Heart Healthy Living
Learn to form healthy habits by replacing the bad ones. Substituting healthy habits for unhealthy ones rewards you with more stamina, better quality of life – and a healthier you.
That is easier said than done, of course, but some simple tips can help you tackle even the most indulgent and hardest-to-kick habits. Rani Whitfield, M.D., a Baton Rouge, La., family practitioner and American Heart Association volunteer, is on a mission to help people change their unhealthy habits.
“An unhealthy habit is easy to develop and hard to live with; a healthy habit is harder to develop but easier to live with, ” said Whitfield, who has earned the nickname “The Hip Hop Doc” through his work getting young people to make healthier choices.
Regardless of your age, you can benefit from Whitfield’s simple habit-changing tips.
First, he says, know that it takes 60 to 90 days to create a new habit. You have to keep after it. If you forget sometimes, or if at first you don’t figure how to make it work with your schedule, keep after it.
It helps to remember that an unhealthy habit is attractive because it gives instant gratification—that immediate “feel good.” But you pay later. On the other hand, a healthy habit means you put off gratification but get a much bigger payoff down the road.
Think of your task as replacement rather than deprivation. Says Whitfield, “Kojak sucked on lollipops because he was stopping smoking, ” said of the famous 1970s TV detective. Of course, too much candy is bad for you, too – but a few lollipops is much better than smoking when it comes to your heart health. Whitfield says it’s important to “find your real motivation.” It’s OK and in fact helpful to use another motivation in addition to getting healthier. “A lot of people will do it for their children, ” he says. They want to set a good example, or they simply want to live to see their kids graduate. And then there’s good old vanity. “If you want six-pack abs, maybe your motivation is to ask out a certain lady, ” says Whitfield.
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