Radio Smart Talk: Changing behavior for good health
Transforming Health | 04.23.13
Radio Smart Talk for Tuesday, April 23:
Why is making a healthy lifestyle change so difficult?
Most of us know what we're supposed to do to live healthier -- eat more fruits and vegetables, avoid fats, exercise or get more physical activity, don't stay in the sun for long periods of time without protection. Those are just a few of the rules to live by to maintain a healthier lifestyle.
But how many of us actually follow those rules? Even with the knowledge of what's accepted as working, why is it so difficult to behave in a way that's better for our bodies and reduces the possibilities of illness or disease?
This episode of Radio Smart Talk examines health behavior with Dr. Joseph Cincotta, Medical Director of the PinnacleHealth Medical Group and Dr. Karen Glanz, Director of the Center for Health Behavior Research at the Perelman School of Medicine and School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania.
There are a variety of healthy changes a person might want to make: Quit smoking, lose weight, get proper preventive screenings, or limit alcohol and drug use, for examples.
But, whatever the change may be, both doctors agree that the doctor-patient relationship is key in engaging patients in a conversation about their health and that it can increase their chance of making a lasting change.
Listen to the program:
Changing an unhealthy behavior may take some time for some patients.
Doctor-patient communication is key to making healthy changes.
“It takes a team to present issues to a patient and to find out the patient’s readiness to make a change," Dr. Cincotta explains. "‘Are they aware of their issues and are they willing to improve?’ Because it’s a process. Sometimes they’re not ready. But the doctor still should bring it up because as family physicians, we follow them for a long time. They might not be ready to change now, but they might be down the road.”
Dr. Glanz says ”It is very import for the doctor to emphasize why they should make a change because doctors have a great amount of credibility.”
Doctors often don’t have a lot of time. But, other members of the patient’s health care team can have those conversations and make just as much of an impact.
She says that even health professionals outside a doctor’s office can be positive influencers as well. Exercise programs and quit-lines may provide specific motivation to help change behavior and offer ongoing support and resources.
So, what works in helping to change behaviors?
For Doctor Cincotta, the first thing has to be identifying why the change is important to the patient. It’s about talking to them and identifying what’s motivating them to change. “It could be that they want to save money or be more active in family activities. But, we need to take time to find out the motivation, how can we be a support to them, and how we can help them down the road.”
There are so many good intentions at the first of the year, but most New Year's resolutions are broken within the first two weeks. Why?
Dr. Cincotta shares this wisdom: ”What has to happen, is they have to look ahead and think about that moment when they encounter a temptation to fall back to bad behavior. They have to have a plan in place when that happens. And, don’t do too much at one time. Then, it takes a follow-up visit, phone call, or using social media to help them to sustain their change. Resources can help, and family members can help by being a part of their ‘change team.’”
It is important that people engage in their health and talk with their physician about what they’d like to change, because being an active partner in the change increases success.
“They have to take on accountability, and responsibility to do the positive things they can control- whether it be diet, exercise, and keeping stress in balance.”
What are the benefits of making healthy changes?
Behavior changes may reduce costs, medications, and risk of illnesses.
“My patients who have made changes are very happy when they reduce the amount of medications they’re on, and enjoy a better quality of life and a longer life,” he says.
Tell us: Does your doctor ask you about unhealthy behaviors and if you want to make a change? Do you feel comfortable telling your doctor about the changes you need to make in your own life? What do you want to change to become a healthier person and how will you do it? Please share your thoughts in a comment below.
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