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Fitness & Wellness

What Is Lifestyle Medicine?

You know the drill. You go to the doctor, he or she finds you have a condition or disease and the string of prescription drugs start. Those drugs help manage the symptoms. Often, you’re stuck with a lifetime of prescriptions and even prescription changes for the rest of your life. It’s a program of managing the disease and treating the symptoms. What if you could eliminate the drugs and get rid of the disease entirely? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? That’s what lifestyle medicine is all about. It’s finding the root cause, often relating directly to your lifestyle, and helping you make the changes necessary to be disease-free.

Lifestyle medicine is used to supplement traditional medicine.

Doctors who use this philosophy of medicine don’t replace traditional treatments with lifestyle changes but use those changes to supplement the treatment. It involves six key changes. The first is a primarily plant-based diet. The second change is increasing physical activity. The third lifestyle change is stress management with the fourth being adequate sleep. Avoiding toxic substances and risky behavior and cultivating social connections are the next two steps lifestyle medicine focus.

All the steps are important, but the first step makes the biggest difference for most people.

Obesity is the leading cause of preventable deaths. Whether you’re just overweight or obese, it plays a big role in your overall health. It can cause increased blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. To eliminate obesity, it takes a lifestyle change to make a difference. That means changing your diet and increasing the amount of exercise you get each day. What you eat is the key to lifestyle medicine. No matter how much you exercise, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. The food you eat can cause other problems, besides weight gain. You need the right body building nutrients to create a healthy body that can protect itself from illness or chronic conditions.

Exercise and other lifestyle changes are also important.

While your healthcare provider may initially suggest a change of diet, eventually, he or she will add those other changes to the list. Exercise, a healthy sleep pattern and managing stress all play a role in weight control. Exercise not only helps you burn calories, but it also helps eliminate stress, improve your circulation and extend telomeres that protect the body. Adequate sleep is heart healthy and also helps keep the hunger/satiety hormones balanced, so you don’t overeat. Stress can lead to depression, lack of exercise and even stress eating. It can also lead to using toxic substances to bury the stressful feelings.

  • Changing your lifestyle means cultivating new habits. It takes more than one healthy meal or trip to the gym. It’s a one-step-at-a-time consistent daily change that brings about an overall improvement in health.
  • Lifestyle medicine isn’t meant to replace traditional medicine but complement it. Talk to your doctor about making these changes for improved health. Most physicians don’t have the background to create a specific diet and exercise plan but will be happy to work with specialists in that area.
  • If your habits caused you to gain weight, which lead to insulin resistance and diabetes or high blood pressure, losing the weight is important. However, to do that successfully, you have to change your habits.
  • Lifestyle medicine uses a holistic approach. It’s not only about managing chronic disease, but also promoting health and preventing disease. Even healthy people benefit from lifestyle medicine.

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