Cancer prevention refers to any action that an individual takes to lower their chances of getting cancer.
Chronic illnesses are life-long health conditions that may not have a cure. Common examples of chronic illnesses include:
- Alzheimer disease and dementia
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Crohn disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Heart disease
To better understand chronic illnesses, let’s compare them to short-term illnesses.
- Short-term illnesses are temporary problems that are brief interruptions in one’s life. Although these illnesses can be scary and painful to deal with, these are conditions that have clear diagnoses and treatment plans with relatively predictable outcomes.
- Chronic illnesses comparatively are life-threatening medical conditions that without constant care and monitoring are likely to lead to a patient’s death. Patients diagnosed with chronic illnesses are faced with having to adjust to long-term and potentially lifelong symptoms and limitations. Additionally, these kinds of illnesses affect the individual’s daily abilities, their relationships with their family and friends, their dreams for the future and most importantly their sense of who they are.
While living with a chronic illness can be difficult, the following kinds of help are available to patients:
- Individual Counseling:
- Individual counseling allows patients to talk to trained mental health providers in a one-on-one setting. These providers have extensive training in helping patients cope with chronic illnesses and in this setting can help patients navigate how they are feeling about their illness and the impacts that it has on their previous lifestyle and relationships.
- To find mental health professionals trained at working with chronically ill patients, visit Psychology Today. Here you can put in your zip code and find therapists within your area.
- Family and couples counseling:
- Chronic illnesses do not only affect the patient. Instead, they are likely to affect the entire family as roles and responsibilities within a family may change to accommodate the patient’s new diagnosis.
- To help navigate the changes that come with caring for a chronically ill patient, families may want to consider seeking counseling from mental health providers that are trained in this arena.
- Need to look for resources
- Support groups:
- Support groups exist for a number of chronic illnesses and can act as a safe and welcoming space for patients diagnosed with the same chronic illness to share their experiences
- These groups are also often free of judgement and by participating in them, a patient can feel less alone in dealing with their illness. The patient can also learn new coping strategies from fellow support group members as well as share their own approaches
- Support groups are open to anyone, but are often focused on specific topics including family, grief, depression…etc. This means that it’s important to take the time necessary to do some research and find one that is right for you and your current situation.
- When finding a support group to join, begin by asking your primary care physician or mental health professional. These health providers may be able to direct you towards support groups within your area and more specifically to those groups that are organized around a particular topic/illness (I.e., support groups for people with diabetes).
- Another place to start when looking for a support group is Support Groups Central. Here you will find a curated list of support groups from other organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Health. On this website, you can also search for groups by topics such as depression, addiction and chronic illness. When you’ve chosen your topic, you can see a curated list of meetings by title, date & time, the organization holding the meeting and whether or not the meeting is free.
- In the event, that you prefer not to attend support groups in person, there are also online support groups. These can be especially helpful if you find that there are no support groups in your immediate area.
- One such avenue is the app, Wisdo which allows you to join specific themed communities to discuss anything at any time with a variety of different people. Here, you can find or create communities for any topic that you would like support for. Within the app, you can also set goals for yourself and flag yourself as a potential “helper” or mentor” for other users who are going through experiences that you may have gone through in the past.
For more information or personal stories on living with a chronic illness, consider reading the following articles:
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus not previously seen in humans.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, act and also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make decisions. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood through adulthood.
Mental health problems manifest in ways that affect your thinking, mood and behavior and shaped by a variety of different factors including:
- Biological factors (i.e., genes or brain chemistry)
- Life experiences (i.e., trauma or abuse)
- Family history of mental health problems
It is important to note that while mental health problems are common, there is evidence-based help available and many people diagnosed with mental health issues get better and even recover completely
Some early warning signs of mental health problems include:
- Change in appetite (ex: eating too much or too little)
- Change in sleep pattern (ex: sleeping too much or too little)
- Having little or no energy
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or helpless
- Feeling irritated more than usual
- Isolating yourself from friends and family
- Feeling forgetful, on edge or confused
- Losing interest in activities that you previously enjoyed
- Being unable to perform daily tasks (ex: taking a shower, going to work or school, getting out of bed)
Mental health and wellness:
- Having a positive mental health allows you to:
- Cope with the stresses of life
- Work productively
- Achieve your full potential
- Make meaningful contributions to your community
- You can achieve positive mental health by doing the following:
- Seeking professional help
- Connecting with others (this can occur through online forums geared towards people with the same mental health issues)
- Being physically active
- Research has shown that exercise has the ability to reduce the symptoms associated with many mental health illnesses including depression
- Getting enough sleep
- Research has shown that one of the negative side effects of not getting enough sleep is the development of mental health issues like anxiety and depression
- The recommendation is that all adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep every night
- Developing healthy coping skills
- These can take many forms including journaling, meditating, taking deep breathes every so often, allowing yourself to take breaks when you feel overwhelmed and crying when you need to.
If you’re ready to start taking care of your mental health, below are a few Chicagoland area resources to get you started:
- The Chicago Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) Chicago Connects.
- Chicago Connects provides listings of clinics and hospitals that provide mental health services. It also has information on 24-hour hotlines, peer support groups and on substance use disorders
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Chicago
- NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization and is dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
- NAMI Chicago is a branch of NAMI dedicated to individuals in the Chicagoland area
- On this website, you will find 24/7 hotlines, links to shelters for adults/youth, resources for LGBTQ+ identifying people, links for help with substance use disorders, sexual assault and domestic violence survivors and veterans.
- The Center for Contextual Change
- With three offices in the Chicago area, this center is a private group practice offering a range of behavioral and therapeutic services for all people. They offer sliding scale and pro bono sessions for anyone facing financial barriers to mental health services
- Community Counseling Centers of Chicago
- This is a behavioral health advocate and social service provider that offers quality, comprehensive customer-oriented services to a diverse clientele.
- Haymarket Center
- This is a non-profit agency working to change the public’s view of alcoholism and its treatment. It provides comprehensive treatment to individuals struggling with alcohol and other drug addictions.
- Heartland Alliance
- One of the world’s leading anti-poverty organizations, Heartland Alliance provides services to individuals who belong to endangered populations including those who are poor, isolated and displaced.
- Located at 4101 N Ravenswood Ave, Chicago, Thresholds provides services and resources for persons with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders in the Chicagoland area. They work with many populations including youth, young adults, veterans, young mothers, deaf and individuals experiencing homelessness.
- Womencare Counseling Center
- Located at 1740 Ridge Avene in Evanston, Womencare Counseling provides a variety of therapies, trainings and resources to adults, teens, couples, families and communities in the face of trauma, loss and life’s different transitions.
- Metropolitan Family Services
- This organization provides and mobilizes services aimed at strengthening families and communities in the Chicagoland area. They offer a variety of services and their staff includes licensed clinical social workers, counselors, case managers, mental health professionals, early childhood educations and lawyers.
For hotlines or crisis situations, the following services are available:
- Call 24/7 hotline: 1-800-273-(TALK) 8255
- Crisis Text Line:
- Text 741741 for a 24/7 crisis text line – a live, trained crisis counselor receives the text and responds quickly
- Serves anyone, in any type of crisis
- Illinois Warm Line: 1-866-359-7953. Available Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm
- Presence Behavioral Health 24/7 Crisis Line: 708-681-HELP (4357)
- LGTBQ+ Crisis Hotlines and Services:
- Trevor Project Lifeline: 1-866-488-7368; available 24/7 and free
- TrevorText: Text the word START to 678678. Available 24/7
- TrevorChat: 24/7 online chat portal available through The Trevor Project’s Website
- THRIVE Lifeline: +1-313-662-8209. Available 24/7, you must be 18 years or older to call
- SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline: 877-360-LGBT (5428); available 24/7, toll-free
- Trans Lifeline: +1-877-565-8860; available 24/7.
- It is staffed by transgender people and is primarily for transgender people in crisis, from struggling with gender identity to thoughts of self-harm
- GLBT National Help Center:
- Provides telephone, online chat and email peer-support. They speak with callers of all ages about bullying, workplace issues, HIV/AIDS anxiety, coming out…etc.
- Toll-free national hotline: 1-888-843-4564
- Available on Monday-Friday from 4pm to 12am EST, and Saturday from 12pm to 5pm EST
- Youth Talkline: 1-800-246-7743
- Monday-Friday 4pm to 12am EST
- Saturday 12pm to 5pm EST
- This service is for teens and young adults up to age 25
For a more comprehensive list of counseling and outpatient services that are available in the Chicagoland area, visit the following website: http://www.noshameonu.org/chicagoland
Good nutrition means that your body gets all the minerals, vitamins and nutrients that it needs to function properly.
Preventive services are the identification, prioritization, and provision of appropriate screenings, counseling, and medication services to prevent illness or the worsening of disease, and reduce healthcare costs.
Tobacco use can lead to tobacco dependence and other serious health problems. In fact, tobacco use is identified as the leading cause of premature and preventable death in the U.S.
Avoiding all tobacco use (including cigarettes, cigars, pipes and hookahs) as well as reducing exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to significant reductions in the risk of developing such negative health outcomes like heart disease, asthma and some cancers.
The number one recommendation is to quit smoking as doing so greatly reduces the risk of developing smoking-related diseases.
The good news is that smokers can and do quit smoking for good. Research has shown that since 2002, there are more people identifying as former smokers than current smokers
When deciding to quit smoking, it’s important to acknowledge that this can be a long and hard process. Even more so, staying tobacco-free is the longest and most important part of it as every day, you must decide to not smoke.
According to the American Heart Association, here are some of the health benefits of quitting smoking over time:
- 20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop
- A few days after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal
- 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting, your blood circulation improves and your lung function increases
- 1 to 12 months after quitting, coughing and shortness of breath decrease and the tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of your lungs start to regain their normal function
- 1 to 2 years after quitting, your risk of having a heart attack drops dramatically
- 5 to 10 years after quitting, your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat and voice box is cut in half and your risk of having a stroke also decreases.
- Quitting lowers your risk of other cancers including cancers of the stomach, cervix and colon. It also lowers your risk of diabetes and helps your blood vessels work better.
There are also immediate benefits to quitting smoking. Some of these include:
- Saving more money
- Food starts to taste better
- Your sense of smell returns to normal
- Your breath, hair and clothes start to smell better
- Your teeth and fingernails stop yellowing
For more information on deciding to quit smoking, visit the following website: Deciding to Quit; Making a Plan
If you’re interested in Chicago-area smoking cessation resources. The following places may be worth looking into:
- The Respiratory Health Association’s Courage to Quit (this is an adult tobacco cessation program that offers information, skill-building and support to help participants achieve their smoke-free goals).
- The University of Chicago Medicine offers Chicago Stop Smoking Research Project (C-STOP). This is a clinical trial examining stop smoking methods for people who are regular alcohol drinkers.
- BecomeAnEx.org; this is a free online program that helps individuals re-learn what life without smoking is like. It provides participants with personalized quit plans and support from other smokers and ex-smokers.
- Illinois Tobacco Quitline; this is a statewide telephone helpline that is staffed by trained counselors who can provide you with information about quitting and can work with you to develop a quit smoking plan that’s customized to your needs.
- UChicago Medicine’s Courage to Quit (CTQ) program, which offers an individualized and comprehensive approach to helping participants overcome nicotine addiction and quit smoking within 2-3 sessions.
- For a video summary on the benefits of quitting smoking, watch the following: Benefits of Quitting Smoking-CDC
For tips on how to quit smoking from former smokers, watch the following video: Cessation Tips from Former Smokers- CD
Obesity is a complex health issue resulting from a combination of different factors either within the individual’s control or out of their control. These different factors include:
- Hereditary factors/genetics
- Medical science has shown that while not everyone that is obese inherited it from their parents, your genes can affect how you burn calories, how much fat your body stores and where fat is stored on your body.
- Medical problems and medications
- In some cases, the side effect of a medication can be weight gain. Research is also showing that poor sleep habits can have an effect on how much a person weighs.
- In other cases, a person may have a hormone problem that causes them to be overweight/obese and makes it difficult for them to lose weight. Examples include: underactive thyroid, Cushing syndrome and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
- The individual’s environment can influence their ability to maintain a healthy weight in a myriad of ways. Some examples include:
- Not having parks, sidewalks or affordable gyms can make it hard for people to be physically active.
- Oversized food portions lead to increased calorie intake and thus makes it even more necessary to be physically active.
- Some communities in the U.S. are food deserts, meaning that here are communities where people don’t have access to supermarkets that sell affordable healthy foods.
- A lot of the advertisements that we see on a daily basis push us towards unhealthy foods.
- The individual’s environment can influence their ability to maintain a healthy weight in a myriad of ways. Some examples include:
Obesity is a serious health issue because it is associated with poorer mental health outcomes and reduced quality of life. It is also associated with such leading causes of death as heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer. In fact, obesity is associated with at least 13 types of cancer and about 30% of cancer survivors are diagnosed as obese. According to the CDC, 2 in 3 US adults weigh more than is recommended.
The health consequences of obesity are such that people with obesity when compared to those with healthy weight are at increased risk for the following:
- All-causes of death (mortality)
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease
- Gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnea and breathing problems
- Mental illnesses (i.e., clinical depression, anxiety…etc.)
- Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning
The management of obesity can include lifestyle changes, medications or surgery. However, the main treatment recommended for obese patients is weight loss through dieting and physical exercise.
For help with weight loss and managing obesity, here are a list of Chicagoland area programs:
- University of Chicago Medicine’s Chicago Weight Team. They offer a medically supervised weight loss program that aims to help adults manage their weight and any medical conditions associated with having excess weight.
- Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children. This is a nationally recognized leader for community-based obesity prevention. Their focus areas range from food and beverage consumption to health education.
- Lurie Children’s Pediatric Wellness & Weight Management Center. This program provides compassionate and comprehensive care for the families of children and teenagers who are overweight or obese and are seeking help with making healthy and sustainable lifestyle changes.
- UI Health’s Weight Management Programs which features a healthcare team that works with patients to help diagnose and provide personal treatment options based on a patient’s needs. They offer both non-surgical and medical weight-loss options.
- Northwestern Medicines’ Center for Lifestyle Medicine which features lifestyle medicine specialists that work in partnership with the individual to help them set and achieve their health-related goals. Their services include: comprehensive weight management for adults who are overweight or obese, education strategies and skills to help with weight loss and tools to encourage healthy eating/improve physical activity.