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All About Lifestyle Medicine

The world of medicine is evolving and the way we think about disease prevention and treatment has dramatically changed. The idea of popping a pill to prevent or cure diseases is being replaced by lifestyle medicine, which has a more holistic and proactive process.

While conventional medicine has been shown to be effective for treating medical conditions, lifestyle medicine is another approach that focuses on preventing illnesses before they even happen through evidence-based interventions.

Lifestyle medicine offers a solution to the current health care situation in the United States and the entire world. According to a 2020 report from The Lancet Public Health, more than 25% of the total health care spending in the United States is associated with the treatment of conditions such as high body mass index (BMI), bad eating habits, high blood pressure, and smoking, which are all linked to poor lifestyle choices.

The World Health Organization also estimates that almost 80% of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke, and 40% of different types of cancer could have been prevented with significant improvements to unhealthy lifestyle and poor diet.

Since lifestyle medicine targets the root causes of the most common chronic conditions, it can help prevent, treat, and even reverse these illnesses with professional guidance from a lifestyle doctor. At Beltline Health, our entire team is dedicated to helping you take control of your life by identifying necessary healthy lifestyle, dietary patterns, and behavioral changes that can prevent and resolve weight-related health conditions.

In this post, we will explore what lifestyle medicine is, its six pillars that encompass healthy living, and how these lifestyle factors can lead the way to living your best life.

What is Lifestyle Medicine?

At its core, lifestyle medicine is one of the latest medical approaches in treating common diseases through the use of evidence-based lifestyle interventions. It is considered the foundation of traditional medicine because it focuses on what people can do to change their behaviors in order to tackle the root causes of lifestyle-related diseases.

As you will see later in this post, lifestyle medicine targets several key areas of your life where you can make small positive changes and build healthy habits, leading to numerous health benefits. Instead of managing your health with medications alone, specific lifestyle and behavior changes may significantly help lower your chances of acquiring the most common yet preventable medical conditions and diseases.

Six Pillars of Lifestyle Medicine

Food and Nutrition

Incorporating more nutrient-dense plant foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts and seeds into your diet can help your body function more efficiently. To put it simply, food is medicine, but only the right kinds. As much as you can, try to avoid or limit animal products, added fats and oils, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods.

There is enough evidence that eating a plant based diet lowers your risk of having obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. However, many people do not have easy access to healthy foods due to financial limitations or location issues where food options are severely limited or are highly dominated by fast food or junk foods. It puts them at risk of becoming overweight or obese, which then increases their chances of acquiring type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other weight-related conditions.

Physical Activity

Aside from the physical benefits of regular exercise, it can also reduce your risk of having chronic diseases while protecting your memory, focus, and critical thinking skills.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week for adults. This could be 30 minutes a day of walking, biking, or yoga for 5 days a week. You can also choose to do 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity activities like jogging, running, or hiking.

For some who don’t have the luxury of time to squeeze in short workouts on their schedule, it’s highly suggested to incorporate physical activities into your daily routine instead. It could be taking the stairs, walking or biking to nearby places, or simply standing up and moving around every 30 minutes or so.

Stress Management

Chronic stress can have a detrimental effect on your health. It elevates levels of adrenaline and cortisol, which can cause increased heart rate, blood pressure, and decreased ability to perform everyday tasks. It also leads to poor and insufficient sleep that affects our physical, emotional, and mental functioning.

The best way to combat stress is to develop your own coping mechanisms and relaxation activities such as listening to music, practicing yoga, reading a book, or doing simple breathing exercises. When you start to feel overwhelmed, just step back, take a few deep breaths, do something you love, and find your ground again.

Better Sleep

If you have been feeling tired lately, it’s probably because of poor sleep. A good night’s sleep is crucial for helping your body repair itself and function properly for the next day.

When you don’t get enough rest and sleep at night, your body’s internal systems fail to naturally renew and repair cells, which may cause you to feel more tired, moody, and inattentive. Insufficient sleep is also associated with developing chronic diseases and conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression.

Here are some of the easiest ways that can help you achieve 7 to 8 hours of sleep every day:

  • follow a regular sleep schedule
  • avoid irregular or long naps close to bedtime
  • establish a relaxing bedtime routine
  • avoid large meals at night
  • set up a comfortable sleep environment
  • reduce screen time before bedtime
  • limit caffeine and alcohol consumption late in the day

Substance Abuse

When you use alcohol, tobacco, prescription medicine, and other legal or illegal drugs too much or in the wrong way, it can quickly start to affect your physical and psychological health, leading to serious short- and long-term outcomes that may be irreversible and life-threatening. This may include asthma, cancers, heart disease, kidney failure, and brain seizures.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), over 19 million adults in the United States had a substance abuse disorder in 2019. The misuse of these substances can also affect your work and social life as you may act, feel, and think differently, causing you to struggle in controlling your thoughts and actions. With professional help and guidance, lifestyle medicine may be able to support positive behavior changes to help make recovery a lifelong reality.

Healthy Relationships

Building good relationships is an essential part of life and it benefits us in so many ways. It can potentially reduce stress, improve sleep, and enhance your overall mood, which can help boost immunity and fight illnesses.

Recent studies show that social isolation and loneliness are associated with increased risk of depression, anxiety, dementia, heart disease, stroke, and premature death from all causes. Lifestyle medicine encourages you to form high-quality and cooperative social relationships to have higher self-esteem, greater satisfaction, and a better quality of life.

Through healthy eating, regular physical activity, proper stress management, adequate sleep, avoiding substance abuse, and establishing a strong support system, lifestyle medicine allows your body to protect, heal, and nourish itself to enhance your health and well-being.

Our team of experienced health professionals at Beltline Health has helped hundreds of overweight and obese patients implement the necessary lifestyle and behavior changes to make the most out of their day-to-day lives. We offer helpful resources and personalized programs such as lifestyle assessment, nutritional counseling, psychological evaluation, exercise physiologists, and support groups to guide our patients down the path towards healthier living.

To learn more about our lifestyle medicine program, visit our website, schedule an appointment, or call us at (470) 419-4380.

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