By American Heart Association News, HealthDay Reporter
THURSDAY, Nov. 4, 2021 (American Heart Association News) — Lifestyle change is a powerful, proven way for a person to prevent heart disease. But to make healthy changes stick, people often need a little help.
Primary care doctors could offer crucial assistance in connecting patients with counseling that’s been shown to make a difference. But because of time constraints or other barriers, those doctors often don’t.
A new report offers guidance on how to change that.
The scientific statement, published Thursday in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, summarizes research showing the benefits of behavioral counseling. It also offers practical ways for busy health care professionals to help patients get that kind of care – care that goes beyond the typical 15-minute annual appointment.
Deepika Laddu, who led the group that wrote the statement, said it’s not usually enough for a patient to simply recognize the need to change their eating or exercise habits.
“It’s one thing to say, ‘I’m going to reduce the amount of fat in my diet.’ But they need support to say, ‘I’m going to maintain that as a lifestyle,'” said Laddu, an assistant professor of physical therapy in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Such support might involve guidance on planning a healthy diet or setting realistic exercise goals. It also could involve checking in regularly to make sure those plans and goals stay on track.
But “providers don’t have time,” Laddu said. “They may not have the resources in place. There also are system-related factors,” such as the bureaucracies behind referral policies or reimbursement.
The report spells out the importance of overcoming such barriers by summarizing research on programs delivered in primary care or community settings that have been