Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death worldwide even though most cases are preventable. In recognition of World Heart Day, which is Tuesday, September 29th, Home Care Assistance is sharing the latest study on how positive text messages can encourage heart-healthy choices as well as some tips to kick-start your own heart-healthy regimen.
The study, published in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association), explored the benefits of positive mobile notifications, such as text messages, and their effect on lifestyle modifications for disease prevention. The Tobacco, Exercise and Diet Messages trial included 710 participants with coronary heart disease who were, on average, 58-years-old. All participants received regular care while only half were in the interventionist program and received four text messages a week for six months.
The text messages consisted of daily advice, motivational reminders and general support for positive lifestyle choices and modifications. Messages were not interactive but were customized to the participants’ diet, smoking habits and other characteristics.
The research team looked at low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels, known as the ‘bad cholesterol’, as well as systolic blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), physical activity and smoking status. After six months, the team found that LDL-C levels were lower in the intervention group that had received the text messages. This group also had lowered systolic blood pressure and BMI, improved physical activity levels and a significant reduction in smoking levels. Participants in the intervention text message program said the messages were useful, easy to understand and appropriate in frequency.
It has yet to be proven whether this intervention program will have long-term benefits although it was very effective in the short-term. “People said things like, “It wasn’t actually what the messages said, it was that someone was there supporting me, thinking about me,” said Clara Chow, lead author of the study and program director of community-based cardiac services at Westmead Hospital in Sydney, Australia.
We can adapt these findings to our everyday life by texting or calling a senior loved one 3 to 5 times a week and encouraging them to make healthy choices or even just letting them know you are thinking of him or her and care. We recommend customizing the following motivational reminders for your loved one:
- Medication Reminders. “Have you taken your medication yet today? It’s important to try and take them the same time each day.”
- Physical Activity Encouragement. “Have you gone for a walk today? The weather will be perfect when it cools down this evening. ”
- Diet Inspiration. “Have you eaten some veggies today? I just made a delicious stew and can bring some over!”
- General Support. “I’m proud of the healthy choices you’ve been making and you’re encouraging me to walk more, too!”
Remember, a little support can go a long way! Sending reminders may even help you remember to make proactive, healthy lifestyle choices too. Have a happy and healthy World Heart Day!