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Lifestyle Modification

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Lifestyle modification through diet is an important concept when it comes to solving two major health issues in the world but more importantly in the United States of America. There is a simple reason why there is a need to enact a deeper analysis of this particular concept and it is none other than the fact that there are millions of Americans that are obese and that heart disease is one of the most deadly and yet preventable diseases in the world today. Lifestyle modification through the use of a diet system must be developed and applied to reduce the rate of obesity and the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases in the United States. It must be made clear that the proponent of this study would be able to determine the real value of a lifestyle modification process not through the creation of a diet plan that would be applied to the lives of others but one that is applied in a personal way. In other words the system must first be proven effective in the life of the proponent of this study.

The motivation to develop the diet plan emerged after observing men and women that are really huge and without even an attempt to rationalize what has been seen, deep down there was a quick realization that there was something wrong with the picture. As a person who wanted to be a part of the healthcare industry it is important to determine the impact of obesity when it comes to cardiovascular disease and other health problems that negatively affects the quality of life of people. There are many reasons why people are obese. However, a review of related information would reveal that diet and the lack of exercise are two major factors that have contributed to the mortality rate and the cost incurred because of diseases related to excessive weight gain.

Obesity leads to cardiac arrest and other cardiovascular complications. Thus, obesity is the root cause of the leading cause of deaths for both men and women in America. It is not a contagious disease. As a nurse, the problem of obesity is fascinating and at the same time a cause for concern because obesity and the problems associated with it are not just devastating but preventable. Nurses would come to a profound realization that if people are aware of the consequences of obesity and a diet that has not been carefully considered, then, there would be less reason as to why people would die prematurely. In other words diseases can be prevented provided that the “at risk” individual would be more than willing to change his or her lifestyle – particularly those pertaining to diet, vices, and physical exercise.

Lifestyle modification principle would lead to the idea that prevention could be achieved using health education and intervention techniques. It must be pointed out, however, that it would not enough to bombard the public with health messages; there is a need to deliver health education and intervention methodologies using community-based resources.

The underlying assumption for this study is that people are willing to change when they are able to internalize all related information regarding their problem. In other words, when people are educated on the perils associated with obesity, then, they would more than willing to change their lifestyle. Another major assumption is that lifestyle modification is a combination of a plan and a specific action taken. Therefore, a man with a plan is simply a man with a plan unless concrete actions were taken to demonstrate commitment to the said plan.

Finally, those who needed the information necessary to develop a lifestyle modification program could easily access vital information. A cursory look at government websites and publicly accessible documents would reveal important information that were readily obtainable by those who needed them. For instance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed the concept of the Food Pyramid. The said government agency’s website is user friendly and the visitor could enter health related information and then be able to receive a feedback and access to resources that will help in reducing weight or sustain an ideal weight. One of the most important features of the said website was the capability to access information with regards to the food consumed on a daily basis.

In this study, the proponent clarified the importance of a lifestyle modification program in the first few pages of the report. The second part consisted of the review of literature. At the end of the long discussion with regards to the scientific basis for the creation of a lifestyle modification program, the proponent of this study would present a practical application of the knowledge gained in the process of doing research. The proposed plan would show that a lifestyle modification program contains not only abstract principles related to health care but a tangible program that could be understood by all.

Review of Related Literature

Obesity has become a health epidemic in America. There could many pathways to obesity but the most common route is inactivity like watching a considerable amount of time in front of the TV while consuming a diet consisting of high fat and high sodium rich foods (Tsintsifa, E. et al., 208). While America was made aware of this health crisis, its citizens are also being educated with regards to the hazards of eating processed food stripped of their nutritive value (Turrell & Kavanagh, p. 375). Nevertheless, it is a tremendous struggle to change American lifestyle and many are being affected by this trend.

The problem has reached crisis proportions because sooner or later the impact would be felt by the local community, and then, the national level. Obesity is linked to heart problems and diabetes (Povey & Clark-Carter, 932). Aside from these two there are other problems related to obesity such as emotional problems that arose from being overweight. Then on top of it, there are physical limitations due to the inability to carry the body because of extra weight. It has to be said that morbidly obese individuals find it tiresome to move around and it is a tremendous challenge to reduce their weight even more. It would be difficult to participate in sports. The problem has a direct bearing on the person’s self esteem. It is not hard to imagine the emotional roller coaster ride that obese people have to go through on a daily basis because they struggle with their physical appearance.

A review of history will show that obesity and the lack of exercise is a modern phenomenon. In the past this is not a problem because people need to work for the food that they need to eat. Today people still work for the food that they eat but they can do so by not participating in strenuous work but in less difficult circumstances like working in an office. In the past, health issues revolve around the problem on the lack of food security and the existence of disease causing organisms without the tools needed to mitigate its impact but the same thing cannot be said today.  Experts are now saying “Physical activity and exercise clearly prevent occurrences of cardiac events; reduce the incidence of stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, colon and breast cancers, osteoporotic fractures, gallbladder disease, obesity, depression, and anxiety, and delay mortality” (Whaley, 2006, p.7). There is no need to argue that regular exercise is needed to strengthen and rejuvenate an old body (Tsintsifa, 2006, p.205).

Before the Industrial Revolution, men and women needed to perform tasks that require intense physical activity and help the reduce calories. They needed to lift heavy loads and carry objects from one place to the next, an example of strenuous activities. They needed to contribute to farm work and other chores that force them to sweat and breathe heavily to strengthen their heart and lungs. They have to work because they need to grow their own food and so physical activity is all year round. They also need to cook their own food and one can immediately see the stark contrast to 21st century fast-food chains and convenience stores wherein people do not work for food but at the same time could order food that they do not need. In the past there were no cars and machines such as tractors, trucks, and other equipment.

But after the Industrial Revolution farmers began to move to the cities to seek a better life. They brought their families with them and in urban centres they learned to work for wages and totally altered their way of life. Wages enabled them to buy food and they need not work directly to get food. When factory work changed to office work where employees had no reason to exert significant effort that could lead to exercise. As a result there was no no need for intense effort other than the need to push pencil. As a consequence, health problems began to increase. This problem was even made more serious when the car was successfully mass-produced and people no longer walk. Cars became an efficient mode of transportation, there was no need for bicycles.

It is important to understand the science behind the need for exercise as well as the impact of exercise on the human body in order to incorporate it to any diet plan. It would be best to have an exercise program wherein one can find instructors. It may be expensive at first but the health rewards would make it a worthwhile endeavour.

Cardiovascular Diseases

It can be said that the heart is the most importantorgan in the human body (Bigala, 2003, p.5). A non-functioning heart means the end of life, there is the need to keep it healthy at all times. Even if the rest of the bodily organs are working in perfect unison, the absence of a healthy heart means death to the whole body (Miner, 2008, p.43). Therefore, the heart is the main organ that has to work without fail to deliver blood, that in turn carry the nutrients and other essential fluids that are needed by the various systems of the body.

It is therefore a serious cause for concern when doctors and health experts said that heart attack or cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in cities. It must be make known all over the world that these types of problems are contagious and yet it can claim many lives. It is therefore ironic to say that heart disease is a preventable disease and therefore, there is no reason why people die prematurely. Therefore, this health problem must be dealt with correctly so that people that have a higher risk of developing heart problems can be given a better chance of surviving or preventing cardiac arrest.

Change must be made in the person's lifestyle particularly those pertaining to diet, vices, and physical exercise (Karakaya, 2007, p.620). It is important to learn more about prevention and this can be achieved using health education and intervention techniques (Meriwether, Lobelo Pate, 2008, p.25). Yet it is not enough to simply inform people about health messages. There is also the need to ask the help of people especially those that belong to the same community.

Plaque build-up in the arteries is the main reason why a heart attack becomes imminent. This is the result of eating food that has high calorie content as well as fat. It is therefore important to consider that for this plan to work the proponent must track changes made through a journal. In this process people would come to determine the kind of food that was consumed on a daily basis. In addition, there would be a way to record and determine the nutritive value of food products.

Obesity has reached crisis levels because the government has to spend a great deal of money in healthcare costs in order to treat obesity related problems and so the money that was supposed to have earmarked for education has been diverted to health care or the savings made in health care could have been used to fund other projects.  If the trend continues then the number of deaths arising from morbid obesity will increase and severely affects the economic competitiveness of a nation. It can also be said that this social problem will create a chain reaction of events such as the increasing cost of maintaining a lifestyle centered on a healthy diet.

There is no need to elaborate the fact that obese men and women must learn how to reduce their weight. It is imperative that they seek help in order to reduce their waistline and experience an improvement in their quality of life. It would help them reduce their risk of heart attack and the debilitating effects of diabetes and it will also help them enjoy life without the need to worry about medication, complications, and accidents. The only problem is that they are living in a highly industrialized country where there are many challenges to losing weight.

Challenges

The first major challenge is food. It is much easier and much cheaper to get junk food such as chips and fried stuff that one can get from McDonald's and other fast food joints. It is more convenient to buy junk food but the number of calories in those foods can really easily increase the weight of the consumer. The second major challenge is the lack of physical activity. Before modern living came to this country people had to labor manually for the food that they will eat. But this time there are supermarkets everywhere, there is no longer any need to hunt or at least farm ones own food requirements.

The second major challenge to solving the problems associated with obesity is the lack of physical activity. The inability to exercise exacerbates the impact of eating high-calorie food. This is because there is no way to burn off excess fat. This is the main reason why obesity is prevalent in this country (Variyam, 282). In order therefore to solve obesity the government and concerned citizens must take a long and hard look at the challenges that is blocking the way for transformation. It can be argued that since this health crisis is so widespread there is no time to hesitate in proposing solutions that will help a great number of people.

Solutions

The solution for obesity must be brutal and it must be decisive and therefore a lifestyle modification plan must be implemented. There is no time for half measures. The morbidly obese are not only fat because they eat too much and that they do not exercise. They are obese because of the culture and the society that they are in. Thus, in order to help them, society must change; more specifically the culture must change in order for them to stop eating too much and consuming unhealthy food. The solution comes in two stages. The first one deals with food and the second deals with the lack of physical activity.

There is a correlation between improper diet, obesity, lack of exercise and smoking cigarettes. Improper diet will result in obesity, which in turn will increase plaque build-up because an overweight person has more fats in the body. This is exacerbated by the lack of exercise in modern American society. Cigarette smoking on the other hand will significantly increase the likelihood of premature death due to cardiovascular diseases. Based on the preceding discussion the proponent of this paper would like to limit the focus on three factors that causes coronary artery disease: 1) diet; 2) obesity and the need for exercise or increase physical activity; and 3) the need to stop smoking cigarettes.

Prevention

In order to reduce the incidence of heart attacks there is a need for education and intervention. Those who are at risk are people who are obese, have high cholesterol as the direct result of having an improper diet, and those who smoke regularly. Health education must focus on the importance of eating correctly. The target audience must be made to understand that in order to reduce the possibility of developing cardiovascular diseases they must, “Consume a variety of ‘nutrient-dense foods and beverages within the basic food groups while limiting intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterols, sugars, and salt” (Miner, 2008). There is also a need to consume more fruits and vegetables.

When it comes to obesity, health education strategies must aim for behavior changes not only in terms of diet but also in the awareness of the impact of physical activity or the lack thereof. Numerous researchers had documented the fact that increasing physical activity is the best way to lose weight in conjunction with proper diet (Meriwether, Lobelo, & Pate, 2008). A recent report from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) revealed that overweight adults who maintained their weight over 15 years reduced the likelihood of developing heart problems (LaFontaine, 2008). Thus, a significant reduction in weight will result in more health benefits.

When it comes to smokers they must be made to understand the risks associated with smoking cigarettes (Spijkerman, 2007). Researchers are now sure that, “Cigarette smoking is a strong risk factor for acute ischemic cardiac events such as myocardial infarction and sudden death” (Karakaya et al., 2007). But most of the time these things are easier said than done. There is a need for strategic intervention. The proponents of the Body & Soul Project – a collaborative effort between the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society – decided to use the resources of churches to help those who have health problems. This project was created based on the fact that the leaders and members of a particular church can effectively inspire, encourage, and guide those who are in dire need for such types of assistance (Campbell, 2007). Thus, it is clear that education is not enough; there is a need for effective intervention in order to reduce the incidence of heart attacks in the United States.

One way to understand social psychology is through the realization that psychology can be reduced to the theoretical. Therefore, it can reach a point where it is no longer practical and useful. There is a place to study the abstract and complex ideas related to the human mind and how it functions, but it is also important to learn psychology in such a way that it can be applicable in the practical aspects of life. It would be helpful if parents learn how to cope with their children’s behavior. People would then be able to develop solutions for others.

It is also important to provide a reliable method of assessing human behavior and deal with the problems detected by psychologists and other members of the mental health profession. One way to understand social psychology is through the explanation found in Barron’s GRE psychology handbook where it was written, “social psychology connects sociology and clinical psychology” (Palmer & Thompson-Schill 178). The authors clarified this statement by saying “whereas the sociologist is concerned with the study of groups aand the clinical psychologist works with the concerns and problems of the individual, the social psychologists studies the behavior of the individual within the group and the effects of the group upon the individual’s behavior” (Palmer & Thompson-Schill 178). In other words the focus is on the individual but the psychologist cannot afford to study this person in isolation.

A more technical definition can be seen in the following remarks: “Social psychology is the scientific field that seeks to understand the nature and causes of individual behavior and thought in to social situations” (Baron, Byrne & Branscombe 1). There is a scientific method in understanding human behavior. The core values are a) objectivity; b) accuracy; c) skepticism; and open-mindedness (Baron, Byrne & Branscombe 1). This is a systematic approach to understanding human behavior. But the researcher and psychologist always go back to the basics such as the different factors that exist in the external environment and the things that can be observed and felt by the individual.

Biological factors can be linked to the hormones that affect mood swings in a person’s life. It is a well-known fact that women experience a roller-coaster ride of emotions during ovulation periods and when they are pregnant. A hungry man usually exhibits a foul mood as opposed to the happiness demonstrated by a satiated person.

It is also impossible to dissociate a person’s behavior from his or her external world. It is a generally accepted idea that man does not exist in a vacuum. In this planet a human being is constantly in contact with fellow human beings. The social environment plays a major role in the behavior of the person. The social environment influences a person to speak, walk and think in a certain way. Consider for instance the high crime rate in inner cities. There is no denying the fact that there is a higher percentage of criminals that came from ghettos and other poor sections of the city as compared to a neighborhood with more affluent residents.

The cognitive process also plays a major role in shaping psychology and human behavior. For example, there are those who are vegetarians while others insist that it is much better to eat meat as opposed to a no meat diet. The difference in behavior and conviction can be traced to the type of information that they have accessed to and able to incorporate into their belief system.

Lifestyle Modification

There is a correlation between improper diet, obesity, and cigarette smoking when it comes to increasing the likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases. The steady consumption of cholesterol rich foods can also lead to the steady build-up of plaque overtime. It is common knowledge that food intake is not done randomly but a product of social factors. Therefore it is not enough to simply initiate an information campaign without considering the social aspect of the American diet. A lifestyle modification program must be tailor made for an individual.

One of the significant changes that should be made is with regards to the consumption of processed food. In order to be more specific I should limit my intake of refined products such as white bread. Rather than eating refined products I should consider taking in more whole grains. Thus, it is much better if the proponent will eat whole-wheat bread. Examples of whole grain are whole-wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), oatmeal, whole cornmeal, and brown rice. The advantages of eating whole grains can be understood by looking at the components of whole grains. It still contains the entire grain kernel – the bran, germ, and endosperm. This means that it is healthier as it contains dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins. Refined grains are turned into products that have finer texture and longer shelf life but are also less nutritious.

The practical way to add more whole grains into this diet is to use the idea of substitution. For instance if a person likes eating baked green peppers or tomatoes, instead of using white rice, I can substitute it with brown rice. This is easy to understand because the overpowering taste of the pepper can easily mask the taste of the more unrefined brown rice. It means I can hardly taste the difference. The same principle applies to substituting whole wheat or oat flour to refined flour in making pancake, waffle, and muffin. I may detect some changes but the slight difference in texture and taste can be ignored.

There is no need to worry about reducing my consumption of refined products, there is also the need to consider adding more vegetables into my diet. There is no need to elaborate on the importance of vegetables. These are excellent sources for essential vitamins and minerals. In this case, there is the need to consume more dark green vegetables, orange vegetables as well as dry beans and peas. Examples of vegetables that are highly nutritious are sweet potatoes, white potatoes, white beans, tomato, beet greens, soybeans, lima beans, winter squash, spinach, lentils, kidney beans and split beans, carrots, and celery.

Aside from whole grains and vegetables there is a need to add more fruits to the diet. Just like vegetables, fruits are excellent sources not only of dietary fiber but also of essential vitamins and minerals. There must be a variety of fruits in my diet for different types of fruits also contain different types of nutrients. The best way is to consume fresh fruits that are in season. Thus, the proponent of this study must not consume a single type of fruit. Thus, it is assured that a variety of fruits could be consumed the whole year round. Moreover, eating fruits in season has the added advantage of being less expensive.

Foods that are rich in calcium must be added to the diet. It is good for building bones. The best sources are milk products and this includes cheese, yogurt and milk-based desserts. Since I am trying to reduce weight the best kind of milk for me is fat-free milk – thus the person would get all the benefits of calcium-rich milk minus the fat that can add more pounds to the person’s frame.

Discussion

An in-depth look at the concept of lifestyle modification revealed that it could only be activated through a plan and concrete steps to demonstrate the commitment to the said program. At the same time it was discovered that dieting alone will fail if one would consider the other factors that lead to obesity and cardiovascular diseases. It has been made clear from the preceding discussion that consuming less is not enough if the person failed to exercise or increase the level of physical activity to burn calories as well as strengthen the heart. There was also the discovery that certain vices contribute greatly to early death specifically smoking.

The necessary steps and factors needed to develop an effective lifestyle modification program has been identified. There are many challenges up ahead. For example, a diet must be made with the consideration of other family members. It would be a tremendous challenge for those who are not living alone. It is almost impossible to sustain the program if the person is the one who is in-charge of taking care of the family.

It has been discovered through the course of this study that the proponent must not only master health related concepts but must also strive to educate family member with regards to the benefits of a healthy diet. Aside from the health benefits that they would enjoy it would be easier to follow a lifestyle modification program if the other members of the family understand the process and if they are willing to take the same journey towards better overall health.

It is also important to say that the addiction to high-calorie food has not been overcome. From time to time the proponent of this study could not resist the temptation that comes in the form of soft drinks and sweet desserts. The force of habit easily takes over the desire to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Conclusion

The capacity to understand what is required to develop an effective lifestyle modification program is a good starting point. It has to be pointed out that specific actions must be taken to prove that a lifestyle medication plan is in process. However, the challenges of strictly enforcing the plan reduce its effectiveness. The problem is rooted in human behavior and the impact of personal relationships. Thus, there is a need to look into the psychological aspect of the issue. There is a need to determine how the mind works in order to develop more effective ways to motivate obese people to reduce their weight or embark on a diet plan that helps reduce the intake of high-calorie food. More research is needed when it comes to the challenges brought about by a family setting. There is a big difference between persons living alone rather than someone who lives with a family. It is imperative to find out how the presence of children could seriously jeopardize the lifestyle modification program because children must be fed well and the parent who tries to lose weight may find it hard not to consume the food prepared for other members of the family. Aside from family members it is also important to find out how a person struggles with a diet plan in relation to other members of a community. 

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