Attempts at Changing Diet and Exercise to Lower Risk of Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke: Who’s Doing What in the Community?
Background and Methods:While only a minority of the population follows a low fat diet and does daily physical activity, it is unclear how much of the population is trying to improve these lifestyle habits. We carried out a telephone survey of 1232 adults, >20 years of age, from Olmsted County, MN to assess their attempts at improving their dietary and exercise habits to lower their risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Results: Fifty-nine percent of respondents reported making attempts to improve exercise habits, 71% reported attempts to improve their eating habits, and 50% reported trying to improve both habits. In all, 80% reported trying to improve exercise and/or dietary habits. Of those trying to change exercise habits, 69% reported at least some physical activity on a daily basis (Pearson correlation = 0.34). Of those attempting to change dietary habits, 31% reported eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day (Pearson correlation = 0.14). After multivariate adjustment, attempts to change diet or exercise were highest in persons trying to lose or maintain weight, and persons who reported having received previous physician advice to change diet and exercise habits. Conclusions: The majority of people in Olmsted County, MN are attempting to change their exercise and dietary habits to reduce their risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Still, only a minority are meeting recommended dietary and physical activity goals. Since most people are in the action phase of exercise and dietary behavioral change, health promotion messages should include information on how best to improve and maintain these health habits. Furthermore, since report of receiving physician advice is correlated with attempts to change lifestyle habits and since only 44% of the population reports receiving such advice, there is an opportunity for health care providers to impact their patients lives by advising them on how to make improvements in their dietary and exercise habits.