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Partners in Heart Health

Make heart health an affair of the heart

It might have taken a lifetime of less-than-healthy eating and exercise habits to bring on your heart trouble or put you at risk of heart disease, stroke or diabetes. Changing those habits now won't be easy.

But learning how to involve your spouse or partner in your new healthy lifestyle might make things a lot easier — for both of you.

According to Lynne Braun, PhD, CNP, a nurse practitioner with the Rush Heart Center for Women, having the support of a significant other can make a significant difference in whether a person sticks with a healthy diet, exercises and takes prescribed medications.

Here, Braun offers advice on how to create a heart-healthy partnership:

1. Together with your partner, create reminders to help you take medication as prescribed (e.g., notes on the bathroom mirror).

2. Make exercise goals as a couple. Exercise with each other. Work together to achieve your physical fitness goals. If possible, get a family gym membership or join a recreational sports league as a couple.

3. Form a plan with your partner for exercising both outdoors and indoors. Find activities you both enjoy, like bowling, tennis, running or swimming. If you have a dog, take it for walks together. If you don't, plan to go for after-dinner walks as a couple, especially when the weather is nice.

4. Learn about heart-healthy food choices. Shop for food and prepare meals together. Don't prepare more food than either partner should eat unless it is for more than one meal.

5. Discuss ways to change eating habits. Once a week, substitute a healthful food, such as fresh fruit, for a less healthful one, such as potato chips.

6. You may eat out, but discuss how to make healthy menu choices or special requests. Why not skip the French fries and order a salad (just don't drown it in dressing)?  

7. Look for restaurants in your area that serve up healthier fare; you might find some new favorite places to dine.

8. Share a dish at a restaurant to reduce portion sizes. Or ask the server to pack up half of your meal before you even see it.

Make exercise goals as a couple. Exercise with each other. Work together to achieve your physical fitness goals.

9. Eat slowly and enjoy each other's company. Take sips of water throughout your meal. Put the fork down between mouthfuls.

10. When entertaining in your home or bringing a dish to a friend's home, use heart-healthy recipes.

11. Motivate each other, but don't nag! Use past successes as examples to help you continue moving forward. If setbacks occur, that doesn't mean you've failed. It's important to start again.

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