6 Easy Steps for Building Healthy Habits

If you find out that you are at risk of stroke, that may be a sudden wake-up call to make some lifestyle changes.

It can be tough to make changes and build new habits. But there are ways to effectively train yourself to make healthy changes- no matter how old you are.

1. One Step at a Time

Making healthy changes does not have to mean turning your whole life upside down. It is overwhelming to adopt many healthy habits at once.

For example, adjusting to a new medication regimen, adding exercise to your weekly routine while working on your temper and reducing processed desserts all at once can make you feel defeated and exhausted. If your doctor advises many lifestyle changes and you genuinely want to follow instructions to improve your health, you might be better off setting a realistic goal of 6-9 months to achieve all of those instructions. If you try everything at once, you may fail and find yourself back at square one.

2. It Takes Time 

Studies show that it usually takes about 6 weeks of focused effort to get used to a new activity. Eliminating harmful habits, adding a new routine or learning to think differently take some time.

3. Priorities First 

Medication changes and giving up smoking are the most important changes you have to make if you are at risk of stroke. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a bleeding or clotting problem, you have to follow medical instructions right away.

Even if you love the idea of the holistic approach or want to mange your health problems with herbs or dietary changes, you may need to seriously reconsider.

If your medical condition is severe enough to have caused a stroke or TIA, the more efficient way to manage it is with the use prescription strength medication.

Medically approved treatments generally have a faster onset of action and have been more extensively studied in terms of physiological activity and side effects. You may be able to discontinue prescription strength therapy down the road and switch to a holistic approach. Generally, herbal treatments take longer to work and may be more useful for disease prevention than for treatment of serious significant conditions.

4. Be Yourself

Make incremental changes. People who are successful at living a healthy life often describe former bad habits that sound unbelievable given their current lifestyle. While you can achieve change at any age, it may be depressing to stop smoking while also moving from a high fat, low vegetable diet at the same time.

Every individual tends to be drawn to certain ways of doing things. You might be inherently physically active, you might love socializing or you may enjoy cooking. Start one of your new lifestyle changes for 6 weeks. If you like the idea of walking, set a realistic goal for a daily walk and start. After 6 weeks, you will probably have developed a walking habit and can then add on another lifestyle change - such as smoking cessation, decreasing salt in your diet or managing stress.

5. Make a Plan

Whether you are working on your physical activity, a smoking cessation plan, stress management or dietary changes, it helps to create a step-by-step plan. When it comes to managing your temper- expecting yourself to approach intense stress without becoming upset may be too much to handle once. Start by maintaining level-headedness in normal situations. If possible, find a calm person such as a therapist, a clergy member or a cooperative friend to vent to when you are feeling stressed for the first 6 weeks. Then, when you are ready, progress to writing down your stress. Then advance to communicating your frustration in a calm and constructive manner when appropriate.

Then graduate to maintaining your inner and outer composure, protecting your mood from being easily distressed. This stepwise process can take months, but it is better than an unrealistic all or none approach.

6. Recognize that the Right Time to Make a Healthy Change is NOW

If you have suffered a stroke, a TIA or have been told that you had a silent stroke, you need to make some changes to try to prevent a serious stroke from occurring. Sometimes the recommended lifestyle changes can seem overwhelming. Breaking them down into manageable steps and allowing ample time to build new habits can be the best approach.


Habitual Exercise Instigation (vs. Execution) Predicts Healthy Adults' Exercise Frequency, Phillips LA, Gardner B, Healthy Psychology, July 2015

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