Non-communicable disease affects the lives of millions of people around the world.
Chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, respiratory and musculoskeletal conditions and mental health issues are the result of complex lifestyle factors. They have physical, emotional, environmental and social determinants.
Improve Health and Well-being
Current approaches to medicine and healthcare offer inadequate solutions to the problems we face.
Lifestyle medicine seeks to address these issues to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals and societies. It offers healthcare professionals and patients new hope that these conditions can be prevented, reversed and better managed.
Lifestyle medicine is not a panacea for all the health challenges faced by humanity – however for specific, lifestyle related-conditions it must be part of the solution.
Lifestyle medicine’s focus is on the person in front of us and their lifestyle including:
- Physical activity and exercise
- Diet and nutrition
- Stress reduction and mental health
- Harmful substance reduction or cessation, eg tobacco, drugs and alcohol
- Healthy relationships
At the societal level, lifestyle medicine also emphasises the importance of broader factors impacting on individuals’ health and well-being including:
- Environment and ecological health
- Poverty and health inequality
- Social isolation
- Loss of culture and identity
The Pillars of Lifestyle Medicine
Lifestyle medicine teaches proven techniques to reduce stress and help people with relaxation. Practitioners support people to find purpose in life and improve health through connection with nature.
Lifestyle medicine supports people to develop and sustain healthy and meaningful relationships and increase social connection to reduce stress and promote both physical and mental health.
Lifestyle Medicine supports people to reduce consumption of ultra-processed foods by teaching the knowledge and skills required to follow healthier eating patterns of people’s own choosing. These eating patterns may include Mediterranean, plant-based or lower carbohydrate diets, as well as other evidence-based eating patterns.
Lifestyle Medicine supports people to choose ways they could incorporate more physical activity in their lives, as well as reducing time spent sitting down.
Lifestyle Medicine supports people to achieve good quality sleep and avoid behaviours which can impair sleep quality.
Minimising harmful substances or behaviour
Lifestyle Medicine supports people to stop smoking, reduce excessive alcohol consumption, avoid addictive substances and behaviors such as gambling or harmfully excessive internet or social media use. It also raises awareness of avoidable environmental toxins and the risks associated with polypharmacy.
A multidisciplinary multi-system approach
To be an effective antidote to the chronic disease problem, lifestyle medicine requires a multidisciplinary multi-system approach – which embraces and works alongside other approaches such as self care, self management, social prescribing and group consultations. It requires clinicians, public health professionals, researchers, scientists and educators working together to affect change.
The principles of lifestyle medicine must be applied not only at the clinical practice level, but must also encompass public health policy and prevention. Healthcare professionals, individuals and governments and policy makers must play their part.
Supporting individuals to make positive changes
The lifestyle medicine approach seeks to support individuals to make positive behaviour changes. It is not about blaming or lecturing people.
It recognises the need for, and the continued importance of, other therapeutic interventions in healthcare including surgical and pharmaceutical where these are determined to be necessary, appropriate and effective. Where it has the proven potential to have the most impact, however, lifestyle medicine simply needs to be a greater part of the healthcare mix.
A Global Movement for Change
Lifestyle medicine is a mainstream, global movement for change. In the last decade, lifestyle medicine societies and colleges have been founded across the world. Why not become part of this movement … join the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine today.