An Overview of Lifestyle Medicine
When they say "Prevention is better than cure," they were not lying. Of course, how else can you prevent chronic diseases by practicing a healthy lifestyle? This involves the following actions: developing good eating habits, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep every night, having a good balance of work and play, and other healthy lifestyle choices. By doing all these, you become a hundred times prone to illnesses and diseases brought upon by unhealthy decisions.
Therefore, you can say that developing a healthy lifestyle is not just a decision, it is a life-long commitment that requires one's choice and action. As you go through your day-to-day life, make a good impact on your body. Make positive and healthy changes that will reflect on your physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. By doing so, you are also promoting a better sense of self-worth and self-confidence on yourself. Not only that, but it will also allow you to lead a happier, more meaningful, and more satisfying life. Ultimately, it is a crucial factor that will help define your life's overall quality.
With these, you can conclude that lifestyle in itself is medicine and cure. This is due to the fact that positive lifestyle changes can help eliminate the risks of chronic diseases big time. However, from a scientific standpoint, there is a so-called lifestyle medicine that has been backed by several research studies and health professionals. In simpler terms, lifestyle medicine is a new approach to preventive medicine that encourages patients to focus on positive lifestyle changes to prevent, treat, or reverse the damaging effects of their current diseases.
Furthermore, lifestyle medicine encourages the act of replacing bad habits with good ones as a replacement for medications and clinical treatments to get better. As such, it gives you the opportunity to take in-charge of your own life; by not making you dependent on the doctor's prescriptions of tablets, capsules, and all sorts of medications. You get to experience the kind of treatment that allows you to heal naturally and healthily, requiring every ounce of your self-commitment to get better each day. In a way, it is a medicine that involves health promotion by making lifestyle interventions to alleviate good health outcomes.
Since lifestyle medicine is not particularly a commonly discussed program, let us talk more about it. In this article, we will talk about lifestyle medicine as a whole; what is it, who can benefit from such a program, what are its six pillars, and what a lifestyle medicine practitioner does, among many others.
WHAT IS A LIFESTYLE MEDICINE?
By definition, lifestyle medicine is an approach of evidence-based preventive medicine that treats patients by helping them recover through healthy lifestyle changes. This is done by encouraging patients to improve their daily routine in all aspects; dietary patterns, sleep adequacy, physical activity, meal plans, stress management, and other lifestyle factors that can make or break one's overall health.
As a matter of fact, the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) defines lifestyle medicine as a guiding practice that helps patients make long-lasting impacts on their health and overall well-being. After all, one of the core competencies of lifestyle medicine is to make people understand how their chosen lifestyle can affect their whole lives —for better or for worse.
To go further, lifestyle medicine helps assist individuals and families achieve a healthier lifestyle. Together with health professionals, patients will be able to adopt and sustain healthy behaviors that will help lessen the risks of lifestyle-related diseases. Starting from the way they eat, to the frequencies of their exercise regime, and even to the way they spend their leisure time—everything is taken into account in these lifestyle medicine approaches. What's more, this is a very flexible kind of treatment that lets you decide for yourself and discuss it with your lifestyle medicine specialist so that it can better suit your liking.
In the end, the goal is to make the patient get rid of his or her unhealthy ways and lead a healthier and more meaningful life. This is in the belief that the provision of primary healthcare to a patient is more than just giving prescriptions and ordering laboratory tests. More often than not, it can simply be about advising them about healthy lifestyle patterns so they may heal faster, and never get sick again any time soon.
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM LIFESTYLE MEDICINE?
Now that we have established Lifestyle Medicine as a preventive medicine approach. The next question should be, who can benefit from lifestyle medicine? Generally, everyone can undergo a lifestyle medicine program as per the doctor's recommendation or at their personal discretion.
However, people in the following categories below are the ones most recommended to take the program:
The term "obese" is used to denote a person with excessive weight and body fats according to his or her body mass index computation.
There are three classes of obesity:
• Class I obesity, with a BMI range between 30.0 to 34.9 and considered "low-risk"
• Class II obesity, with a BMI range between 35.0 to 39.9 and considered "moderate-risk"
• Class III obesity, with BMI range equal to or greater than 40.0 and considered "high-risk"
In addition to that, there is also another category below "obesity" but above the normal weight range, it is called overweight. Regardless, all of the categories mentioned are at huge risk of serious health complications such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases. They are also susceptible to posture and muscular errors such as scoliosis and arthritis.
As we all know, obesity is deeply rooted in poor dietary choices and bad eating habits. People become prone to obesity when they eat highly processed foods or foods with high levels of fat and sugar. Lack of exercise or workout routine can also be a vying factor. On top of that, some people are simply prone to obesity due to genetic makeup and other environmental factors.
This is the reason why lifestyle medicine caters to obese people. Through lifestyle medicine, people get the chance to correct their eating habits and change their meal plans by substituting junk food with a healthier food supply. This is a one-step at time process under the guidance of a lifestyle medicine specialist. Y
You may also undergo certain lifestyle medicine training where you will be given a particular meal and exercise program to incorporate into your daily routine. All of these, of course, is with medical supervision and regular consultation with your doctor.
People living a sedentary lifestyle
People living a sedentary lifestyle, as in people who barely move all throughout the day, are also fitted to undergo a lifestyle medicine program. If you go about your day with very minimal movements, except standing up and sitting down, then you are at risk of a lot of negative health complications. Some of these are as follows; elevated all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lipid disease, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure, among many others. You will also be at risk of cancer illnesses such as colon cancer and higher chances of contracting musculoskeletal diseases.
Now, it is important to note that people living a sedentary lifestyle are not necessarily obese, the same logic that not all obese people live a sedentary lifestyle. Still, living a sedentary lifestyle can lead to obesity. Hence, people under both categories are in dire need of drastic changes in terms of dietary choices and workout routines. This is where lifestyle medicine can take over and help you move past your unhealthy voices and bring your closer to health restoration.
To go further, living a sedentary lifestyle does not only bring huge health risks but can also bring out negative emotions in you. Since you are barely moving, presumably sitting or lying down in bed, you have more time to entertain your thoughts, good or bad. As a result, you become more prone to mental illnesses such as anxiety, panic disorder, and depression.
Furthermore, it can also prevent you from making positive social connections since you are not going anywhere to socialize and meet new people. All in all, living this kind of lifestyle will not only hurt you physically, but it can also drag you into other aspects such as your mental, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being.
Mental illness can affect your everyday routine and eventually, your physical health, too. This is why, "Mental health is as important as physical health," because these two go hand in hand with each other. When you are mentally unwell, you tend to self-destruct by making bad lifestyle choices. You tend to eat poorly and unhealthily, exercise less or not at all, and lose sleep over the most trivial things such as watching drama, scrolling through social media, and many more.
Hence, lifestyle medicine is necessary to help guide these people and correct their destructive means. It can include a lifestyle program including, but not limited to; a meal plan, exercise routine, leisure activity, and development of other habits conducive to mental clarity. Lifestyle medicine practitioners may also work together with a mental professional to plan a program specifically just for you.
In an attempt to raise mental health awareness, it is necessary to acknowledge that mental illnesses are not about being "crazy" or "attention-seeker." Being mentally ill means that you are sick and in need of professional care to get better. When left untreated, it will start a domino effect from your mental health to your physical well-being.
As we age, our bodies and all of our body organs age as well. This means that our bodies won't be able to function as they normally do and will deteriorate over time. This is the reason why old people become more prone to chronic diseases and other illnesses such as hearing problems, cataracts and refractive errors, osteoarthritis, endocrine disorders, and a variety of physical declines. Not only that, but old age also comes with a lot of mental health declines such as dementia, Alzheimer's disease, emotional stress, and depression.
While we cannot stop our bodies from aging, there are a few preventive measures that we can do to lessen the negative effects of these inevitable bodily changes. Starting with one's diet, doing the right exercise program, and getting healthy sleeping patterns —your body will have a fair fight against diseases brought upon by old age.
Furthermore, lifestyle medicine practitioners may also add some fun and social activities to your program for you to have something to do during your free time. This may include board games, archery, reading a book, going to a movie theater, or visiting the local senior center. Especially if you are retired from work, you may get bored very easily so having these fun options can be helpful for you.
WHAT ARE THE SIX (6) PILLARS OF LIFESTYLE MEDICINE?
According to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACFD), the following health factors listed below are the six pillars of lifestyle medicine.
Nutrition is the foundation of a healthy diet. It is also a critical part of health and development as a whole. As such, if you get the proper nutrition your body needs, all the other health factors will follow. This will result in a healthier lifestyle that will allow you to live your life happily and worry-free.
This pillar of lifestyle medicine will help you determine what to eat and how much to eat. Lifestyle medicine practitioners will also help you plan your meal schedules and help you develop good eating habits. By doing this, your immune system becomes so much stronger, protecting you from chronic diseases and other illnesses caused by poor nutrition.
To give your body a good boost, you should incorporate more fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods into your diet. You may add healthy protein such as lean meat and eggs. In the morning, you may substitute your sweetened coffee with black coffee or green tea for a healthy morning boost.
Exercise, or your daily movements, also holds a critical role in your overall health. It helps manage your weight, improves blood circulation, strengthens bones and muscles, and reduces the risks of harmful diseases. Exercise is also known to boost brain processes, give mental clarity, and produce hormones that are otherwise called "happy" hormones —putting you in a much happier and more peaceful disposition.
This is the reason why lifestyle medicine practitioners give importance to creating a healthy exercise regime as a means to improve one's overall health condition. They plan a workout routine based on the patient's lifestyle and health goals.
Stress is an inevitable part of life. It may come from work, personal relationships, or daily tasks and activities that result in a stressful process. Since it is impossible to stay away from stress at all costs, it is important to learn how to manage it and deal with it so it does not escalate to greater health problems.
Through lifestyle medicine, you will learn healthy and effective techniques for managing your stress. It may include deep breathing, setting a schedule for leisure time, or taking a break and spending it with your loved ones.
Unhealthy vices such as drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes or tobacco can pose serious health complications. They can lead to illnesses such as lung cancer, liver problems, tuberculosis, and heart disease.
This is the reason why lifestyle medicine gets involved in the patient's history of substance abuse and intervenes with it. Lifestyle medicine practitioners will help you manage your substance addiction slowly but surely. They will also give you a few healthy alternatives, especially during the process of eliminating such addiction.
The amount of sleep you get every day is another important factor that will determine your overall health condition. Sleep can affect diet, exercise, and other behavioral changes. Hence, lifestyle medicine takes the patient's amount of sleep seriously in planning their treatment program.
As such, getting adequate sleep is a vital component in strengthening your body's immune system. It also helps get rid of unpleasant emotions caused by sleep deprivation.
Building healthy relationships are beneficial for your social and emotional well-being. This is because getting the right social support is an important factor in one's overall development. This is the reason why lifestyle medicine practitioners encourage you to meet your friends or spend time with loved ones. They will also encourage you to engage in social activities such as birthdays, parties, night outs, etc.
In conclusion, lifestyle medicine is an innovative kind of treatment program that helps people get better through changes in their lifestyle patterns. As such, lifestyle medicine involves making positive changes in the patient's diet, exercise, and sleep routines. This allows the patient to heal naturally while making healthy changes to their daily activities.
At the end of the day, choosing to live healthily is a choice that not everyone has the courage to make. But the moment you do, you will feel amazing changes in your body that will allow you to live happily and peacefully.