Making Decisions About Home Care

A Change Of Heart: How Changing Your Mind Can Help Your Heart

by Mae Ferguson

The numbers are staggering—600,000 Americans a year die from heart disease or related cardiovascular disease, which accounts for 25 percent of all the deaths in the U.S. And although heart disease isn't always preventable (there are genetic factors that cause it), there are steps people can take to reduce their chances of developing heart disease.

The problem is that most of it requires changes in diet and exercise, which isn't always easy for people to do. People develop routines, become comfortable in their daily habits, or don't have the time to devote to lifestyle changes.

Instead of telling you to eat healthier or exercise more, here are two suggestions to help change your mindset and lead to the bigger changes you need to make.

Foods Have Positive/Negative Associations

Yes, that pizza or extra helping of ice cream is delicious. There's no doubt about that. But, have you ever considered why you enjoy it so much? It's because you associated positive cognitive health with it.

Many people enjoy foods because they were first served to celebrate something good, such as a birthday, or a holiday, or just going out. (That, and they taste good, which also increases your level of endorphins.) Because of that, people turn to foods to recreate that feeling. When you give up that food, it feels like a punishment.

Instead, eat the healthier foods in connection with positive emotions. Plan a date with someone you know and pack healthy food. Watch one of your favorite shows with something healthy. Listen to music, paint, write, or do something else you enjoy while snacking on something good for you.

Understand Why You Do What You Do

Relaxing in front of the T.V. or lying down works in the same way as food. Not only is your body tired after a long day of work; it's also rewarding to you to sit down.

Many people feel as though they don't have the time to start adding diet and exercise into their life—and they're right. Adding things into your current schedule may not be the way to go. Instead, understand what you get from watching a few hours of T.V., or surfing the web, or visiting with friends, or whatever it is that you do.

Just like food, cutting out activities (even if it's not really active) often feels like a punishment, or something you're being told you can't do. If you want to exercise more, find a way to make it a positive experience.

Play music or a movie while you exercise, or exercise with a friend. Pick up a new sport. Learn how to dance. It doesn't matter as long as you enjoy it—music, and other enjoyable things, actually increases your tolerance to pain and physical endurance.

Do these two things and you may find that eating better and exercising more isn't a chore, but a reward. Speak to your doctor, such as Mohan Jacob, MD, FACC, FCCP, for more information on how to improve your cardiovascular health.