Contact Me

Together Patient Advocates Blog

How Monitoring Chronic Conditions Can Improve Your Health

[fa icon="calendar"] Feb 12, 2021 3:00:00 AM / by Kim Mcilnay, BCPA

Kim Mcilnay, BCPA

young woman jogging in city park at early morningYou have the ability to improve your health by regularly monitoring your chronic condition, knowing when to talk to your doctor, and making some lifestyle changes. Let’s look at some ways you can do that for three common illnesses:

  • Heart failure
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma

These tips can then be applied to other chronic diseases.

Heart Failure

Monitoring Tools & Communication

Daily monitoring of basic heart failure metrics can significantly improve overall health and reduce hospitalizations. For example, I have a client who has had a dramatic reduction in hospitalizations related to close monitoring of his daily weights, blood pressures and sodium intake. He records the data, sends it to me, I review for trends and notify the doctor immediately when data falls outside of the ranges set by his doctor. The doctor is then able to easily adjust medications remotely and we're able to catch worsening heart failure early, before a hospitalizations is needed -- and usually without even a clinic visit! As a result, my client has not been hospitalized for months.

If you’re not sure what information to record, here is an information sheet (see Modifications below for more information) with a sample log.  Your health is unique to you and your doctor may want you to record other data, so your log may look different. To make sure you’re measuring the right things, share this sample log with your doctor. During your next in person appointment, in an email or telehealth visit ask these questions:

  • Which of these factors should I be monitoring?
  • What are my desired ranges for each measurement?  
  • When and how should I contact you if my numbers are out of the desired range?
  • If you don’t know how to measure something: How do I accurately measure this data?

You can create a spreadsheet on your computer or write it down on a piece of paper or use a health monitoring app. Choose the method that is easiest for you so that you're more likely to keep using it.


Numbers in a log don’t improve your health. Health improvement happens when you 1) act on the trends and 2) understand what’s causing the numbers to change. When you track the numbers daily, it’s easier to understand what you did or didn’t do that may have caused the change. That’s important information to share with your doctor so he can change your medication if necessary or recommend lifestyle changes you can make.

Here are some self-care tips your doctor might recommend for improving your heart failure:

  • Take in a specific amount of sodium each day.
  • Take your medications as prescribed.
  • Balance physical activity with rest.
  • Stop smoking and avoid alcohol.

Based on your health needs, your doctor can help you set attainable goals. Ask her about these when you discuss your monitoring log.


Monitoring Tools and Communication

If you have diabetes, monitoring your blood sugar is key to improving your health. Tracking the data on a regular basis allows you to understand what foods trigger changes in your blood sugar levels. In turn, that level of detail can help your medical team suggest dietary modifications to avoid concerning changes in your blood sugar. For example, by measuring and logging your finger sticks, you notice that your sugar level increased after you ate a piece of fruit. You experiment with eating the fruit with a high protein yogurt and your sugar doesn't increase very much. You've just noticed something that improves your diabetes control! 

Here is a sample log for diabetes.    Again, use whatever type of log works best for you – a spreadsheet, pen and paper, or an app on your smart phone. The main thing is that you track the data each day and know when to communicate changes with your doctor.

Discuss your specific target numbers and care plan with your doctor. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a list of questions  you can use to begin the conversation.  

I would add this question to the list: When should I contact you? Just like my client with heart failure, a quick response from your doctor to a significant change in your numbers might keep you out of the hospital and avoid serious health issues.  


The CDC and the Mayo Clinic  list the things you can do help prevent diabetes-related complications:

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Lose excess weight

Talk with your doctor about what type of diet and exercise program is right for you, as well as your target weight.

Support for your illness doesn’t need to come just form your doctor. Your insurance company might pay for things like nutrition support. For example, Medicare  covers personal nutrition counseling for people with diabetes.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has a list of services offered to diabetics by private and government insurance plans. See what benefits can help you or discuss them with your doctor, then check with your insurance carrier to find out if they are covered.


Monitoring Tools and Communication

If you have asthma, your doctor may recommend you use a peak flow meter to monitor your asthma control. If so, the American Lung Association provides information on how to use the meter and chart its readings. Daily monitoring can clue you into an asthma exacerbation before you may notice symptoms. 

An action plan is another tool for improving your health. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute offers an action plan that you can download as a pdf file.

The action plan has a lot of important information on just one page:

  • Symptoms to watch out for
  • Daily medications and dosage
  • Quick relief medications

The information is arranged in three zones, linking each set of data to an action you need to take based on the seriousness of your symptoms. The zones are:

  • Green – Doing well
  • Yellow – Asthma is getting worse
  • Red – Medical Alert!

Take the form with you to your next doctor visit or schedule a telehealth conversation to go through the form, creating your own action plan. That way you will know not only what you need to track, but how to respond if your symptoms get worse.


There are lifestyle choices you can make to improve your health even when living with asthma. The Mayo Clinic  offers information on these three ways to stay healthy:

  • Get regular exercise
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Control allergies and heartburn (gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD)

If you would like additional information on controlling and monitoring your asthma, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has a 48-page booklet  covering that and much more.

We focused on three common diseases today, but these strategies can be applied to many others. A simple google search for "your disease x" and "daily log" will bring up examples of tracking options. Early recognition of worsening and early communication with your doctor can improve your health. 

Knowledge is power. Learn all you can about taking care of your health. Simple monitoring strategies can empower you to improve your chronic illness. Then make choices that help you not only improve your health, but stay healthy.

Topics: Health, Diabetes, Asthma, Heart Failure

Kim Mcilnay, BCPA

Written by Kim Mcilnay, BCPA

I am the founder of Together Patient Advocates, LLC. I combine my past experiences as a Family Physician with my current experiences as a patient with chronic illness to provide insights into medical care patient advocacy.

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts