Find direction to disease prevention using a compass of habits

Dec 10, 2021 | Jennifer O'Hara | @jenohara

While we know that health affects longevity and quality of life, it can be difficult to change bad habits. People often try to make sweeping New Year's resolutions, only to fail.

Dr. Stephen Kopecky, a Mayo Clinic preventive cardiologist, says a better approach is to focus on small steps that add up over time.

"The answer, I think, is to make small sustainable steps that you can live with," says Dr. Kopecky "And when I say small steps, like for diet, I tell patients one bite, one bite of something healthy. Take some processed meat or foods off your plate, and put on something like a legume or a bean. After a couple of years, that one-bite difference will lower your risk of having a heart attack."

In his new book, "Live Younger Longer: 6 Steps to Prevent Heart Disease, Cancer, Alzheimer's and More,"  Dr. Kopecky shares strategies for making changes, including thinking of a compass of habits:

  • N — Nutrition
  • E — Exercise
  • W — Weight
  • S — Sleep, stress, smoking and spirits (alcohol)

Making positive changes in these areas can help improve health and longevity.

"We cannot prevent aging.  We can slow aging," says Dr. Kopecky. "But we can prevent disease, it's certainly possible to do. And if you adopt a certain healthy lifestyle, you can affect that."

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Kopecky discusses developing healthy habits one small step at a time.

To practice safe social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, this interview was conducted using video conferencing. The sound and video quality are representative of the technology used. For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in an area not designated for patient care, where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.

Read the full transcript.

For more information and all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network and mayoclinic.org.

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