Key Takeaways for Patients: Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle Throughout the Lifespan
- The recommendation for all adults to accumulate at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week (or 20-30 minutes of brisk walking per day) reduces risk of total mortality, CVD mortality, and myocardial infarction. In fact, regular physical activity can be as effective as some common CVD medications.
- A healthy dietary pattern that emphasizes intake of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and fish will decrease many CVD risk factors. Eating healthy is a cost-effective strategy for both prevention and treatment of CVD.
- Don’t smoke. Tobacco product use is a leading cause of death and disability in the U.S.
- Sleeping 7 to 9 hours a night is good for heart health. Sleeping more or less than this is associated with increased CVD risk.
- Psychological well-being (i.e., having life purpose, personal growth, positive emotion, life satisfaction, happiness, and optimism) decreases CVD risk.
- With increasing overweight or obesity CVD risk increases but importantly increased waist circumference and severe obesity markedly increase risk of CVD.
- Engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviors at any age decreases CVD risk and when implemented early in life (childhood) CVD risk is decreased in adulthood.
- Pregnancy is an opportune time for implementing healthy lifestyle behaviors that benefit the CV health of both the Mother and the child, the latter of which can be lifelong.
- In older adults, achieving ideal cardiovascular health with ³ 5 (out of 7) metrics defined by AHA compared to those with £ 2 significantly markedly decreases risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
- To change lifestyle behaviors set SMART (i.e. specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed) goals to achieve target weight, nutritional quality, avoidance of alcohol, tobacco, and other harmful products, and recommendations for physical activity, adequate sleep and optimal well-being.
Patient Questions for Healthcare Clinicians about Implementing Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors
- Where can I find reliable information about good nutrition?
- Having budget constraints, can I get help purchasing health foods?
- How can I find a safe place to exercise?
- What are some physical activities that I can do?
- How can I get a better night’s sleep?
- What can I do to manage the stress in my life?
- I have many unhealthy lifestyle changes to improve; where do I start?
- How can I get my family and friends to support my efforts to modify my lifestyle behaviors?
- How can I get my family started making healthy lifestyle changes when they have little interest in improving their health?
- Healthy lifestyle practices such as eating a healthy diet, doing regular physical activity, avoiding tobacco products, getting adequate sleep, and managing stress levels reduces your risk of heart disease.
- Your physician and other healthcare provide can assist you and/or your family to make changes to your lifestyle to improve your health and reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Your physician may ask you about your lifestyle at your regular appointments. If not, you can ask you physician about how your current lifestyle habits, or a specific habit, are affecting your health e.g. I know I don’t eat a healthy diet/do enough physical activity/avoid tobacco products/sleep enough/mange my stress well how is this affecting my health or risk of heart disease?
- Your physician can advise you on how your lifestyle habits are affecting your health or risk of heart disease and small changes you can make that will benefit your health. You can also ask your physician specific questions you may have e.g. What are the recommendations for a healthy diet/physical activity/ tobacco product use cessation/sleep/ stress management?
- Your physician can help you decide on a lifestyle habit you would like to change and set a specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed goal (SMART goal) that will assist you to make a meaningful change to benefit your health. You can also directly ask your physician to help you decide on a habit to change and set a goal e.g. I would like to change my diet/ physical activity levels/ tobacco product use habits/sleep habits/stress levels what do you think is a specific change that would benefit my health?
- Your physician can provide you with strategies to help you achieve your goal to change a particular lifestyle habit. You can also ask your physician for help in achieving you goals or overcoming a particular challenge e.g. I have been trying to change my diet/ physical activity levels/ tobacco product use habits/sleep habits/stress levels but I am finding it hard to focus on this because I am so busy with work and my family, how do you think I can manage this?
- Your physician can provide you with resources, referrals to other specialized health professionals or information about community services or organizations that can help you achieve your goal to change a lifestyle habit. You can also ask your physician for help in identifying resources, services, or support e.g. I would really like to change my diet/ physical activity levels/ tobacco product use habits/sleep habits/stress levels do you know of any support, services, or resources that may help me to do this?
Kris-Etherton PM, Petersen KS, Després J-P, Anderson CAM, Deedwania P, Furie KL, Lear S, Lichtenstein AH, Lobelo F, Morris PB, Sacks FM, Ma J; on behalf of the American Heart Association Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health; Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing; Stroke Council; Council on Clinical Cardiology; Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology; and Council on Hypertension. Strategies for promotion of a healthy lifestyle in clinical settings: pillars of ideal cardiovascular health: a science advisory from the American Heart Association [published online ahead of print October 25, 2021]. Circulation. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000001018
Kris-Etherton PM, Petersen KS, Després J-P, Braun L, de Ferranti SD, Furie KL, Lear SA, Lobelo F, Morris PB, Sacks FM; on behalf of the American Heart Association Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health; Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing; Stroke Council; Council on Clinical Cardiology; Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology; and Council on Hypertension. Special considerations for healthy lifestyle promotion across the life span in clinical settings: a science advisory from the American Heart Association [published online ahead of print October 25, 2021]. Circulation. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000001014