A new study has indicated that heart health can be improved with a few behavioral changes such as adherence to an individual counseling or group training, improved nutrition or physical activity, reduction of smoking, or adherence to a drug treatment plan.
The researchers conducted a comprehensive and systematic review of large-budget studies funded by the National Institutes of Health that involved behavioral interventions. Most studies reviewed for behavior interventions specified benefits using surrogate markers for these kinds of clinical events. Cholesterol measurement acts as a surrogate marker as it is related to the clinical goal of reducing deaths. Treatments for high cholesterol reduce heart attacks and extend life.
“This research suggests that behavioral interventions should be taken more seriously,” Irvin said. “It indicates that people are able to achieve realistic behavioral changes and improve their cardiovascular health.”
“There are more positive outcomes with these trials, but they don’t often measure mortality,” Irvin said. “The next step for behavioral trials should be to measure results using clinical outcomes, such as the number of heart attacks and hospitalizations, experienced by participants.”
A study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Session in 2015 revealed that children exposed to a teaching gardens learned to grow vegetables and the value of a healthy lifestyle in a school-based program tailored for their low-income, desert community.
The children learned about the value of healthy nutrition and physical activity and the program also included parent workshops and a farmer’s market.
The children participating in the program:
•were more aware of and likely to eat the daily recommended amount of fruit and vegetables;
•could easily identify at least three healthy snacks; and
•were knowledgeable about daily recommended screen time and more likely to participate in physical activity.
Veronica L. Irvin, Robert M. Kaplan. Effect Sizes and Primary Outcomes in Large-Budget, Cardiovascular-Related Behavioral Randomized Controlled Trials Funded by NIH Since 1980. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s12160-015-9739-7