In honor of Doctor’s Day on March 30, Prowers Medical Center would like to celebrate our dedicated team of 10 fulltime providers who offer integral services to our community. Each week, you’ll meet two providers and learn about their role in caring for patients. This week the spotlight is on two members of our medical clinic team, Dr. Margaret Loewen and nurse practitioner Sylvia Kwon, who share how to best live with chronic diseases.
Both Sylvia Kwon, NP and Dr. Margaret Loewen agree that living a healthy lifestyle and taking care of all aspects of yourself—your mind, body and spirit—go a long way in helping manage chronic diseases. While eating well, exercising and managing emotions and stress can’t cure a chronic disease, they can help avoid complications that affect your quality of life.
“A big part of my responsibility to patients with chronic diseases is helping them stay on track with healthy habits. I like to take the whole person into consideration, rather than just treating symptoms, and partnering with them to achieve wellness the best they can,” says Kwon.
Chronic diseases, including hypertension, thyroid disease, diabetes, respiratory diseases, kidney disease, and autoimmune diseases like MS, can be a challenge. Yet managing them well can help people avoid unpleasant complications. It takes a big commitment to make the changes, but it’s well worth it.
“I like to partner with my patients and help them set goals around the required lifestyle changes chronic illnesses often demand, and plan out ways to achieve those goals. I advise my patients to make one change at a time because no one can accommodate a lot of changes all at once,” says Dr. Loewen.
She encourages an honest relationship with her patients, and wants to know about all their challenges, not just the physical ones. She believes that mental and physical health sit closely together when completing the full picture of health.
“As providers, we want to hear about mental health issues our patients are facing. People are reluctant to share and may wonder what a medical provider can do to help, but when we have the full picture we are able to meet them where they are at, and help them get better,” she adds.
Managing medications is a key part in keeping chronic illness under control. Dr. Loewen has her patients bring their entire bag of prescription bottles and supplements to each visit so she can check for drug interactions or duplications.
“Most of my patients are compliant with medications, which is great. It’s harder for them to maintain their weight or adopt an exercise plan, but when they do, it’s extremely gratifying. For my diabetic patients, that means they can avoid or delay unpleasant complications, like kidney failure, amputation, dialysis, and foot problems,” Kwon says.
Change is overwhelming, so the best way to start changing how you eat, what you drink, or when you exercise is to replace old habits with new ones one by one. Kwon suggests a good starting place is simply giving up soda or another favorite sugary drink. Choose what feels most doable, and work on that—like walking around the block—then adding to it.
Another key way to stay on track with a chronic illness is to choose a provider and stick with them. That’s because once a provider gets to know you, your disease, and your habits, they are much better at helping you succeed.
“It’s vital to have a provider who really knows you to provide that continuity of care,” Kwon concludes.
Dr. Loewen was originally a dietician before she became a doctor, so she’s a great resource for patients who want to take the leap and adopt a healthy diet. Sylvia Kwon, NP takes a more holistic approach to care, integrating alternative approaches into traditional, and is also well versed in healthy diets. Both providers are accepting new patients.
For an appointment with Dr. Loewen or Sylvia Kwon, NP, call Prowers Medical Center Clinic at (719) 336-6767.