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Lifestyle Interventions Needed to Stay Heart-Healthy
Date:7/12/2010

ding to background information in the study, improving such lifestyle factors to eradicate major cardiovascular disease would boost Americans' average life expectancy by close to 7 years.

Having a good sense of your current cardiovascular condition is a good start, the experts said.

"'Life's Simple 7' is one way people can understand what the risks are and then begin to take control of their own health," Sacco said. The AHA program asks Americans to follow seven guidelines for a healthy life, including monitoring their blood pressure and staying active.

Other studies revealed that cognitive-behavioral strategies -- interventions that help a person change specific unhealthy behaviors -- are a cornerstone of efforts to making lasting lifestyle changes.

Setting concrete goals is also important, and goals that target a behavior (how much you eat, for example) rather than an outcome (blood pressure levels, for instance) are even better, several studies have found.

In conjunction with this, those who are successful at making lifestyle changes also tend to self-monitor, not only to understand what their foibles and stumbling blocks are, but also to monitor progress. Here it helps to actually track your program, writing down how far you're walking or how much you're eating and giving yourself credit for progress made.

"If you look at weight loss, plenty of studies show that those who are successful are the ones that write down honestly what they eat every day," said McLaughlin, who is also associate professor of medicine and cardiology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. "This particular guideline showed that if that same thing goes for physical activity, if the doctor says go out and exercise 30 minutes a day and write it down, that that interaction helps motivate the patient to put it down. Once they see it in print, they're more likely to keep up with it."

Follow-up is also important; the more you keep in touch
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