Humans are creatures of habit. Both healthy habits and … decidedly less so.

Daily routines can be a struggle to change. So when someone is trying to stick with a potentially dramatic lifestyle shift, it seems less daunting when there’s a partner working to form that new habit, too.

Trying something new alongside someone committed to the same goal tends to make healthy choices easier and more fun.

“An active, heart-healthy lifestyle can make a big difference when it comes to heart disease,” said Aman Ali, MD, a cardiologist with Midwest Cardiovascular Institute and on staff at Endeavor Health Edward Hospital. “A heart disease diagnosis typically comes with some recommendations for lifestyle choices — mostly things that, for many people, would mean making some significant changes.”

Things like changing what you normally eat and adding exercise to your busy schedule are oftentimes easier said than done. But you’re more likely to be successful if you aren’t doing it alone.

As the partner of someone who has heart disease, you can play a vital role in your loved one’s health by adopting the same healthy changes and supporting your partner as they work toward a healthier life.

Here are some ways you can support your partner as they work to get heart healthier:

  1. Don’t point out the flaws. Your partner probably already knows what they need to change. Instead of nagging or shaming them, talk about your own experiences and struggles in adopting a healthier lifestyle. Let them know the morning struggle to the gym is real or that quitting smoking was hard, but worth the sacrifice. Encourage them and recognize each step they take toward a healthier lifestyle.
  2. Make a plan. Talk about lifestyle changes that can lead to better health and come up with solutions together. Ask how you can help them. Set clear goals. While you may be in good health, discuss some of your own goals and ways your partner can help encourage you. This shows that you’re in it together.
  3. Exercise together. Hitting the gym together can be fun and makes it more likely you’ll both go regularly. Schedule workout dates or try a new class together.
  4. Encourage down time. Stress is a major player in heart disease. Encourage your partner to unplug and unwind. Give them personal time to recharge and relax and encourage them to get a good night’s sleep.
  5. Cook together. Find a new healthy recipe you’d both like to try and cook the meal together. Or, come up with a list of healthy meals and take turns cooking for each other. Take inventory of your refrigerator and pantry and restock with healthy options. Be sure to include some of your partner’s favorite healthy snacks and get rid of trigger foods.
  6. Listen. Before you rush ahead with advice and direction, take time to listen to your partner’s concerns, fears and goals. Sometimes all someone needs is to be heard, so let them vent. Ask if they want advice or to tell you the best way you can help them.
  7. Reward yourselves. Don’t forget to celebrate each other’s successes. Consider setting rewards — like a shopping spree, a weekend getaway or a night watching your favorite movie — so you both have something to look forward to as you work toward your goals.

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