What is lifestyle medicine?

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
  • Sleep
  • 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

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.