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Nurses: Promote Healthy Lifestyles for Your Patients

Nurses are an influential force in the communities they serve, largely due to their frequent and close contact with the public and awareness of health issues. By recommending key lifestyle changes and providing critical ongoing support, nurses can help reinforce patients’ adoption of healthy habits.

An RN to BSN program can give nurses the tools to encourage healthy lifestyles for their patients. Here are some tips to consider sharing that will improve patients’ overall well-being.

Eat a Whole Foods Diet  

With one in six children considered obese and two-thirds of adults either overweight or obese, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, implementing dietary changes is a great place to start fostering healthy habits. Eating fewer processed foods and more items that are closer to their natural forms — such as a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, beans, whole grains and nuts — can aid weight loss, slow disease progression and improve longevity. Consuming a whole foods diet tends to also reduce sodium intake, which helps manage high blood pressure and prevent heart and kidney diseases.

Move More

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only one in three children are physically active each day, and more than 80% of adults and adolescents do not meet the daily recommended activity guidelines. The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and two days of resistance training each week. Children should typically be active for at least 60 minutes every day. Consistent exercise and increased movement have substantial benefits, including improved bone and cardiovascular health as well as weight and mood management.

Stop Using Tobacco and E-Cigarettes

The dangers of cigarettes and chewing tobacco have been known for years, and kicking these habits have associated advantages — namely enhanced lung function and lowered risks of cancer and heart disease. Despite their popularity, e-cigarettes are no longer considered a safe alternative because they produce lung-damaging aerosols and have similar addictive qualities to regular cigarettes. Calculating the cost savings of quitting, making a plan to curb cravings and exploring the temporary use of cessation medications are valuable first steps in addressing e-cigarette and tobacco addictions.

Reduce Stress

Stress impacts everyone, but chronic stress is particularly problematic. Digestive problems, high blood pressure, depression and anxiety are just a few of the ways long-term stressors affect the body. Staying physically active and eating better can help, as can incorporating meditation, mindfulness or diaphragmatic breathing exercises into your lifestyle. Some people benefit from prescription medication as well.

Maintain a Sleep Schedule

Sleep is integral to maintaining optimal mental and physical well-being, and your lifestyle, stress levels and age all impact your sleep health. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that school-age children sleep at least nine hours each night, and adults need at least seven hours. Breaking harmful habits, like sleeping in on the weekends and using electronics in bed, can quickly improve sleep quality.

How Can Nurses Promote Patient Lifestyle Changes?

Nurses play an important role in helping patients prioritize their mental and physical well-being. Some of the ways to promote healthy lifestyle changes with your patients include:

  • Simply start a discussion and listen closely to the individual’s unique concerns and goals.
  • Identify healthy habits they are struggling to maintain and develop a plan to reinforce positive change.
  • Offer handouts and digital resources that provide further education on recommended lifestyle changes.
  • Supply individuals with devices, like pedometers, to encourage movement and track activity levels.
  • Suggest meeting with a specialist for further guidance. A nutritionist can develop a suitable meal plan for a diabetic patient, while a mental health counselor may help someone struggling with emotional trauma.
  • Ensure necessary support systems are in place. Elderly patients and those with mobility issues will likely require more guidance in finding viable social outlets, whether those are in-person or online.
  • Encourage patients to keep going, despite setbacks. Small changes add up.

Nurses play an exciting role in spurring their community’s adoption of healthier habits. By getting to know each patient’s needs and goals, you can recommend specific lifestyle changes and specialists to guide progress. Your ongoing support and encouragement is instrumental in your patients’ continued journey toward optimal health.

Learn more about UTA’s RN to BSN online program.


American Heart Association: American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Overweight & Obesity Statistics

National Sleep Foundation: How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Physical Activity Facts & Statistics

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