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Prescribing Behavioral Changes: Lifestyle Medicine

1 month, 1 week ago

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Posted on Jun 04, 2024, 5 p.m.

Rather than treating the symptoms of the disease, some doctors treat for health to target the root causes of the disease. When doctors treat for health rather than disease, it is sometimes called lifestyle medicine, and this is a specialty within the field of modern medicine.

Lifestyle medicine uses therapeutic lifestyle interventions as a primary modality to treat chronic conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Certified clinicians are trained to apply evidence-based, whole-person approaches to treat patients, and when used intensively this often leads to reversal of such conditions.

For over three decades the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) and its affiliates have been promoting a holistic anti-aging lifestyle, to extend healthy aging and longevity. This involves adopting healthful behavioral changes such as shifting to a whole-food primarily plant-based eating pattern, keeping the body moving with regular physical activity, achieving healthy sleep hygiene, keeping levels of stress in check, having a positive mindset, nurturing social bonds, and avoiding unhealthy substances. In the medical industry, therapeutic lifestyle interventions such as these have become known as the six pillars of lifestyle medicine

Evidence-based lifestyle medicine

Nutrition

A literal mountain of evidence supports following a whole-food primarily plant-based eating pattern to help prevent chronic disease, treat chronic conditions, lower body weight, decrease the risk of cancer, improve heart health, support brain health, and extend healthspan.  

Plant-based diets are generally budget-friendly, improve gut health, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol levels, as well as reduce the risk of hypertension, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and many cancers. 

Keeping the body moving

Keeping our bodies moving with regular physical activity to offset the negative effects of the modern sedentary lifestyle is essential to optimal health and lifespan. Physical activity can help you sleep better, combat fatigue, improve your mood, support cognitive function, extend healthspan, and reduce levels of stress and anxiety.

There is no lack of evidence supporting the many benefits of regular activity such as maintaining a healthy weight, lowering blood pressure, strengthening muscles and bones, improving balance and flexibility, and increasing lung capacity. Regular physical activity also helps to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, while improving mental health, quality of life, and overall well-being.

While we are exercising our body, don’t forget to exercise the brain as well. Our brain loves being challenged and tackling new tasks whether that be taking a new route to work, learning a new language or skill, painting, or doing a crossword puzzle. This improves our cognitive fitness and boosts our cognitive reserves. 

Stress and anxiety

Modern society seems to be full of situations that can cause havoc with our mental health. Stress and anxiety can lead to impaired health and productivity, depression, obesity, sleep disruptions, immune dysfunction, and other adverse consequences. 

Effective stress and anxiety management techniques can have many positive benefits for our mental and physical well-being such as improved sleep, better moods, and improved relationships. 

Keeping our levels of stress and anxiety in check can promote enhanced cognitive function which promotes clarity and focus. Developing healthy coping mechanisms also helps to reduce the risk of chronic diseases that can negatively impact our immune health and helps to reduce blood pressure, improve digestive upset, improve libido, enhance resilience, control weight, and foster greater job satisfaction. 

Sleep hygiene 

Most people underestimate how important sleep is to our overall health and well-being. Getting enough sleep helps us to think more clearly, improves moods, and reduces levels of stress and anxiety. Getting enough sleep helps to promote both brain and heart health, supports weight management, supports our immune system, and promotes growth.

When we get enough sleep it increases our attention span, boosts memory and learning, we think more clearly, and reduces inflammation as well as decreases the risk of injury. 

Positive mindset and nurturing social bonds 

Fostering a positive mindset and nurturing social bonds affects our emotional, mental, and physical health. This, in turn, helps to support brain health leading to a better quality of life. While they may not seem overly important, they also support a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, more creative thinking, increased confidence, increased productivity, better coping skills, increased resiliency, improved overall health, and a longer lifespan. 

Evidence indicates that they may help to reduce stress, depression, loneliness, isolation, heart-related conditions such as heart rate and blood pressure, as well as the risk of early death. 

When you have a positive mindset and nurture social bonds a sense of belonging evolves, along with feelings of security, self-worth, and a sense of clarity that are connected with a long and happy life. 

Avoiding unhealthy substances

Tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, and ultra-processed foods increase the risks of chronic diseases and early death. After removing these substances from our lives, the immune system becomes stronger, and our cardiovascular system becomes healthier, increasing our health and lifespans.

Our mental health and physical health improve as our sleep, attention, focus, and stress levels improve. The risk for certain cancers decreases, as does the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, type 2 diabetes, respiratory disease, and death. 

The benefits of avoiding these substances are not restricted just to our health either. There are also clear financial and social benefits. Health care costs decrease as will health insurance premiums, you will have more social freedom to places you can go, and you could save the money you would have otherwise spent to go on a lovely vacation. 

Have you ever thought about making a few lifestyle changes but gave up on the idea thinking that it won’t help or it’s too late? You shouldn’t let such thoughts stop you, adopting healthful habits can have many rewards such as keeping you healthy and slowing down the aging process on the inside and out. It’s never too late, simple healthful lifestyle changes can make a difference. 

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

Content may be edited for style and length.

References/Sources/Materials provided by:

T.W. at WHN

The Impact of the Six Pillars of Lifestyle Medicine- PMC (nih.gov)

https://www.a4m.com/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288/#:~:text=We%20present%20a%20case%20study,%2C%20cardiovascular%20disease%2C%20or%20obesity.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288/#:~:text=The%20major%20benefits%20for%20patients,death%20from%20ischemic%20heart%20disease.

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity

https://www.cdc.gov/physical-activity-basics/benefits/index.html

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-health-benefits/

https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/health-conditions/heart-health/manage-stress

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-power-of-positive-thinking

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9950020/

https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/prevention

https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/special-topic/benefits-of-quitting-tobacco#:~:text=Within%201%20year%20of%20quitting,that%20of%20a%20non%2Dsmoker.

https://www.worldhealth.net/news/its-never-too-late-simple-healthful-lifestyle-changes-can-make-difference/

https://www.worldhealth.net/news/brain-training-it-really-use-it-or-lose-it/

https://www.worldhealth.net/news/cognitive-fitness-exercising-your-brain/

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