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Nurse Practitioner Counsels Lifestyle Changes as Key to Heart Health
Date:4/22/2011

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 22 (HealthDay News) -- Lynne Braun spends a lot of her time trying to encourage people to do right by their hearts and their health.

Braun, who works as a nurse practitioner at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and teaches at the university's College of Nursing, helps counsel people who are at risk for coronary heart disease as well as those who've had a heart attack or stroke and hope to avoid another occurrence.

Many clients, she said, expect her to use drugs to deal with their risk factors. "There's a whole group of people who feel medication is the magic bullet," Braun said. "They feel the medication is going to do all the work, and they don't have to contribute to that process."

But Braun disabuses them of that notion, letting them know that they'll have to do some work to bring themselves to good health. They will have to eat right, and they will have to exercise, she says.

"Lifestyle change is really the cornerstone for prevention," Braun said. "Whether you are trying to prevent risk factors from developing in the first place, or preventing a heart attack or stroke or preventing a second, lifestyle changes are key."

Though helpful, medications tend to target one risk factor -- such as high blood pressure or elevated blood sugar. But if people "eat a heart-healthy diet and engage in a regular physical exercise program, that will improve all of their risk factors," she said. "Overall, they'll be healthier."

Such changes are not easy, however, and Braun doesn't sugarcoat it.

"Lifestyle change, when one has engaged in certain less-healthy behaviors, is often very, very difficult," she said. "One of the first things I have to do is really assess their readiness for change. I will talk to them openly about that, and ask them directly. I tell them I know if they are willing to do this, their health will improve, but they have to be willing
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