Health is the most important thing a person can have, but in today’s convenience-based world, it can also be one of the easiest things to take for granted. Modern society has the majority of the American population moving less due to sedentary work, eating more processed foods that lead to inflammation and chronic disease, and dealing with unprecedented levels of stress and mental health issues.
Traditional forms of medicine tackle these issues with treatments after the fact. Traditional medicine treats rather than prevents, and often hopes for the best in cases of serious illness. But lifestyle medicine is a different form of health care altogether, and its big goal is to prevent health problems entirely before they come to fruition.
Lifestyle medicine is a form of health care that operates under the umbrella of a few different processes. The first part of lifestyle medicine revolves around diet. The diet of the typical American citizen is full of processed foods that offer little to no nutritional value, and often contains high levels of sugar, carbs, and salt. Lifestyle medicine aims to change this into a wholefood, plant-predominant diet so that the body is being fueled with nothing but what it needs.
Lifestyle medicine also has a heavy focus on regular exercise routines that ensure people are moving as much as they should be. Another big focus area is sleep and stress. Since busy schedules and high-stress lives are commonplace for Americans, lifestyle medicine encourages stress management and restorative sleep as a key component in the way people take care of themselves.
Finally, lifestyle medicine also aims to have people establish positive social connections within their community while avoiding harmful substances.
As mentioned, traditional medicine does not usually take a proactive approach to one’s health. Certain measures that could be considered traditional do act as preventative measures, such as cancer screenings and the encouragement of healthy lifestyle, but they tend to fall on the second tier of health care.
Lifestyle medicine is the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Its entire goal is to create a healthy population not through advancement of medications or other technologies that can help treat disease, but through the elimination, reversal, or prevention of disease altogether. Since many chronic diseases can be prevented, lifestyle medicine aims to arm the population with the knowledge they need to avoid getting sick in the first place.
There are 6 pillars of lifestyle medicine, all of which play a specific role in the prevention of disease and in the attempt to sustain healthy living well into old age. They are:
By choosing a diet that is full of nutrients the body needs to function at its best, a person can avoid certain health conditions that can be brought on by nutritional imbalances.
Many jobs and lifestyles involve people sitting at their desk or on the couch for long hours. This level of sedentary living is not healthy for any individual. If a person is not exercising adequately, it can lead to many health issues.
Stress can put a huge burden on bodily processes and lead to a wide variety of different health conditions, such as cognitive disfunction and psychiatric disorders. Stress management is a key part of lifestyle medicine because dealing with stress properly can help lower the risk for these conditions.
The brain needs to sleep to help the brain process the events of the day and the body repair itself. When a person doesn’t get adequate sleep, it can lead to a decline in overall levels of wellness, including cardiovascular health and immune function. Lifestyle medicine aims to improve sleep to avoid these complications.
As much as lifestyle medicine is about giving your body what it needs, it is also about avoiding what it doesn’t need. Things such as alcohol and drug use should be avoided to help prevent disease in the future.
People need others to help them get through life, and research has shown that healthy relationships have a direct impact on overall levels of wellness.
When used in conjunction with one another, these six pillars of lifestyle medicine can lead to optimal health and a lowered risk for developing chronic health issues in the future.
Any medically licensed doctor can practice lifestyle medicine, but that doesn’t mean all of them are properly equipped to do so. A true lifestyle medicine doctor is well versed in the areas of health coaching and nutrition, and takes the time to understand a patient’s personal situation in order to address all the things that may be contributing to the onset of chronic disease.
Studies suggest that five out of the seven major causes of death in the United States can be attributed to lifestyle-related diseases. Lifestyle medicine doctors are there to help lower those statistics through the use of different techniques and coaching practices, as well as collaboration with other health care professionals and their patients.
Lifestyle medicine holds many benefits, the most obvious being a better level of overall and optimal health. Taking care of oneself using the six pillars of lifestyle medicine can lead to an increased lifespan and a better quality of life.