Lifestyle Medicine Week 2021 Day 7

It’s the final day of Lifestyle Medicine Week 2021 and today we are looking at another lifestyle medicine pillar: harmful substances reduction / cessation.

This can be one of the hardest areas of life to make healthy lifestyle changes – yet the potential benefits are huge.

Smoking, excessive drinking and the use of recreational drugs are toxic for our bodies and can damage our physical and our mental health. They are among the chief causes of preventable deaths.

Alcohol should only be consumed (if at all) in moderation – in the UK both men and women are now advised to drink no more than 14 units per week. By drinking too much you put yourself at greater risk of chronic liver disease, some cancers and heart disease. Alcohol has also been proven to place people at greater risk of death and injury from accidents – and it can both increase the risk of violent behaviour and our chances of being the victim of violence.

Cancer is the main risk factor when it comes to smoking – with cancers of the lungs, mouth and throat the most likely among smokers. Smoking will also reduce your life expectancy, harm your immune system and put you at greater risk of heart disease.

Studies have also shown that alcohol and tobacco misuse often go hand in hand. If people have a problem with one, they are more likely to have a problem with the other.

Smoking can of course also cause harm to others – including those we live with. Those who breathe in second-hand smoke (passive smoking) run many of the same risks as smokers.

By addressing these harmful habits, we have the power to make major health improvements. Quitting means your body can begin to heal the damage caused by the misuse of these harmful substances.

Lifestyle medicine’s approach of supported behaviour change can help you to make these changes now. Lifestyle medicine practitioners work with patients to look at the key drivers and habits which are causing people to misuse substances such as alcohol, tobacco and drugs.

Treatments, interventions and referrals are all possible through the lifestyle medicine approach to healthcare.

It’s also about looking at what healthy alternatives can be put in place to replace smoking and drinking when you’ve come to the conclusion you want to cut back.

So, what are you waiting for – quit (or reduce) the bad stuff today and get ready to feel the benefits!

You’ll also feel the benefits from a mental health point of view. Quitting smoking has been shown to improve your mood, reduce stress and ease anxiety and depression.

For Lifestyle Medicine Week, BSLM director Dr Sue Smith sets out why reducing harmful substance misuse is such a crucial part of the lifestyle medicine approach …

Harmful Substances

Dr Sue Smith

You can also listen to Dr Sue Smith on our Sound Living Podcast talking about How to create healthy habits Podcast – and our worksheet Habits for Health may also assist.