AHA Offers Recommendations for Diet and Exercise Programs

Urges goal-setting, self-monitoring, and provider follow-up to reduce cardiovascular disease risk
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 12 (HealthDay News) -- Behavioral modification programs combining careful goal-setting, frequent provider counseling, and self-monitoring of diet and exercise are the most effective way to help individuals successfully make healthy lifestyle changes to reduce their risk for cardiovascular diseases, according to an American Heart Association (AHA) scientific statement published online July 12 in Circulation.

Nancy T. Artinian, R.N., of Wayne State University in Detroit, and colleagues from the AHA writing group reviewed 74 studies of adult U.S. populations that were conducted during 1997 to 2007, and measured the effects of behavioral changes on cholesterol levels and blood pressure, aerobic fitness, and physical activity and diet. The reviewers assessed the study data to extract recommendations for successful interventions to reduce cardiovascular risk.

Among the strategies highlighted: setting specific goals at the outset to target the desired behavior and build confidence; patient self-monitoring to increase awareness of behaviors and barriers to change; frequent provider-patient contact; frequent feedback and reinforcement to track progress; enhancement of the patient's sense of self-efficacy by highlighting goals achieved and other strategies; and motivational interviewing/counseling.

"Lifestyle change is never easy and often under-emphasized in clinical encounters with our patients. This statement shows what types of programs work and supports the increased need for counseling and goal setting to improve healthy cardiovascular habits," the AHA president, Ralph Sacco, M.D., said in a statement. "We need to find more effective ways to make lifestyle change programs available, especially to the groups at the highest risk for cardiovascular diseases -- older Americans, African-Americans, and people of Hispanic origin."

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies.

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