What is lifestyle medicine and what can it do for you?

What if you could talk with your doctor and get a personalized “prescription” for life choices you could make that would prevent or even help treat diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease?

What if lifestyle interventions were looked on as legitimate, bona fide treatments, just as medications are? The growing discipline of lifestyle medicine is making this “what if” a reality.

According to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, the definition of lifestyle medicine is the use of evidence-based lifestyle therapeutic interventions as a primary modality, delivered by clinicians trained and certified in this specialty, to prevent, treat and often reverse chronic disease. Their vision? Lifestyle medicine as the foundation of a transformed and sustainable system of health care.

Time to stop “medicalizing” disease

Dr. Michael Parkinson is a champion of lifestyle medicine.

“Frankly, we can no longer afford to ‘medicalize’ environmentally and behaviorally caused disease with more treatments, tests and procedures,” he says.

Dr. Parkinson was one of forty professionals who took part in the Lifestyle Medicine Research Summit at the University of Pittsburgh in December 2019.

The goal of the summit was to examine current knowledge in six core areas of lifestyle medicine:

  • Plant-based nutrition
  • Physical activity
  • Sleep
  • Stress
  • Addictive behaviors
  • Positive psychology / social connection

Sound familiar? It’s no secret that lifestyle choices and changes can contribute to living a longer, healthier, more active life.

During the Summit, medical professionals spent time examining research in each of these areas. Afterward, Dr. Parkinson and his colleague, Yoram Vodovotz, professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, published a paper outlining the major findings in the above six areas.

Their recommendations probably won’t surprise you…

7 lifestyle “medicines” for disease prevention

Whole-food, plant-based eating. A diet high in many types of vegetables (potatoes don’t count), including fruits of many colors and whole grains, and lower in animal products is key. Choose fish, poultry, beans, and nuts over red meat and cheese for your protein.

Regular physical activity. Daily moderate-to-vigorous aerobic physical activity has both immediate and long-term health benefits. How quickly our body ages is determined by cellular processes that are directly influenced by physical activity.

Restorative sleep. There is evidence that high-quality sleep can reduce inflammation, oxidative stress and DNA changes that are associated with chronic disease. At least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep is recommended for adults.

Stress management. Chronic stress increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel disease, obesity, depression, asthma, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, cancer, diabetes and neurological disorders.

The best way to relieve chronic stress is through mind-body ‘therapies’ such as yoga or tai chi.

Addiction reduction and elimination. More research is needed into how to predict who is more vulnerable to addiction, and into finding ways to intervene and prevent it.

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Positive psychology and social connection. Social isolation and loneliness are killers. You don’t need to have a million friends, but having a small group of people you can rely on can support both your physical and mental health.

Purposefully practicing kindness and gratitude can keep you healthy, too. They can improve your sleep, lower your blood pressure, and strengthen your immune system.

Reducing inflammation. More doctors than not recognize inflammation as the root of disease. And mountains of studies have more than cemented the role of inflammation in the very diseases mentioned above. Fortunately, lifestyle changes can help the body balance inflammation and keep it in check.

Lifestyle Medicine: An easier pill to swallow

While none of these recommendations may be surprising, it’s good to know that the medical profession is starting to take lifestyle changes seriously. They would certainly make for an easier pill to swallow.

More Americans than ever are sleep-deprived, stressed, overweight, and suffering from diseases directly related to these conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Adopting simple lifestyle strategies could mean the difference between achieving natural health and a lifetime of pills, procedures and often unnecessary treatments.

Editor’s note: Are you feeling unusually tired? You may think this is normal aging, but the problem could be your master hormone. When it’s not working, your risk of age-related diseases skyrockets. To reset what many call “the trigger for all disease” and live better, longer, click here to discover The Insulin Factor: How to Repair Your Body’s Master Controller and Conquer Chronic Disease!

Sources:

They don’t come as pills, but try these 6 underprescribed lifestyle medicines for a better, longer life — The Conversation

American College of Lifestyle Medicine’s About Page — American College of Lifestyle Medicine

Prioritized Research for the Prevention, Treatment, and Reversal of Chronic Disease: Recommendations From the Lifestyle Medicine Research Summit — Frontiers in Medicine

Lifestyle Medicine: An Alternative to Traditional Medicine — Western Pennsylvania Guide to Good Health

Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.