Lifestyle Changes vs. Diet to Prevent Heart Disease

by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Professional

In order to promote heart health, many times weight loss is required. With over two-thirds of the US adult population being overweight or obese, this is almost a given"even though there are exceptions. When you think about weight loss I think "diet" is the first thing that comes to mind. Plus, in some ways it is more appealing. It somehow equates to quick results. However, you do have another option - lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle changes are more effective long term than "going on a diet". Let's compare these two options.


There are many diet options.



High protein


Blood type diet

The Zone Diet

South Beach Diet

Weight Watchers

Raw Food Diet

Jenny Craig

Dean Ornish Diet

Mediterranean Diet

Atkins Diet

"and the list goes on. Which one is right for? All the diet options are more likely to cause confusion as you determine which one is best. Plus, the word "diet" implies a short term fix. You're not going to stay on a diet forever, right? This means after the diet ends, most people regain the weight and you are right back to square one.

For long term success, lifestyle changes are shown to have more lasting results.

Lifestyle Change

Lifestyle changes refer to not only the foods you eat, but also the activities you choose to participate in. Examples:

  • Do you smoke? If so, take steps to stop smoking.

  • Do you consume alcohol in excess? If so, cut back.

  • Do you eat fruits and vegetables everyday? If not, find ways to add fruits and vegetables to your meals and snacks.

  • Do you purchase and consume whole grain breads and pastas? If not, make the switch.

  • Are you using low fat dairy products? If not, switch to low fat or fat free options.

  • Are you getting physical activity everyday? If not, add a walk, join a gym, and/or think of ways to add extra steps to your daily routine.

  • Do you eat fast food regularly? If so, determine what you can do to cut back and do it.

  • Are you snacking on chips, cookies, and other unhealthy choices? If so, think of healthier snack alternatives and make the switch?

  • Do you drink soda daily? If so, start weaning yourself off by replacing the soda with alternate beverages"more water?

The above are just some examples of what to look at in your daily lifestyle where making subtle shifts can lead to long term weight loss.

Also, making lifestyle changes is not an all or nothing method. It's not a matter of one day your doing your normal "thing" and the next your on a diet. Lifestyle changes are a gradual implementation. You don't try to change everything all at once. If you were to try changing all of your habits in one day, you are setting yourself up for failure. Instead, you identify one or two areas where you can make changes. Make the changes. Get use to the changes so they are now a habit (give it a few weeks) and then add in a couple more changes to your diet/lifestyle that could be improved.

Making lifestyle changes does not always equal immediate weight loss results, but for most, the weight will start to come off. Just stick with it. Plus, you won't feel deprived. These are gradual changes that are becoming habits. Not something you feel forced to do all at once and you are constantly thinking "I can't wait for this diet to end". These changes are permanent improvements to your lifestyle that you stick with long term.

Are you willing to make changes? Another factor in whether or not you are successful making changes comes down to "are you ready"? How concerned are you about your health?

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN
Meet Our Writer
Lisa Nelson, RD, LN

Lisa Nelson RD, a registered dietitian since 1999, provides step-by-step guidance to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, so you can live life and enjoy your family for years to come. Lisa's passion for health comes from her own family history of heart disease, so she doesn't dispense trendy treatments; Lisa practices what she teaches in her own daily life. Because her own health is the foundation of her expertise, you can trust that Lisa will make it truly possible for you to see dramatic changes in your health, without unrealistic fads or impossibly difficult techniques.