How to Make a Healthy Lifestyle a Long-Term Commitment

Hippocrates is credited with saying “The function of protecting and developing health must rank even above that of restoring it when it is impaired”.

As a practicing cardiologist, I routinely see patients after a heart attack now burdened with significant functional limitations and numerous medications and think to myself, “If only this could have been prevented.”

The World Health Organization has estimated that if the major risk factors for chronic disease were eliminated, at least 80 percent of all heart disease, stroke and type two diabetes would be prevented and more than 40 percent of cancer cases would be prevented.

Four major modifiable health behaviors include lack of physical activity, poor dietary habits, tobacco use and excessive alcohol use. I’ve written here before about the benefits of regular physical activity and exercise as well as a heart healthy diet. Tobacco use is the single most avoidable cause of disease, disability and death in the U.S. Unfortunately, approximately one in five Americans still smoke.  It’s never too late to quit smoking; go the Larimer County Health District website for information on smoking cessation programs.

Excessive alcohol use is the nation’s third leading lifestyle-related cause of death and is associated with a wide range of health and social problems. Recommended intake for those who choose to consume alcohol is no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks a day for men. Unfortunately, this can be a problem that goes undetected and unaddressed by health care practitioners. If alcohol dependence is suspected, professional help is needed.

Health related habits develop over a lifetime and are understandably hard to break overnight. Here are some suggestions to make lifestyle changes:

  • Make a plan with long and short-term goals.
  • Write them down and review them often.
  • Make small changes sequentially rather than large ones all at once which are more apt to fail.
  • Once a small change has become routine, add another one and so on.
  • Enlist help with friends and family.
  • Surround yourself with people who will be a good influence.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help whether it’s a counselor, fitness trainer or wellness type coach.
  • Use technology to keep track of changes, mood, fitness, etc.

With positive lifestyle change, one can feel better in the short term and in the long term through the prevention of disease later in life.

 

Here’s to your commitment,

Dr Green

 

UCH Cardiology

Director, UCHealth Medical Fitness

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