What is Lifestyle Medicine?
It’s a new medical specialty that focuses on treating the underlying causes of health problems rather than just managing symptoms with pills and procedures, which often only mask problems and allow them to continue or worsen.
While pills and procedures are sometimes appropriate, most chronic diseases and health issues are lifestyle-related. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimates that approximately 80% of the health misery in the US is self-inflicted by just three lifestyle choices: eating the Standard American Diet (with the appropriate acronym SAD!), lack of physical activity, and smoking.
An easy way to remember these lifestyle determinants of health is:
- Fingers (whether or not we smoke, drink excessive alcohol, or use drugs)
- Forks (what we choose to eat)
- Feet (how much physical activity we engage in)
There are three other lifestyle components that have a profound effect on health, as well. They have a direct effect on our health but also impact it indirectly, by sabotaging our ability to engage in healthy Fingers, Forks, and Feet behaviors. They are:
- Sleep (length and quality)
- Stress (how much do you have and how well you handle what can’t be avoided)
- Love (quality of your relationships and whether you have something in your life that you are passionate about)
The great news about chronic disease brought on by unhealthy behaviors is that it can often be prevented, stopped, and even reversed by adopting healthier habits! That isn’t to say that all disease is preventable or fixable by optimizing lifestyle, but we have a lot more ability to do so than most of us (and most doctors) realize. The body, after all, is designed to be self-healing, as long as we stop injuring it and give it what it needs to repair itself!
Adopting a healthier lifestyle is beneficial for everyone and particularly impactful for the following conditions:
- Autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis & Lupus
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic Fatigue
- Diabetes and prediabetes
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Weight problems