These chronic illnesses are among the leading causes of death and disability in the United States, and major contributors to the nation’s excessive health care costs. But they are only a fraction of the growing list of chronic diseases plaguing this country. In fact, according to the CDC, 6 in 10 U.S. adults live with a chronic health condition.
Being diagnosed with a chronic disease can feel overwhelming, but as ThedaCare patient Jay Hoffman proved, simple lifestyle challenges can make a significant impact on your ability to manage – or even reverse – your condition. Having been diagnosed with multiple chronic diseases, he took his health into his own hands and altered the course of his future for the better.
Here is a glimpse into his journey and the changes he made to improve his quality of life.
A Series of Troubling News
When Jay Hoffman was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes nearly 30 years ago, he was relatively unphased.
“It didn’t hit me right away about the long-term effects,” said Hoffman. “I was young and wasn’t thinking ahead to what it would look like as I became more sedentary.”
Over time, however, he started to understand the seriousness of it all.
“I was prescribed a blood glucose monitoring device and began to see how varied my levels were throughout the day based on what I ate,” he said. “I knew it would fluctuate, but the variations were extreme.”
Subsequently, he began struggling with hyperlipidemia — high levels of fat particles, or lipids, in the blood — and was placed on medications to help regulate his cholesterol levels. Then, he began experiencing notable physical changes.
“I noticed issues with my swallowing,” he said. “My wife had noticed changes in my face and a slight difference in my gait when I walked, as well as a tremor in my right hand.”
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in October of 2020. When it seemed matters couldn’t get any worse, he contracted COVID-19.
A Turning Point
Hoffman was lucky and survived his battle with COVID-19. But he didn’t walk away unscathed. He had hit the lowest point in his health and found himself left with two options: give up, or seek strength from another source.
“A basket full of medications, worsening depression and a feeling of being completely overwhelmed caused me to cry out in prayer to God,” he said. “I asked Him to either heal me or take me home. He wasn’t ready for me to go home, so He sent people into my life who helped guide me through a process of healing and healthy eating.”
He got in touch with a trainer who understood Parkinson’s and found a health coach who helped him modify his diet. He began making small and gradual lifestyle changes, and slowly, things began to improve.
“Limiting certain foods and food groups were key in my journey and still are,” he shared. “I reached my goal weight and decided to keep going. I not only lost weight, but I was able to dream again. I felt like I was truly living.”
His health improved so significantly, he was able to discontinue medications he had been taking for years. Even his doctors were blown away.
With his health back on track, Hoffman wants to inspire others to do the same. Here are a few tips he says were key to his success.
1. Talk with Your Doctor
Ultimately, you need to take charge of your own health, but it’s important to make sure you talk with your doctor as you begin — or continue — your journey. They can provide expert guidance, answer any questions you may have, and help you stay accountable as you work toward your goals.
“Chronic health conditions are very serious,” said Hoffman. “I consulted with my doctor before I began this journey and he supported me and my decision to work for health – ultimate health.”
2. Build a Social Support Network
Though there were many difficult days along his journey, Hoffman admits having a solid network of supportive family and friends made all the difference.
“There were many challenges along the way, but my wonderful wife, Linda, is on this journey with me,” said Hoffman. “Together, we’ve put a lot of safeguards in place to keep us on track.”
“I walk about 6-8 miles a day with my dog Annie,” said Hoffman. “I also try to get to the gym and have an intense 30-minute workout 2-3 times a week.”
While it’s no secret that regular movement and exercise are essential to losing weight, lowering cardiovascular risk and improving sleep, Hoffman emphasized that one of the most rewarding aspects of incorporating more exercise into his day was simply that he felt better.
4. Start Small
Its normal to feel overwhelmed when you’re just getting started with a new health or fitness routine. But as Hoffman shared, even the smallest adjustments can have a big impact.
“Every healthy thing you do today will lead to a healthier tomorrow,” he explained. “I could barely walk a block at the start of this year. Now I ride a bike regularly and recently completed two 5Ks.”
More than Anything, Remember Your Why
As Hoffman proved, it doesn’t matter where you are in your health journey – it’s never too late to reap the benefits of a healthier lifestyle. The key is remembering what you’re fighting for.
“Stay strong in your why,” he encouraged. “My why is retirement with my bride, my family, and the prospect of grandchildren. Every challenging moment I’ve experienced on this journey is worth all the future moments I’ll enjoy with them.”
Ready to make a change? Reach out to your provider to discuss your options, and begin the journey to a healthier you.