WHAT IS LIFESTYLE MEDICINE ?
Lifestyle medicine strives to optimize physical and mental health through seven lifestyle pillars: nutrition, sleep, fitness, stress management, social relationships, passion and purpose, and cognitive enhancement. Rather than just treating symptoms, lifestyle medicine uses evidence-based principles to develop preventive measures and address the underlying cause of disease. The ultimate goal is to increase longevity and improve quality of life for people of all ages and backgrounds.
WHY WE NEED LIFESTYLE MEDICINE
In 2020, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed a considerable decline in human longevity in the United States. Life expectancy decreased from 78.8 to 77.0 between 2019 and 2020 – exceeding the average change in life expectancy in other high-income countries. This is likely a result of a the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the continued increases in chronic disease. US life expectancy is predicted to have declined to 76.6 in the year 2021, which would indicate a net loss of 2.2 years from the year 2019. The growing decline in longevity in the US highlights the importance of preventing chronic disease and maintaining a healthy immune system.
According to the World Health Organization, 80% of all heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes as well as 40% of all cancer diagnoses are preventable with proper risk-factor management via lifestyle interventions. Additionally, the underlying cause of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety may be rooted in lifestyle patterns. Research studies have shown that participants completing a multimodal lifestyle intervention can experience 20% improvement in overall mental health and 30% reduction in depressive symptoms, anxiety, and stress. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association has also revealed a lower risk of dementia in participants with a favorable lifestyle, emphasizing the beneficial impact of healthy lifestyle habits on cognitive function.
Every decade, the US Department of Health and Human Services launches a federal initiative that establishes key guidelines to improve national health outcomes. Their most recent program, Healthy People 2020 strives to promote healthy behaviors and minimize preventable diseases in hopes of increasing longevity. Lifestyle Medicine practices can serve as the foundational approach to achieving these goals in individuals across all stages of life. New Initiatives such as the Blue Zones Project® have already begun to improve the health of various communities through lifestyle modifications. As new literature continues to bring to light the numerous benefits of living a healthy lifestyle, there is a clear necessity for Lifestyle Medicine. Implementation of Lifestyle Medicine principles can encourage sustainable daily habits, optimize physical and mental health, and improve overall quality of life for all individuals.
HOW WE IMPLEMENT LIFESTYLE MEDICINE
EMPOWERMENT THROUGH EVIDENCE-BASED RECOMMENDATIONS
The current healthcare system is experiencing a monumental shift by empowering patients to take control of their health. Lifestyle medicine advocates for a patient-centered healthcare system by providing individuals with the information they need to make healthy decisions. Stanford’s Lifestyle Medicine initiative provides evidence-based recommendations to inform best practices regarding key lifestyle pillars: nutrition, sleep, fitness, stress management, social relationships, passion and purpose, and cognitive enhancement.
Health practitioners including physicians, nurses, registered dieticians, and health coaches can be certified in lifestyle medicine through the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM).