Doctors Urge More ‘Lifestyle Medicine,’ Fewer Pharmaceuticals

Six ways you can ‘prevent and treat’ chronic diseases. America’s health can’t be restored with all the medications that have been invented. It’s not that drugs don’t work; it is because Americans and the entire health care system have gotten too dependent on pharmaceuticals at the expense of simple ways to fight many of the most fatal and debilitating diseases.

Here’s what dependence on medication has done to us: 60% of Americans have at least one chronic condition, and 40% suffer from multiple conditions. According to a comprehensive new analysis by 58 medical doctors as well as research scientists, 90% of U.S. health care dollars go towards treating preventable diseases. The report concludes that hypertension, Type 2 diabetes,  and dementia rates are increasing at alarming rates.

Three experts summarize the report by saying that patients and doctors alike may believe they’re victims of their genes, and that they’re destined to become chronically ill or dependent on pharmaceuticals.

The report calls into question the country’s outdated approach to health care. It aims to change the culture of medicine by encouraging “lifestyle medicine.” This is rooted in six behavioral changes that have been shown to help “prevent and treat, and often reverse” many chronic illnesses, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases and Alzheimer’s.

The analysis is a project of American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) and includes 22 articles published by the Journal of Family Practice.

“There is a rapidly growing demand for lifestyle medicine interventions by patients who want to help them make sustainable behavior changes that will allow them take control of their own health and live their best, healthiest lives,” Cate Collings MD, President ACLM, stated in a statement. This advice, which is known as the six pillars in lifestyle medicine, is directed at doctors and other health care professionals.

But don’t wait to get a prescription.

These are healthy habits that you or your loved one can adopt right now, especially if they haven’t yet developed chronic diseases. I’ve provided links to explain how.

Whole-food, plant-based eating habits

According to the report, “What people eat and fail to eat is the leading cause for disease and death.” It cites a 2019 study on mortality in 190 countries. Too much salt, too little fruit, and too many whole grains are some of the major culprits.

The government’s dietary recommendations are in line with the new report’s recommendation. It recommends that you eat a whole-food, plant-predominant diet, which is a diet consisting primarily or exclusively of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts.

If you’re anything like me, knowing what is best for you doesn’t necessarily mean that you should do it. It’s nice to have some flexibility in the recommendations. The “plant-predominant eating style” does not exclude red meat, poultry, or fish. However, it encourages moderation and real food. This means “whole food” is better than any processed.

Physical activity

This is probably the last time you’ll hear it. “Getting enough physical activity could help prevent 13% of breast, colorectal, and diabetes, 8%, heart disease, and 7% of premature deaths, as well as 1 out 10 premature deaths,” the report states. These are just a few of the diseases that exercise has been shown to prevent or treat (often when combined with other treatments).

Renal disease
Sleep apnea
Osteoarthritis
Hypertension

The report encourages aerobic exercise such as walking, but also activities that build strength, flexibility, and strength, such as push-ups and yoga. These two pieces are great for anyone who isn’t a fan of exercising or needs a little motivation.

Restorative Sleep

It is important to eat well and exercise to help you sleep better. Experts have suggested for years that doctors should prescribe both . However, the reverse is also true.

According to the report, good sleep is also the foundation on which other lifestyle therapies like diet and exercise can be improved. What if you don’t get enough sleep? “The cumulative effects of disordered sleeping include premature mortality, cardiovascular disease and hypertension, obesity and metabolic syndrome, diabetes and impaired sugar tolerance,  inflammation, cancer and cognitive impairment, psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression, and immunosuppression.”

I have the answers to your sleep problems.

Positive social networks

Recent research shows that loneliness is a growing problem, especially among young people. This has been exacerbated by the pandemic. It can be awful to feel lonely. However, less attention is paid the impact of loneliness on your health.

Researchers write that social connection is a well-established predictor of mental and emotional well being, physical health outcomes, longevity, and other factors. “Humans seem wired for social connection. This is why Covid-19 lockdowns have caused so much social isolation and loneliness. Social support can help to buffer the negative effects stress has on physical and mental health in the context of stress management.

Chances are you know someone who is lonely, even though you may not be aware. I recently wrote about the actions you can take in order to reduce your loneliness and that of others around you.

Avoidance and reduction of hazardous substances

You are aware of the things you should not do: drinking, smoking, and eating chocolate cake. It’s a long list. It’s not easy! It’s not easy!

“For example, positive reinforcement is when we see a piece (trigger), eat it (“behavior”) and get a reward (reward), so we learn to do the same behavior through dopamine firing in our reward centers in our brain,” says Judson Brewer MD, a Brown University researcher studying how to change habits. Negative reinforcement is the same: If we feel stressed, we can eat a piece or two of cake and feel better. This is because we were distracted and/or enjoyed the cake, which reduces the stress.

Brewer suggests that you recognize your vice and pay attention to how it affects your feelings after the initial pleasure from junk food has faded. Focus on the bigger benefits of a healthier lifestyle, such as the fact that eating healthy food can increase your energy and reduce your indigestion.

Stress management

The report states that stress is unambiguously linked to poor health outcomes because of both its physiologic as well as behavioral effects. “Stress management techniques are an integral part of the most effective lifestyle medicine interventions.

Chronic stress can cause damage to your mind and body, much like a rock in a shoe. It must be eliminated. Stress everything, from your heart and nervous system to your gut and immune system. While I could give you some quick tips, here are the main points to managing stress for the rest of your day.

The bottom line: These six pillars can be used at any age to increase your chances of living longer and extending your life expectancy. They also help you live with greater mobility and mental abilities. The greater the benefit, the sooner you get started.

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