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Helping Patients Add Years to Their Life Expectancy

What's one puff of a cigarette here and there? Or perhaps you love your TV, couch, fast food dinners, and more than just a couple of beers after work? It turns out that some people's vices might end up cutting up to 12 years off of their average life expectancy, according to a recent British study. These vices include smoking cigarettes, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, sedentary lifestyles, and not eating enough fruits and vegetables.

Nurses Can Help Patients Manage Vices

Getting someone to change his habits is hard, but it's part of a nurse's job. Here's a look at some common vices and how you can help.

Tobacco: Coming up with smoking cessation goals and interventions for patients can be difficult, especially when it is estimated that 18 percent of nurses themselves take regular puffs of tobacco. Many people leave quitting smoking to be their next New Year's resolution or perhaps wait until a pregnancy. But nurses know that there's no greater incentive to quit smoking than one's own health. If your unit or clinic doesn't have local resources for smoking cessation programs, take it upon yourself to start your own informational billboard (with your supervisor's approval).

Not enough exercise: After a grueling work day, what feels better then plopping down on that recliner and watching some TV? One study asserts that such lazy lifestyles cause more deaths than smoking. Going for a brisk evening run, hopping on a bike, or even walking around the neighborhood for half an hour are all options that might make you feel better and healthier in the long term. It's the nurse's job to encourage positive change in patients, so even small suggestions like keeping a weekly physical activity log might help the patient to start a brand new exercise regimen.

Unhealthy diet: What goes better with a night on the couch watching TV than a couple of ice cold beers and some fast food? Maybe after than evening stroll around the neighborhood, the otherwise-sedentary-enthusiast might add some freshly steamed broccoli and cauliflower to a meat-centered meal and switch that ice cold beer out for a full glass of 100 percent juice. According to the USDA, you should vary your vegetables and buy what's in season.

Whether you're a nurse working in an outpatient clinic or the fast-paced ER, take a moment to get to know your patient's lifestyle choices upon initial intake. This way, you can tailor discharge instructions and education to their long term health needs.

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