A blogger friend asked me how to get her father-in-law who is undergoing cardiac bypass surgery to make lifestyle changes.
It's not easy. I struggle every day with motivating my patients to change their lives.
If many of my patients with high blood pressure stopped smoking, started exercising, ate better, cut out excess salt, and lost weight, they would be on fewer blood pressure medicines. And, in the long run they would have fewer health problems and live longer.
How do we get people to do these things? To someone who has lived a sedentary lifestyle eating whatever they want, making all these changes at once must be overwhelming.
The best time to get people to make changes is at a life-changing moment, such as when hospitalized with a first heart attack or when needing coronary bypass surgery. People are scared, and as a result they are receptive.
So, to my blogger friend who asked how to get her father-in-law how to live more healthfully, use the resources at your hospital while he's recovering. Ask for someone from the hospital's cardiac rehabilitation program to talk to him. Get the nutritionist to sit down with him and explain what he should and should not be eating. Encourage your father's nurse to educate him also. And, you personally may live a healthy lifestyle, but it's hard to hear these things from a family member. There's too much emotional attachment. It really has to come from someone else, not just you, so try not to sound preachy.
Think back if you've made lifestyle changes. Did you do it overnight? I certainly didn't. In college, I was a vegetarian who ate way too much sugar and dairy and barely exercised. During my sophomore year of college, I decided I should start running -- on that first day, I got halfway around the block before my friends drove by and picked me up.
Be patient, and be supportive, and best of luck.