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Does making a change in your life make a difference?
Yes it does.
I've been writing for years now about the significant impact making changes in what you eat can have on your health. There's a lot of research that I've reviewed to support this but much of this have been isolated studies on such things as whether legumes are good for you or the benefits of olive oil. That's not to say that there hasn't been research on what we call "lifestyle intervention" but this past week a group reported on a study of 800 participants and how profound an effect making changes in your life can be.
We're seeing more and more well designed studies like this one and they are proving what we know should make sense. Eat better and exercise more and you reduce the risk of health problems.
The researchers assigned one third of the group to receive a 60 minute session with printed instruction on a healthy lifestyle. The other two groups participated in more intensive sessions that included 4 individual and then 14 group sessions over a 6 month period. Their instruction consisted of information and recommendations about physical activity 3 hours per week as well as weight loss and diet intervention.
In addition to the more intensive sessions the third group also received advice on the DASH diet focusing on the intake of less total calories, fat and saturated fat, eating 9 to 12 servings of fruits and vegetables per day and 2 to 3 servings of low-fat dairy products per day.
The difference between the groups after only six months was pretty dramatic. In the groups that received the just the individualized instruction there was a 12% reduction in risk of heart attack over the group that had the traditional 60 minute session. In the group that also got information about a DASH style diet the risk was reduced 14%. The amazing thing is that this is as much as many interventions with medicine. Even more important was that the reduced risk was seen after only 6 months.
Six months! That's all it takes to make a profound change in your life (and just think of the money you won't spend on medications). The best part is the these groups were maintaining their healthy lifestyle 18 months later.
I tell a lot of my patients that they have the power to control their high blood pressure, diabetes and dramatically reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke. This article proves what I see every day with my patients who do work at being healthier. You can make as much or more of a difference as your doctor can in keeping yourself healthy.
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.
April 27, 2009
Last updated: 04/27/09