The good news: you’re going to live longer.
The not good news: you’ll most likely be miserable.
Imagine waking up every morning, for the rest of your life, knowing that you are sick. Imagine knowing that the good days will become fewer and further between. And the bad days will become more frequent. Imagine the fear, frustration, and hopelessness you would face. Imagine the impact on your family, friendships, your finances, and your future.
Welcome to the world of chronic illness. A world in which we live longer, but poorer lives—the last 20 years of which will likely be spent in pain and suffering.
A world, that within the next 5 years, 3 out of 4 of us will inhabit.
Chronic diseases—such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, arthritis, depression and dementia—account for 70% of deaths each year. And that number is rising. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
What makes the situation worse is that, at this point, there is very little your doctor can do to help.
Modern medicine has traditionally assumed that there is a sharp and clear distinction between illness and health, and that sickness can be readily detected by diagnostic tests. If you don’t have high blood pressure, you must be healthy. In fact, since the mid-1800s, medicine’s focus has been almost exclusively on curing acute, contagious diseases with clear and specific causes (read: germs), typically by using “magic bullets”—pharmaceutical drugs that can miraculously heal disease. Current medical research often focuses on “me too” drugs, add-on therapies or optimizing existing procedures.
Unfortunately, the specific causes of a chronic illness are often ambiguous and cannot be determined, making diagnosis and treatment difficult. Because of the gradual and sporadic appearance of symptoms, people with chronic illnesses often ignore them, self-medicating or simply adapting. Once they seek medical attention, they are often diagnosed with diseases they’ve never heard of—which cannot be completely cured.
No surprise then that people with chronic illnesses often suffer from grief, sadness, and depression—which, in turn, can get in the way of treatment.