Lifestyle medicine is the clinical diagnosis of healthy behaviours to disease prevention, treatment, and reversal. More than ever, research shows that the six domains of lifestyle medicine should be the pills that today’s physicians prescribe lifestyle medicine for patients.
The primary care preventive medicine physician and a computational immunologist are committed to using cutting-edge research to inform lifestyle medicine clinical practice. The key takeaways for each of the areas are highlighted below.
Whole food plant-based eating
Diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in animal products and highly processed foods have been linked to disease prevention. These diets have also improved health and reverse
- Common hormonal
- Auto-immune diseases and 35% of all cancers
Lifestyle medicine in future research should include larger trials or new research methods that place a focus on diet quality. More information on the micronutrient composition and protein sources of plant-based foods versus animal-based foods, not just the proportion of fat, carbohydrates, and protein, would be included.
Addiction reduction or elimination
Many social, economic, and environmental factors have contributed to the national increase in substance abuse in general and, tragically, the opioid epidemic. Physicians and researchers are learning more about the physiology and psychology of addiction.
Clinicians and scientists must investigate how to predict who is more vulnerable to addiction and prevent it. Lifestyle treatment that includes integrated care that addresses all of the patient’s needs should be prioritized.
Regular physical activity
For decades, surgeon generals’ guidelines have emphasized the importance of daily moderate-to-vigorous aerobic physical activity for both short- and long-term health benefits. Scientists are now learning more about the cellular and molecular changes that exercise causes to reduce disease risk.
Priorities for scientists and physicians in lifestyle medicine research include understanding the type, intensity, and frequency of activity and better insights into the molecular and cellular changes that occur during exercise.
Sleep improves the function of cells, organs, and the entire body. A minimum of seven hours of uninterrupted sleep per night for adults, eight to ten hours for teenagers, and ten or more hours for children is required for good health. Despite limited research, there is evidence that adequate sleep can
- Reduce inflammation
- Immune dysfunction
- Oxidative stress
- DNA epigenetic modification
All of which are associated with or cause chronic disease. As a result, the biological mechanisms underlying sleep’s restorative properties could lead to environmental or population-based approaches that align our natural sleep patterns with the demands of daily life.
While some stress is beneficial, prolonged or extreme stress can be overwhelming to the brain and body. Chronic stress raises the risk of
- Heart disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Auto-immune diseases
- Cardiovascular disease
- Neurological disorders
Using mind-body therapies and cognitive behavioural therapy to elicit a relaxation response is one of the most powerful mechanisms for reducing stress and increasing resilience.
Positive psychology and social connection
Maintaining a positive mindset through gratitude and forgiveness has a significant impact on psychological and subjective well-being, linked to physical health benefits. Perhaps the most powerful health benefits come from social connectivity, specifically the quantity and quality of our relationships.
Living alone, having a small social network, participating in few social activities, and feeling lonely, on the other hand, is associated with
- Increased mortality
- Lower immune system
- Cognitive decline
The use of lifestyle medicine prescriptions is especially important now because unhealthy lifestyles have resulted in preventable chronic diseases. Thus, lifestyle medicine is an evidence-based approach to disease prevention, treatment, and even reversal that replaces negative, unhealthy behaviours with positive, healthy ones. So, follow the lifestyle medicine mentioned above for longer life.
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