Most people know that establishing and maintaining heart-healthy habits is one of the most important overall contributors to good health. What most people don’t know, however, is what “heart-healthy habits” actually look like in practice. In honor of American Heart Month, share this list of heart health tips with your patients to help teach habits that will contribute to lifelong cardiovascular health:
Heart-healthy do’s and don’ts
Do: Encourage patients to eat healthfully!
Research has shown that excess body fat is a major contributor to heart disease. To improve heart health, help patients formulate a balanced diet plan that is convenient to their lifestyle and dietary preferences. Instead of stickers or product samples, consider sending patients home with a free sample of a healthy snack.
Don’t: Encourage fad diets!
Not only are fad diets often detrimental to patient health but also they rarely lead to sustainable weight loss. The best way to avoid the diet merry-go-round is to establish healthy exercise and eating habits that can be maintained over long periods of time.
Do: Help patients start exercising!
A great way to reduce body fat over time is to begin a regular exercise routine. According to the American Heart Association, raising your heart rate for at least 30 to 45 minutes per day can help contribute to overall heart health. Help your patients make an exercise plan that is realistic and can be maintained over time. Consider distributing notebooks to your patients to help them track their daily exercise.
Don’t: Set unrealistic expectations!
Many people are quick to jump into ambitious new exercise routines, only to find that within a few weeks they are back on the sofa. Help your patients find exercise routines that are enjoyable, sustainable and budget friendly. If your patient hasn’t exercised in years, start him or her off with some light daily exercise. It is more important to raise the heart rate regularly than to drench yourself in sweat.
Do: Help patients quit smoking!
Though quitting smoking can be difficult, studies have shown that tobacco use is a major contributor to heart disease. Encourage patients to quit smoking by either going cold turkey or by using smoking cessation aids such as nicotine gum or lozenges.
Don’t: Be discouraged by minor setbacks!
Whether a patient is trying to quit smoking, exercise regularly or lose weight, setbacks are not uncommon. If a patient is discouraged by a minor setback, encourage such as to get back up on the horse and try again. Practicing heart-healthy habits, like any other life change, is a lifelong journey. Strive for progress, not perfection.
As a health care professional, you play an important role in encouraging patients to establish heart-healthy habits. In honor of American Heart Month, talk to your patients about what they can do to help keep their ticker ticking. For more information about what patients can do to stay heart-healthy, visit the Centers for Disease Control website.