What you need to change your patients’ lifestyles in 2019

Sara Berg, MS , News Editor

Six in 10 adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease, while 40 percent have two or more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fortunately, chronic disease is often preventable through lifestyle changes such as improved diet and exercise. However, to effectively manage heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure prevention, as well as patient behavior change, physicians must know how to create treatment plans that focus on a patient’s overall lifestyle goals.

The AMA is improving the health of the nation by confronting the increasing chronic disease burden. The AMA’s work to prevent type 2 diabetes is centered on building clinical-community linkages that will enhance the delivery of care and enable physicians and health teams to partner with patients to achieve better health for all. Learn more about how the AMA is working to prevent and control chronic diseases.

From nutrition advice to an increase in physical activity, physicians need to know how to help their patients make lifestyle changes for chronic disease prevention. Here are some of the top stories from 2018 that will help physicians better understand how to help patients effectively manage lifestyle change. 

Know how to respond when asked for nutrition advice. Patients are often unaware that the best form of defense against death and disability is proper nutrition and diet, which begins in the kitchen. And while patients might eagerly search for nutrition advice to control their symptoms and conditions, they often can’t sort through the different recommendations found online. Physicians can improve the conversation by strengthening their knowledge of clinical nutrition and through motivational interviewing.

Learn how “nudge theory” can boost medication adherence. Researchers at Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute adopted Nobel Prize-winning “nudge theory” for medication adherence in cardiovascular patients. Nudging is based on the idea that people don’t always make rational choices with their own best interest in mind.

Understand why nutrition matters to patients with hypertension. Poor nutrition is among the top health risk factors that lead to disability and premature death in the U.S., according to the CDC. Unfortunately, many physicians feel uncomfortable providing diet and nutrition advice for their patients. New educational resources can help physicians gain that level of comfort.

Create a sense of community. Is it time for a haircut? Then there is time to cut your blood pressure too. That is the rationale behind an innovative approach to targeting the persistent problem of uncontrolled hypertension among black men, who are often underrepresented in intervention trials.

With 59 percent of black men living with high blood pressure, researchers teamed up with Los Angeles barbers to bring BP treatment to the barbershop. This community approach helped more than 60 percent of black men who met with pharmacists at their barbershop to lower their BP.

Learn how to cook. With the growing importance of lifestyle change in the management of hypertension and other chronic diseases, Tulane University School of Medicine is not only teaching their medical students about nutrition, but how to cook. However, the program is not limited to medical students—it is open to everyone. The importance of learning how to cook is also at the heart of a Dallas practice’s BP-control efforts—a step in the right direction for patient care and lifestyle change.

Encourage friendly competition to boost physical activity. More than half of American adults don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity and are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. To help increase physical activity, some physicians are trying the technique of “gamification,” which is the application of game design elements into non-game contexts such as the use of wearable devices and counting steps. The availability of mobile technologies provides a platform for monitoring daily health behaviors.

Recommend a home-cooked meal. The more people cook at home, the healthier their diet, the fewer calories they consume and the less likely they are to be obese or develop type 2 diabetes. By providing easy-to-follow culinary instruction and education, physicians can help their patients improve the quality of food preparation at home. Physicians should know about practical aspects of healthy food to help their patients prevent or manage chronic diseases by bringing “culinary coaching” into practice.