The information presented in this post is up-to-date as of the date of publication: 21st October 2020
“The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” – Thomas Edison
Once upon a time, our concept of health was simple. Take medicines when you fall sick; for some diseases throughout your life. This was the wisdom of the age and pretty much what we all believed. Over time, however, the concepts regarding health changed to include an approach that might seem like common sense but was anything but common. This is the story of those changes, this is the story of Lifestyle Medicine.
We all would agree that we want to live a life full of energy, vigor, positivity, and peace. However, many of us suffer from chronic diseases that stop us from achieving these goals, and the occurrence of these diseases increases as we age.
What if there was a key to unlock the door to a richer, more fulfilling life, and we all had access to it?
That key, my friends, is lifestyle medicine.
What is lifestyle medicine?
Lifestyle medicine is one of the relatively new branches of medicine. The American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) was the first professional medical society for physicians and other professionals dedicated to clinical and worksite practice of Lifestyle Medicine, founded in 2004. We do not have any such organization yet in India.
Lifestyle medicine is an evidence-based medical specialty that uses lifestyle therapeutic approaches to prevent, treat, or modify non-communicable chronic disease—the disease area that accounts for 71% of deaths worldwide.
This disease area includes heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and other lifestyle related diseases.
LSM is one of the fastest growing fields of medicine and holds the promise for a true revolution in healthcare, as it addresses the root-causes of chronic illness.
An enormous body of evidence supports the effectiveness of lifestyle interventions in lowering the risk of developing chronic disease, as well as for assisting in the management of existing disease.
Make no mistake, LSM is not the new child on the block, or an alternative medical discipline. The fact that lifestyle is closely associated with chronic diseases, has been known for decades. However, in recent times, rising rates of chronic illnesses despite newer and newer drugs flooding the market, has pushed the medical community to recognize the significance of this field and to make it mainstream.
What impact does lifestyle have on health?
Studies have shown that up to 80% of lifestyle-related diseases could be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Even more, healthy behaviors can reverse some of the pathologic effects in patients with established disease. We will have more details in a forthcoming post.
Key attributes of lifestyle medicine
As a clinician, LSM involves providing patient-focused prescriptions, and coaching patients, on the following key principles:
Personalized lifestyle medicine goes a step ahead. In personalized LSM, we develop patient specific prescriptions based on his or her risk profile, laboratory markers, age, preferences, stage of disease, medical and family history, nutrient deficiencies etc. For e.g., dietary prescription for an obese but metabolically healthy patient will differ from a prescription for an obese patient who is also an established diabetic.
“One size fits all” approach doesn’t apply in LSM, as this science is patient-focused and the patient actively participates in the program. The LSM physician and the patient are partners in the patient’s journey towards health.
How do lifestyle and conventional medicine differ?
Conventional medicine focuses on the care of sick people, the target is to manage the symptoms of the disease. While this is important to avoid complications of chronic lifestyle diseases, it leaves one question unanswered, how do we address the root cause of the disease?
This crucial gap is filled by Lifestyle Medicine. It focuses on understanding the root cause of illness, which is likely to be related to suboptimal lifestyle habits. Treating illness at this level allows for true healing.
I can see that this can confuse a lot of people. Should they go for lifestyle modifications after being diagnosed with a chronic disease, or medication, or both? What role does each modality have in our disease management? We will be exploring these in coming posts as well.
Where do you begin?
Studies have clearly shown that structured programs have shown significant positive results in reducing the risk factors, as well as reversing the diseases. We at Art of Health follow a structured and personalized approach towards preventing and treating chronic diseases.
You will be scheduled for an initial consultation with us. During your first visit, you will receive a thorough evaluation. Based on this evaluation, we will then develop a detailed plan that includes realistic goals, actions and timing for making key lifestyle changes and achieving results.
Follow-up visits will be scheduled to assess progress, problem-solve and set new goals. The consultations will be anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour, with initial sessions taking up more time. It will also depend on your key problem areas, for e.g., if you have chronic stress/anxiety, longer sessions maybe required to investigate the cause and for appropriate counselling. While this may sound like a very long consultation visit, it is essential that we take the time to fully understand and communicate the details of every part of your therapy (which goes beyond pills).
We would ask you to meet with us every two to eight weeks for a few months, based on your initial health levels and the plan, and your progress; this is part of our commitment to your fitness and will help you keep the motivation in your journey towards health and fitness.
A healthy future awaits you, what are you waiting for?