What is Lifestyle Medicine?
Everything you want to know
Lifestyle Medicine is a branch of medicine that focuses on preventing, assessing, and managing lifestyle-related diseases and conditions by addressing their underlying causes. It incorporates evidence-based medical approaches to promote healthy habits based on six pillars:
- physical activity
- nutritious eating
- stress reduction
- reduction of risky substances
- restorative sleep
- community and social connections
Evidence-based approach to health fundamentals.
Lifestyle Medicine has become an increasingly popular choice for people looking to improve their overall health and well-being by emphasizing preventive measures for well-being rather than solely relying on medications and surgeries.
We will explore the principles of Lifestyle Medicine, its potential benefits, and how it can be used to promote optimal health.
Six pillars of health in lifestyle medicine
Regular physical activity is essential for overall health and well-being and plays a vital role in preventing chronic diseases. Physical activity includes any form of movement that uses large muscle groups and elevates your heart rate. Physical activity doesn’t have to be formal exercise. Physical activity is any activity that gets you up and moving.
National guidelines for physical activity include 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week. A suitable method of measuring intensity is the “talk test.” Moderate to vigorous activity is an intensity that allows you not to sing.
The foods we eat can significantly impact our health and well-being, so it is essential to ensure we are getting the right balance of nutrients from various healthy sources.
A balanced diet that focuses on a whole-food, plant-based diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Eating for enjoyment and nourishment can help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, improve energy levels, improve mental health and support overall health.
The effects of stress on our physical and mental health can be profound. Therefore, learning how to manage stress is essential to maintain sound health effects. Stress management techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, meditation, journaling, and mindfulness can help reduce stress levels.
Programs such as the SMART Program developed at the Benson-Henry Mind Body Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medicine School focus on identifying common causes of stress and implementing lasting changes to improve well-being.
Sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and helps to regulate our hormones, metabolism, brain function, and mood. Getting adequate restorative sleep can help to reduce stress levels, improve mental clarity, boost immunity and enhance overall health.
Creating a nightly routine that focuses on winding down for the day before bedtime is essential to getting enough restful sleep.
Here are a few tips for a good night’s sleep:
• keep a consistent sleep schedule
• avoid screen time before bed
• limit caffeine intake
• create a calming sleep environment
Regular bedtimes and wake-up times are also crucial for establishing healthy sleep patterns.
Reduction of Risky Substances
The use of certain substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs can have a significant impact on our health. Therefore, understanding the risks associated with these substances and taking steps to reduce exposure to maintain good health is essential.
Humans are social creatures, and connecting with others is essential to good health. Developing positive relationships helps us to feel supported, build resilience, and reduce stress.
Finding ways to stay connected with others can help to improve mental health and well-being.
- Attend community events
- Volunteer with local organizations
- Join a faith-based group or club
- Reach out to family and friends
- Participate in clubs and community centers
Lifestyle Medicine professionals have an advanced degree in a health-related field, such as medicine, public health, or nutrition.
Many also hold additional certifications in areas like exercise physiology and integrative medicine.
Doctors practicing Lifestyle Medicine are trained to identify lifestyle risk factors contributing to a patient’s poor health outcomes and then work with them to develop strategies for promoting healthy habits.
Lifestyle Medicine Physicians have the designation DipABLM, and other clinical professionals with different doctorate level or masters level clinicians such as Ph.D., DC, DDS, RD, and MSW have the identification DipACLM.
Additional coursework and a rigorous board exam administered by the Lifestyle Medicine Board of Examiners are required for a clinician to receive their Diplomate.
Lifestyle Medicine Assessment
Lifestyle Medicine practitioners typically begin by assessing the patient’s lifestyle and current health status through a thorough history and physical exam. They may also order laboratory tests, imaging, or other diagnostic studies.
This assessment identifies lifestyle behaviors that put the patient at risk of developing chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.
Lifestyle Medicine Intervention
Once the assessment is complete, the clinician will work with the patient to develop an individualized plan for improving their lifestyle habits. This may include recommendations on nutrition, physical activity, sleep hygiene, stress management, and smoking cessation.
Working with a team of professionals is indicative of a lifestyle medicine approach. For example, health coaches, exercise physiologists, and dietitians are part of a lifestyle medicine team. Working with specialists improves outcomes of success.
Addressing chronic disease
Lifestyle Medicine is an effective way to address chronic diseases and their underlying causes. By making lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthier diet or increasing physical activity, patients can reduce risk factors for developing chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
These changes may also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improving overall health. Additionally, lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.
Lifestyle Medicine is a holistic approach to health and wellness that emphasizes preventive measures over treatments and medications. It is an evidence-based approach to healthy living that addresses the root causes of chronic diseases and promotes healthy habits through education, assessment, and intervention.
Small steps can help to create long-term lifestyle changes, leading to improved health and well-being. Working with a healthcare provider trained in Lifestyle Medicine can help increase the chances of success.