Nowadays, the public has started to be more conscious of their medical options and standards of care, which led to the discussions surrounding the cost and efficacy of healthcare services. Although lifestyle medicine is far from a new concept and has been adopted by numerous primary care practitioners, it remains alienated in the medical community due to a variety of reasons. However, the chronic disease crisis the population faces as of now backed up by alarming statistics serves as a contributor to the ongoing debate. In actuality, it is possible to prevent many chronic conditions. Lifestyle medicine ensures that instead of relying solely on traditional methods, medical professionals integrate practices centered on prevention, reversal, and multi-stage treatment. By encouraging patients to pay close attention to nutrition, exercise, stress management, sleep schedule, and mental stability, lifestyle medicine helps to sufficiently decrease the risk and incidence of such illnesses. The purpose of this essay is to reflect on the importance of lifestyle medicine and the creation of a comprehensive lifestyle medicine program.
Defining Lifestyle Medicine
Firstly, it is crucial to provide a clear and concise definition of the term, which will serve as the foundation for any arguments that might follow. Lifestyle medicine involves “studying how daily habits and practices impact both on the prevention and treatment of disease, often in conjunction with pharmaceutical or surgical therapy” (as cited in Rippe, 2018, p. 500). Thus, the concept revolves around patient-centered treatment approaches as well as evidence-based practices. It is important to note that although the term itself might be new, lifestyle medicine can be regarded as a window to the past. In its essence, it redirects the attention of medics and healthcare organizations towards the core concepts of delivering high quality care. Lifestyle medicine is not just an approach to delivering care but a comprehensive system consisting of individualized assessments of health habits, personalized treatment agendas, and integration of health behavior change tools. For instance, quitting smoking, eliminating alcohol, or making conscious steps towards being more active are examples of the approach, which targets the causes of illnesses.
Lifestyle medicine acknowledges that lifestyle plays the main part in the development and severity of chronic conditions. Thus, the logical answer to reduce the risk of acquiring a chronic illness would be a lifestyle change. Most importantly, all these changes should be carefully supervised by the medical staff. They are as effective as they manage to fit within the conventional healthcare standards and not to disrupt the existing management plan if there is one. As mentioned earlier, the primary components of lifestyle management include nutrition, physical activity, sleep cycle, and substance use. One of the key goals of the approach is to provide patients with much need support systems: social, spiritual, mental, and emotional.
Unique Features of Lifestyle Medicine
In order to fully grasp the importance of lifestyle medicine, it is necessary to focus on its unique features. While the differences between traditional and lifestyle types of medicine may seem obvious, this is not the case for all the non-traditional approaches. In regards to similarities, lifestyle medicine is similar to the complementary type due to their shared function ability within the existing framework of conventional medicine. Alternative and lifestyle types both can be an alternative solution. Lifestyle medicine is similar to preventative medicine as well because of the prioritization of lifestyle behaviors. As for the differences, the list is rather varied and extensive. Lifestyle medicine seems to fit somewhere in between such types as conventional and alternative. However, it is much more focused in lifestyle interventions and the integration of evidence into practice. The main area where lifestyle medicine lacks is treatment as it cannot offer many treatment options such as therapies. Even when it comes to preventive medicine, the lifestyle type does not imply certain screenings, immunizations, and other therapies preventive medicine can be characterized by. Therefore, it is evident that while there are similarities between the types, the lifestyle one stands on its own as a distinct approach towards care.
The things that make lifestyle medicine so valuable and important are its unique characteristics. They include the sole focus on lifestyle changes, the correlation between a positive outcome and patient motivation, the implementation of a collaborative care model, as well as universality of application. While certain types of therapies are not offered as in other approaches, lifestyle medicine includes unique cognitive behavioral interventions, primarily centered on changes in lifestyle and assistance with motivation. As a result, lifestyle medicine implies active participation of a patient in preventing and treating the lifestyle causes of their condition. Lifestyle medicine offers patients the chance to take responsibility for their well-being, which is why even the smallest results are exceptionally rewarding.
Delivering Value: Lifestyle Medicine’s Importance
While the fact that lifestyle medicine largely relies on patients themselves might be considered a flaw, it is fundamentally the biggest advantage. Instead of treating the symptoms time and time again, healthcare providers finally offer people the opportunity to take accountability. According to experts, the connection provided by the lifestyle approach “makes the individual accountable for his/her action plan for healthy living and gives the provider the opportunity to check in with the patient on a regular basis” (Lacagnina et al., 2018, p. 482). After all, one might argue there is no lint in treating someone’s cancer if they continue to smoke and do not follow the recommendations of doctors. Surely, it is cruel but lifestyle medicine truly provides patients with all the tools needed to educate and motivate themselves as they make an effort to change their behavior. Thus, the outcome of any treatment becomes much more efficient due to the level of patient involvement and long-term commitment.
It is important to recognize that lifestyle medicine will not produce results if there is no comprehensive lifestyle medicine program. It must incorporate such key elements as proper nutrition, physical activity, stress management, and a proper sleep schedule. Taking care of all of them is crucial as they serve as the foundation of a healthy lifestyle, which contributes to the lower risk of developing an illness or being unable to resist it. The main challenge healthcare institutions face right now in regards to lifestyle medicine is not proving its effectiveness. Rather, it is enhancing overall commitment of the staff to adopt the approach, implement the interventions, and incorporate various strategies.
In conclusion, it is apparent that lifestyle medicine is a novel concept yet its roots go far beyond the last couple of decades. The approach is dependent on patient involvement and self-awareness. Its importance lies in the opportunity it provides for patients to take accountability for their actions and master the skills of targeted self-reflection. Considering the existing crisis related to chronic conditions, lifestyle medicine may serve as an efficient solution if integrated in the form of a comprehensive program taking into consideration nutrition, exercise, mental health, and spirituality.
Lacagnina, S., Moore, M., & Mitchell, S. (2018). The lifestyle medicine team: health care that delivers value. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 12(6), 479–483.
Rippe J. M. (2018). Lifestyle medicine: The health promoting power of daily habits and practices. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 12(6), 499–512.