Coronary heart Illness Danger: Life-style Change Partnerships Can Assist

After a heart attack, changing longstanding behaviors that affect heart health can be challenging. Many people have developed habits over the course of 20, 30, or 40 years that are ingrained and which can take considerable effort to change. Does it help to have a partner who is supportive and participative? A recent study has shown that this is possible.

The RESPONSE-2 study is a lifestyle intervention study that enrolled patients with coronary artery disease. More than 800 study participants were randomly assigned to either nurse-coordinated referral of patients and their partners to three popular community-based lifestyle programs or standard care. The community-based intervention programs were aimed at weight loss, increased physical activity, and smoking cessation. Both the intervention and control groups continued to visit their cardiologist, take part in cardiac rehab programs, and take part in general counseling sessions on healthy lifestyles, risk factors, and medication use. Success was defined as improvement in one of the three risk factors without worsening in the other two at 12 months.

The results showed that the proportion of successful patients who improved at least one of the lifestyle risk factors was 37% in the intervention group compared to 26% in the control group. Weight loss was the most successful component, with almost twice as many patients achieving significant weight loss (at least 5% of initial weight) in the intervention group compared to the control group. Patients whose partners participated in the community-based program had the highest percentage of success.

Modifiable Lifestyle Risk Factors for Heart Disease

It is well known that obesity carries the risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes – all factors that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. By controlling your weight through physical activity and eating a healthy diet, you can reduce these risk factors, and therefore your risk of heart disease.

How can a partner help?

There are many challenges in improving our diet: what we eat, how much we eat, and where we eat, to name a few.

What we eat: What comes on the table becomes what we eat. A partner can work with you to create a shopping list to determine what is being brought in. You can work together to create a menu that follows healthy eating guidelines. Restricting food that is not heart healthy can play a major role in a person’s success. Once food is readily available, it becomes even more difficult for someone trying to change their food intake. Making sure there are plenty of vegetables, fresh fruits, and lean protein, along with healthy fats, some low-fat dairy, and whole grains can all contribute to your success.

How much do we eat: Some people may eat mostly healthy foods, but they overeat and can therefore struggle with their weight. A partner can help you prepare a reasonable amount of food so that there aren’t a lot of leftovers. When arranging food, you and your partner can use the balanced plate guidelines: 1/2 plate of low-calorie vegetables, 1/4 plate of lean protein, and 1/4 plate of whole grains or a healthy starch.

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Where we eat: Prior to the pandemic, Americans spent a significant portion of their meal dollars on eating out groceries – takeaway, fast food, and restaurants. With the closure of many businesses in 2020 and early 2021, home cooking increased significantly. However, after food reopened, many Americans are resuming their pre-pandemic habits. This can result in some meals being higher in total calories, saturated fat, and sodium than homemade meals. A partner can help decide how often and where to eat out. Additionally, a partner can help select restaurants where healthy options are available.

Tips for healthy eating outdoors

Don’t start hungry. Skipping meals or starving yourself can lead to overeating! It can also be difficult to avoid all of these tempting foods.

Don’t feel like you have to eat everything on your plate. Send back what you don’t want. Better yet, bring it home in a doggy bag and you’ll enjoy the meal twice as much.

Avoid nibbling. Listen to your body when it tells you it is full. Have the waiter or wait staff remove extra food from the table. The longer it stays, the more likely you will be to nibble.

Eating shouldn’t be a race. Eating too quickly can lead to overeating, as it takes your body 20 minutes to know that it is full. So take the time to put your fork down between bites and focus on the social aspect of eating.

Order à la carte. Who said you need to order a starter? Make your own. You can choose any combination of starters, soups, salads and side dishes. This allows for more variety and gives you more control over what and how much you eat.

Longstanding habits are hard to change, but you can make small changes every day. A partner who can and wants to support you in the change process can be a helpful resource for your success.

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