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Developing a healthier lifestyle might sound overwhelming at first, but it may be easier than you think.

Healthier lifestyle habits can reduce the rate of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Consider these four steps to create a healthier lifestyle:

Know the recommendations. The general recommendations for disease prevention are to move more and eat more nutrient-dense foods. Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Include nuts, seeds and beans several times a week. Make half of your grains the higher fiber, whole grains. Replace solid fats (butter, coconut oil, lard or Crisco) with small amounts of olive oil or canola oil. Include 30 minutes of activity most days.

Find your reason. One of the things I hear from my patients is, 'I don't have time to _____.' Most of us struggle with finding enough time. Look for the personal benefit you can get from a healthier habit. Do you feel better? Do you have more energy? Can you enjoy some personal time in your busy day? Do you want to improve your health markers (blood glucose, cholesterol, blood pressure)?

Take exercise, for example. If exercise can give you that daily perk and the health benefits you desire, it may feel easier to fit it in. Try a 10-minute walk three times a day; include a walk in the morning, one at lunch and another after dinner.

Make simple swaps. Creating a healthier lifestyle starts with small changes. Replace packaged snacks with whole fruits or vegetables. Substitute white bread with whole grain breads. Include nuts on your salad instead of shredded cheese. Reduce added fats by using less butter and salad dressings. Cook a quick, balanced meal at home instead of the fast food meals.

Try this: grill a chicken breast, add a frozen vegetable cooked in the microwave and some quick brown rice. You've created a healthy meal in less time than it takes eating out!

Fit it in your schedule. Activity can be part of your regular routine. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park farther away. Play with your kids. Walk the dog instead of watching the dog. Go hiking or sledding with the family. Cook with your kids to spend time with them, or host a meal-prepping party with your friends.

These small steps can help to reduce your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Any healthier habits you can adopt and sustain will cut your health risk, so don't feel like you have to tackle it all at once. Take it one step at a time and acknowledge with pride what you have accomplished!

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