What is lifestyle medicine?

Lifestyle medicine is an approach to caring for patients that focuses on changes to lifestyle habits that can prevent, treat and even reverse disease. Replacing unhealthy behaviors with more beneficial ones can help you live a healthier life. Lifestyle medicine providers give you the tools that can help you do just that and take charge of your own health. 

Who can benefit from lifestyle medicine?

Research has shown that about 80 percent of heart disease is preventable. We also know there are ways to lower risk of diabetes or cancer, or even to help protect memory as we age. The way to do that is through lifestyle changes. 

There are several conditions that can improve when you focus on making the right lifestyle choices. Those include:

Lifestyle medicine providers can help you identify habits you can change to give you the most benefit for your body and mind. 

The six pillars of lifestyle medicine

Lifestyle medicine focuses on six key areas. On their own, each has tremendous benefits for your overall wellness. When you address all of them together, imagine how much better you can feel!

The six areas include:

1.    Healthful eating

Healthful eating isn’t just about what you eat or how much you eat. Yes, it’s true that fruits and vegetables have always been staples in nutritious eating plans. And moving to plant-based diets can further reduce risk of disease and improve your health. But attention to when and why you eat is important also.

A mindful approach to learning your body’s cues to when you are hungry and full and what foods make you feel good is fundamental to healthy eating. Lifestyle Medicine focuses on a holistic approach to eating that does not require restrictions in your diet and will keep you full. This approach can result in long term weight loss as well as reduced blood pressure, and risk of heart attack and stroke, and even help you sleep better. 

2.    Increased physical activity

Exercise is vital to a healthy life. The recommended minimum exercise is 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity in a week. If you are not already achieving the minimum, you will be amazed by the changes you see and feel by increasing your activity.

The key to sustaining exercise is finding an activity you really enjoy. Lifestyle Medicine providers can help you get started by setting reasonable exercise goals. 

3.    Managing stress

Stress is a given in everyday life. Some amount of stress may even be good for you. But constant stress can have a negative effect on your physical and mental health. Learning how to recognize and manage stress is key. Tools like mindfulness-based stress reduction or yoga can help you manage your stress. 

4.    Avoiding substance abuse

Tobacco, alcohol and drug use can have negative or even deadly consequences. Family problems, money issues, and health conditions are all very real and are often associated with substance abuse. Quitting isn’t easy, but lifestyle changes can help in the journey to a substance-free, healthier mind, body and spirit. 

5.    Improving your sleep

Sleep is critical. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of a good night’s sleep and the problems that poor sleep can cause. Those include lack of concentration or ability to focus, mood swings, increased stress, high blood pressure, and more.

With the demands of today’s world, many of us are sleep deprived. Getting the recommended seven to eight hours each night can have far-reaching impacts on your health.

6.    Staying connected

Our relationships are an important aspect of a healthy life. As humans, we have a need to connect with others. Research studies have shown that social isolation can have surprising impacts on your physical health and mental well-being. Lifestyle medicine can help you understand how connections can improve your health, how to identify opportunities to expand your social connections and help you live a healthier lifestyle. 

The role of self-awareness in your health

Self-awareness is key to helping individuals manage their own health. It can help us align our behaviors with our personal goals. Being kind to yourself, recognizing your stressors, and understanding what prevents you from living a healthier lifestyle will help you adopt healthier practices. 

Lifestyle medicine providers can help you on your journey to self-awareness and identify the lifestyle changes most likely to benefit you. Most importantly, those changes will be sustainable for the long-term to help you achieve a lifestyle that feels best for you, both in body and mind. 

Lifestyle medicine services near you

We believe that offering convenient programs will help improve the health of our community. Learn more about lifestyle medicine and the services we offer to help you live your best life on our website

Margaret Miller, MD, FACP, DipACLM

Margaret Miller, MD, FACP, is Chief of Women’s Medicine for Lifespan Physician Group (LPG) and Medical Director of the Women’s Medicine Collaborative. She is an associate professor of medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.