What is Lifestyle Medicine & How is it Changing How We View Healthcare?
It’s an exciting time in the world of wellness.
Breakthrough therapies seem to be hitting the headlines every few years. New ways of understanding the human body are being studied faster than ever before.
Lifestyle medicine is a conversation that's quickly gaining popularity, and it’s changing how we view healthcare.
Let’s take a look to see what lifestyle medicine is all about, and whether it’s for you.
History of Healthcare
Disease and illness have been with us since almost the beginning of time. As civilizations grew and dispersed, herbs, salves, tinctures, and rituals were used to fight disease and restore health.
Throughout history, plagues and various illnesses wreaked havoc on humanity. Things began to change with the discovery of the smallpox vaccine in the 18th century — hope was birthed at the thought of being able to control and manage the spread of disease.
Over time, combining new scientific discoveries with education on hygiene, immunization, and community responsibility birthed what we know today as modern healthcare (1).
Emerging Problems in the Modern Healthcare System
Scientists have made impressive strides in learning how the body works, how to manage the disease, and ways to simplify the healthcare process.
But what worked for a while no longer seems to be working today. In fact, a growing number of concerns are surfacing for which few sustainable answers exist. Some of the issues with today’s healthcare system include:
- Rising Costs: Prescription costs, new technologies, medical professional salaries, wasteful systems, and profit-driven organizations are but some of the reasons healthcare is getting more expensive (2).
- Lack of Transparency: Patients are often unaware of how much procedures and medications cost. Finding this information can be difficult to do, leading to frustration and distrust (3).
- Preventable Medical Errors: The number of surgical, diagnostic, prescription, and device failures across the nation contribute to more than 250,000 deaths per year. Medical errors make up the third leading cause of death in the US (4).
- Shortage of Nurses or Physicians: Studies show it’s becoming harder to find good healthcare staff. Some of this is due to changing populations and limited residency programs. Another reason is the growing burnout problem (5).
- Lack of Quality: Many people don’t feel they’re getting the quality service and attention they need from their doctors. This leads to increased dissatisfaction and slows down health progress (6).
Healthcare professionals have become frustrated when it comes to addressing chronic disease. But the tides are shifting, and new therapies offer hopeful solutions. Medicine has always taken a reactive approach to disease…until now.
The dawn of preventative medicine is here, and lifestyle medicine is leading the way.
What is Lifestyle Medicine?
Lifestyle medicine is an evidence-based approach to whole-person health. Using decades of research, this medical specialty uses behavioral interventions to effectively address up to 80% of today’s chronic diseases (7), including:
- Heart disease
Redesigned to be more equitable and value-based, lifestyle medicine aims to provide:
- Better health outcomes
- Higher patient satisfaction rates
- Improved practitioner wellbeing
- Lower costs
Lifestyle medicine also uses epigenetics to better understand how lifestyle choices affect our bodies on a cellular level. Our habits and choices either encourage or discourage the risk of developing a disease or illness (8).
Pillars of Lifestyle Medicine
Lifestyle medicine understands the holistic nature of health and wellness. Not only is physical health important, but economic and planetary health matters too.
There are 6 pillars that make up the core beliefs behind lifestyle medicine (9):
- Nutrition: Nourishing your body with whole-food, plant-based foods can lower inflammation levels. It also reduces the risk of joint surgeries or other corrective procedures down the road.
- Physical Activity: Staying fit helps keep your body flexible and your spirits lifted. Gardening, walking, swimming, and other physical activity also help slow down cognitive disorders. This helps keep you sharper for longer.
- Restorative Sleep: Making quality sleep a priority helps regulate hormones in the body, detox waste, and process information. Getting 7-9 hours each night can help you feel refreshed and energized for the day ahead.
- Positive Social Connections: Healthy, active relationships are vital to emotional and mental health. Spending time with others helps challenge and affirm us in our dreams, beliefs, and perspectives. Board games, social clubs, or other common interest groups can be a great way to stay connected and meet new people.
- Stress Management: Learning to properly handle the stresses of life can help prevent you from getting sick. Studies confirm that chronic stress lowers the immune system and may even increase your chances of cognitive issues as you age.
- Avoiding Harmful Substances: Regular use of alcohol, tobacco, pain medication, or sleeping pills are recipe for disaster. While some alcohols like wine have potential health benefits, staying away from excessive consumption protects your body from inflammatory substances that cause problems down the road.
Lifestyle medicine practitioners take the time to really understand their patients’ strengths and weaknesses. This helps them prescribe a personalized protocol to help them achieve whole-body health.
For years, medical education included topics like anatomy, biology, genetics, medical microbiology, pathology, and pharmacology (10). And while this is still vital, the American Center for Preventative Medicine is advocating a revolution in medical education that includes lifestyle medicine principles.
These changes will better equip future physicians with the nights they need to provide more comprehensive treatments to their patients.
To Sum It All Up
Our health has always been integral to a happy and meaningful life. Discoveries are always being made, and it’s helped shape the way we view health for ourselves and for others.
Despite these advances, problems in the modern healthcare system are making it harder for people to enjoy good health.
Lifestyle medicine is a medical specialty that focuses on choices and habits that help reduce and prevent the onset of disease. It's a preventative approach rather than addressing illness once signs begin to show. This model is attractive to those looking to improve their health in a sustainable, economical, and holistic way.
At KaraMD, we’re passionate about seeing people enjoy optimal health. Our products offer natural solutions for pain, sleep problems, digestive issues, and more.
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author