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Making Healthy Changes Become Lifelong Habits

Making healthy changes become lifelong habits

The threat of going on insulin to control her Type 2 diabetes was what finally pushed Amy Magan to make the drastic diet changes that have allowed her to take control of her health.

But it was the community of the American Heart Association’s Go Red Get Fit Facebook group that helped keep her inspired.

“It was so inspiring to see all these women who are taking control of their lives and deciding to write a different chapter,” she said.

Magan, who lives near Indianapolis, was the winner of the Go Red Get Fit 2016 Facebook group-based social media fitness challenge. Go Red Get Fit is an initiative of the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women cause campaign designed to help  women from diverse communities make healthy changes that become lifelong habits.

Like in 2016, the 2017 Go Red Get Fit campaign, which is nationally sponsored by Macy’s, offers quarterly health and fitness goals led by fitness trainers. This year’s campaign will continue to be led by celebrity trainer Scott Parker. Fitness mentor Lisa Morales will also be joining. This spring, participants are challenged to log 10,000 steps a day, get their cholesterol checked and talk with their doctors about what the numbers mean.

There are two types of cholesterol, a waxy substance that can form plaque between layers of artery walls. Too much of one type or not enough of another can create risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke. Understanding what cholesterol numbers mean and how they can be improved through diet and exercise are important steps toward improving heart health.

Each year, one in three women’s deaths can be attributed to cardiovascular disease, but 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes. For many people, one barrier to getting healthy is a lack of guidance and support to make the necessary changes.

Parker suggests getting a sense of how many daily steps you’re already taking before focusing on the 10,000-step goal.

“See where you are and then identify where in your daily life you can find space to get more steps,” Parker said. “You might not make 10,000 steps each day. I don’t. That’s OK. Just try to be more active the next day. It’s about being accountable.”

He said finding activities you enjoy, such as walking with friends or going salsa dancing, is important to staying motivated. Even little things that can fit into an existing routine, such as parking farther away or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

“Every step and every movement counts because you’re moving toward being healthier,” Parker said.

Morales, formerly on Telemundo, offers healthy eating tips, workout plans and inspiration through her social media sites. She encourages her followers to sneak in exercise, even a few minutes at a time to increase overall physical activity.

“Do squats while you’re on the phone or cooking,” she said. “Even small things can add up. Just get up and move.”

Interaction by the group’s 13,500 participants, as they share recipes, post videos or photos that celebrate goals or motivation, has been the real key to the program’s success because it keeps a healthy lifestyle top of mind through regular discussion and sharing, Parker said.

“Fitness can be a daunting task,” Parker said. “Realizing you aren’t alone makes it easier to stay on the path because you realize there’s a group of people going through the exact same thing.”

Having extra support was important for Magan, who has struggled with her weight since her teens and with heart disease and Type 2 diabetes for the last 15 years. She was put on insulin while pregnant with her third child – now 14 – and wasn’t eager to resume the daily injections her doctor warned she would need if she couldn’t get her blood sugar under control.

In addition to participating in Go Red Get Fit, about 10 months ago, she joined Overeaters Anonymous for support. She eliminated added sugars and stopped drinking diet soda. She limited her eating to three meals a day. The changes helped her lose more than 70 pounds.

The weight loss meant Magan no longer required blood pressure medication. She was also able to reduce medications for cholesterol and controlling her blood sugar.

During the last month, Magan has been using an elliptical machine at the gym a few times a week, but also sneaking in activity through her daily routine where possible.

During a Go Red Get Fit award trip to New York with her mom in February, she logged 25 miles walking over three days.

“There’s no way I would have been able to do that a year ago,” she said. “Having the support of all those people in Go Red Get Fit played a role in how I was able to make those changes in my life.”

Story Credit: http://news.heart.org/making-healthy-changes-become-lifelong-habits/