Modify your lifestyle one step at a time:
- Start by cutting back or eliminating smoking or chewing tobacco because this habit is by far the most dangerous.
- Move on to reducing alcohol intake.
- Go on to strengthen your heart and body through exercise after you’ve rid yourself of these habits (or have dramatically cut back on them).
Pretend for a moment that your blood pressure is 140/85 mm Hg. You don’t have any target-organ damage, but you have several risk factors including high cholesterol and a family history of heart disease. Lifestyle changes are in order. Your doctor warns you that you must quit your pack-a-day smoking habit, drop 20 pounds, and engage in 30 minutes of aerobic activity on a daily basis. You know you can’t just turn your sedentary lifestyle around on a dime, so plan and then chart your progress. You may also want to keep a daily diary of how many cigarettes you actually smoke, what you eat, and how much you exercise.
As you work on each change, notice how each new healthy habit affects many of the others. For example, increasing your level of exercise invigorates you and increases your tolerance for stress; as a result, you’re less likely to smoke or drink alcohol when you want to relax.
Similarly, the fewer cigarettes you smoke, the more your lung capacity increases and the easier exercising becomes without having to stop and catch your breath. These changes can help you to lose weight as well.
Note: You may gain a few pounds as you stop smoking, but the benefits of stopping far outweigh (pun intended) those few pounds. Reducing the fat in your diet helps almost all the other risk factors as well. By the time you’ve gone through the list of lifestyle modifications, you’ll feel like a new person.