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Docs should counsel even healthy people on diet, exercise, experts say

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(HealthDay News) -- Lifestyle counseling could help protect the long-term heart health of adults who aren't yet at high risk for heart attack and stroke, a panel of medical experts says.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) on Tuesday reaffirmed its 2012 recommendation that doctors consider extra counseling on diet and exercise even among their low-risk patients.

"The Task Force encourages primary care clinicians to talk to their patients about eating healthy and physical activity," said task force vice chair Susan Curry. If patients are interested and motivated to make lifestyle changes, doctors should offer to refer them to counseling, she said.

Obese people and those who have high blood pressure or cholesterol levels, diabetes, or problems maintaining normal blood sugar levels are at higher risk for heart disease. The USPSTF already advised doctors to offer their high-risk patients intensive behavioral counseling to help prevent heart attack, stroke and other heart-related problems.

This type of counseling involves more than a single conversation during a doctor's visit. In many cases, patients attend multiple counseling sessions with another health care professional.

In its final recommendation published July 11, the panel concluded that primary care doctors should also consider offering healthy lifestyle behavioral counseling to patients who are at moderate or low risk for heart disease, including those who exercise and have a generally healthy diet.

"This recommendation complements separate task force recommendations for people at increased risk, which recommend behavioral counseling for all high-risk patients," said Dr. Carol Mangione, a task force member.

The recommendation was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It also appears on the USPSTF website.

Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attacks and strokes, is the leading cause of death in the United States, the panel noted.

More information

See the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on healthy living.

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