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How Joan Lunden Changed Her Life After Finding Out She Was High Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

After 40 years as a beloved journalist and television personality, Joan Lunden has added the role of lifestyle expert to her résumé — and she still recalls the moment that led her on her own journey to healthy living. “I’d gained weight that just wasn’t coming off,” Lunden admits.

So when an American Heart Association representative came on a segment of Good Morning America that Lunden was hosting, it was a big wake-up call. “They had a quiz to assess your risk for cardiovascular disease…and I was failing every question!”

Determined, Lunden began exercising daily, and as her energy increased, so too did her passion for sharing her struggles and triumphs to help other women improve their health. “Nobody’s inspired by perfection — we’re inspired by real challenges and wins!” says Lunden. Here, she shares her secrets to ageless vitality and endless joy.

Stress Rx: Personalize your calm.

“Stress is something that happens to all of us, and the best way to combat it is to find our own unique, personalized cures,” Lunden says. “For me, that’s reading a good book or spending time with supportive friends. Friendships and connection are so important, especially as we get older. I have three really terrific friends that I’ve made in the past few years. So wherever you can find them — whether it’s at church or at a book club — discover new people to talk to and stay engaged with: It feeds the soul!”

Weight-loss weapon: Easy meal prep.

“Every Sunday, I prepare fruits and vegetables for the week,” Lunden says. “I put them in the fridge so that when my family orders in, I can pull out real food, cook it quickly on my grill pan and eat that instead. It makes me feel so much happier and better overall!”

Secret to success: Imagine your triumphs.

If you set a goal and can envision yourself achieving it, it becomes possible!” Lunden enthuses. “When I was working with my nutritionist, he told me to look at myself in the mirror as I was walking out of the shower and imagine myself 40 pounds thinner. It was a little daunting at first, but it gave me a tangible goal — and it really worked!”

Does Lunden still use the mirror trick? “I can’t help but not,” she laughs. “It’s right there! But I don’t get on the scale every day. It’s more about how I feel in my clothes and setting goals that allow me to see non-scale victories and help me feel good about myself as I go.”

Instant energy booster: Daily movement.

When I started exercising, I realized my energy was no longer in charge of me — I was in charge of my energy!” Lunden reflects. “Did you know you can gain 3 to 8 pounds a year after age 40 without changing anything in your life?

So even if it’s an extra walk or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, getting even a small amount of exercise is important. It can boost your energy and add years to your life while helping you maintain a weight that makes you feel comfortable and confident!”

The key to longevity: A little bit of light.

“I’ve learned that if you work or live in a dark environment, it can be easy to become depressed,” Lunden says. “Fresh air and light are so essential to my mood, so every morning, I throw back the curtains to let the sun in. It just helps to create a positive day! And I’ve also found that by keeping a positive outlook as I get older, chances are good that I’m going to want to continue engaging with people and stay active in the world. I’ve always thought that if I keep doing things that challenge and fulfill me, it will make me a happy and healthy individual — and I’ll tell you, the proof is in the pudding!”

A Guide to Aging With Grace

A candid compilation of topics ranging from menopause to matters of the heart, Lunden’s latest book, Why Did I Come Into This Room? ($19.67, Amazon) is a hilarious dive into the process of aging — good and bad.

“I divide the book into mind, body and soul,” Lunden explains. “I wanted to start out with the concept of age, and how it can really be bad for us to speak in terms of our age because it can limit our sense of relevance, self-image and the expectations of what we can do in life.”

From wrinkles and age spots to loss of energy, weak pelvic floor, hot flashes and beyond, no aging experience is off limits. Lunden also shares her personal anecdotes while dispelling myths and unearthing healthy options for aging with grace.

“I also discuss how stress effects us physically in the body section, but the last part is about the soul — your appreciation, gratitude and the importance of staying engaged in life,” she says with a smile. “We all face what I call the ‘lumps’ in the road, but once you learn something new and make even the smallest changes, you can put yourself back on the path to a second act filled with health, happiness and beyond!”

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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