Everything you need to know about Lifestyle Medicine?
Written by Dr Jessica Howitt MBCHB MRCGP DRCOG Dip IBLM/BSLM
GP with specialist interest in Lifestyle Medicine at One5 Health
Why do we need lifestyle medicine?
As doctors, our knowledge about health and the human body has never been better, yet people’s health is getting worse. There’s a catalogue of treatments available for every condition, but they don’t seem to be working. Rates of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and mental illness are on an upward trend, with no sign of easing. For example; 3.4 million people die each year as a result of high blood sugar levels, and the World Health Organisation predicts deaths from diabetes will double between 2005 and 2030. In England, 31% of men and 26% of women have high blood pressure, and globally it’s predicted that 1.5 billion people will have high blood pressure by 2025. These diseases not only reduce quality of life, but also cause people to die prematurely.
So, why is it that our health is getting worse, when the treatments available are getting better? Well, chronic diseases are complex. They are often caused by a combination of lifestyle factors which build up over years, for example, an unhealthy diet or physical inactivity.
Treatments, like medication, can certainly help, but it’s hard to effectively treat (or even better- reverse) a disease, without firstly looking at what caused it in the first place. To truly improve health, you need to look for the root cause of a problem. Only when you do that, will you see a lasting improvement in health and wellbeing, which is where Lifestyle Medicine comes in.
What is Lifestyle Medicine?
In Lifestyle Medicine, we use scientific, evidenced- based lifestyle changes to help prevent disease, treat existing chronic diseases and improve overall health.
We focus on 6 core pillars of health:
Physical activity and exercise
Diet and nutrition
Stress reduction and mental health
Harmful substance reduction or cessation, for example, tobacco, drugs and alcohol
Who would benefit from Lifestyle Medicine?
Lifestyle Medicine is for everyone, here’s some examples of how it can be used:
1. To reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases and certain types of cancer
By taking a deep-dive into your medical history and lifestyle, a lifestyle medicine doctor can identify habits and risk factors which may increase your risk of developing certain diseases. Once these are identified, lifestyle changes can be recommended to put you back on track and prevent health problems in the future.
2. To improve or reverse existing chronic diseases.
Did you know that it is possible to completely reverse, or improve your chronic disease through lifestyle changes? It’s true! Studies show that diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, can be completely reversed through lifestyle interventions. Using lifestyle medicine, specific lifestyle interventions can be prescribed to help improve your disease.