all chronic diseases, none has greater influence or is more important to patient health outcomes than self-care.

Empowered to care for yourself

Patients with chronic diseases should thus be empowered to be actively involved in all aspects of care, not simply be a passive recipient. A patient’s empowered, active self-care would include being able to: identify disease-related needs; set health-related goals, discuss and agree on a treatment strategy, implement the interventions and monitor the outcomes.

The empowerment approach to chronic disease care has resulted in a shift from provider-centred care to more patient-centred models that acknowledge the primary role of patients in providing their own care: problem solving, informed decision making and self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy, which has been defined as the “…confidence to carry out a behaviour necessary to reach a desired goal,” is the result of a transformational process, developing as patients become increasingly successful in identifying healthly and unhealthy behaviours and disease-related problems.

Education AND training required

Traditional patient education in metabolic syndrome is based on providing information about diet, exercise and medicines as well as technical skills, such as those associated with self-monitoring blood glucose.

Empowering self-care support complements traditional patient education by providing training in problem solving and coping skills. Self-care support that is focused on empowering patients to develop their self-care skills appears to be more effective in improving clinical outcomes than education that is simply based on information transfer.

As someone living with metabolic syndrome, this means that you need to learn more about your condition, but also that you need to investigate ways (with the help of you healthcare providers) to improve your health and make better lifestyle choices.

Look out for our next articles which discuss the four pillars of self-care in metabolic syndrome.
If you are living with any of the chronic conditions associated with metabolic syndrome and would like help to modify your lifestyle and improve your self-care, visit a Dis-Chem pharmacy and get help. Met-S Care works with Dis-Chem Pharmacies to empower people living with
metabolic syndrome to take control of their condition. Read more at Metscare.

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