Behavioral changes can improve health

Changes in habits can improve healthBehavioral changes are a successful way to improve health, according to recent findings. Behavioral health interventions have been found to help people make appropriate lifestyle changes in order to improve their heart health.

Additionally, the way health interventions are evaluated by researchers also requires a change, according to co-author of the study Veronica Irvin, Ph.D.


Behavioral treatment consists of counseling or group therapy, and it aims to improve nutrition or physical activity, promote smoking cessation or help a person stick to a medical routine; unfortunately, behavioral treatments are often overlooked by medical professionals as they feel people are too stuck in their own ways to change their habits.

Dr. Irvin pointed out that although large clinical drug trials reveal that a new drug can make a person better, they often neglect to point out the nasty side effects which many drugs are attached to. She suggests that modification of behavior is an effective tool that practitioners can and should use to improve health but often don’t.

For the research, Dr. Irvin and fellow co-author Robert M. Kaplan, Ph.D., conducted a systemic review of large-budget studies that involved behavioral interventions.

In nearly 80 percent of the behavioral interventions, a large improvement was seen in the individual’s lives. The intervention impacted weight loss and even allowed better control of blood pressure. When the intervention targeted two behaviors, greater improvements were found.

Dr. Irvin said, “This research suggests that behavioral interventions should be taken more seriously. It indicates that people are able to achieve realistic behavioral changes and improve their cardiovascular health.”

Dr. Irvin did point out that many of the studies did not document mortality or morbidity rate, which is a must for clinical drug trials. She believes that this is important information in determining the success of the interventions. She added, “There are more positive outcomes with these trials, but they don’t often measure mortality. The next step for behavioral trials should be to measure results using clinical outcomes, such as the number of heart attacks and hospitalizations, experienced by participants.”

In the studies that did reveal morbidity, it was often found that behavioral interventions were successful in reducing it.


Dr. Irvin and Dr. Kaplan evaluated behavioral interventions for treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease and were funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute or the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The study was published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine.


Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.