Ten To Go: Beating
the odds of chronic disease

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Delphia, left, and Shannon pump iron. | Photo by Lauren Simpson

Delphia, left, and Shannon pump iron. | Photo by Lauren Simpson

Chronic disease is a broad spectrum which commonly includes ailments such as arthritis, asthma, cancer, COPD, diabetes and even HIV/AIDS, just to name a few. What classifies a disease as chronic? According to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, it’s any disease which lasts three months or more and generally cannot be prevented by vaccines or cured by medication.

The most common chronic diseases are associated with heart disease, cancer and diabetes, which account for about 60 percent of all deaths today. But there are many other lesser-known diseases in the same category, including lupus and sarcoidosis.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease which causes the body to become hyperactive and can result in inflammation in the joints, tissue damage and damage to internal organs. Some of the more common symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, fever and a rash. Lupus can affect any part of the body. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, more than 1 million Americans have some form of lupus (most commonly from ages 15-45) and about 90 percent of the victims are women. Even with these staggering numbers, more than 70 percent of the population ages 18-34 have either not heard of this disease or know nothing about it.

Most doctors believe that lupus results from genetic and environmental stimuli, including certain prescription medications, exposure to chemicals and/or prolonged exposure to sunlight. Although there is no cure for lupus, it can be controlled through lifestyle changes.

Sarcoidosis is another misunderstood chronic disease found throughout the world. It’s mainly characterized by the buildup of immune system cells in organs, causing inflammation of tissues. But the triggers are unknown. Because the symptoms of sarcoidosis can be so vague, it’s often mistaken for other diseases, so it’s difficult to estimate how common it is. In the U.S., an estimated 10 to 40 in 100,000 people have sarcoidosis. Among African-Americans, the rate is higher, especially between ages 20 and 40.

Common symptoms include fatigue, lack of energy, weight loss, inflammation, joint aches and pain and, less commonly, coughing up blood. Even with these symptoms, most people with sarcoidosis go on to live normal lives (through lifestyle changes) and, in some cases, this disease has been known to disappear on its own.

This month we’re featuring two women who are living proof that you can beat the odds and live a normal life with chronic disease. Delphia, diagnosed with lupus, and Shannon, diagnosed with sarcoidosis, are longtime friends who’ve decided to reignite their active lifestyles to remain healthy. And yes, they are winners!

Demond Johnson

The author, Demond Johnson, is a retired combat veteran who coordinated the U.S. Army’s Weight Control Program. He owns A2 Fitness Professionals. Contact him at demond@a2fitnesspro.com or 734-222-5080.