Lifestyle medicine — are you familiar with it?
Is this something new? Is it something helpful for older adults and therefore should family caregivers encourage this intervention?
According to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, “Lifestyle medicine is an evidence-based approach to preventing, treating and even reversing diseases by replacing unhealthy behaviors with positive ones — such as eating healthfully, being physically active, managing stress, avoiding risky substance abuse, adequate sleep and having a strong support system.”
The goal of lifestyle medicine is to put the person in the driver’s seat to control their own health by addressing the cause of disease instead of just the symptoms.
Avoiding the side effects of chronic disease treatment by preventing the disease in the first place is what lifestyle medicine tries to achieve. Lifestyle medicine can begin healing the body toward health.
Prevention is key.
Prevention Leads to Wellness
Most would agree that prevention is the better option than diagnosis and treatment. Researchers have found that changing our lifestyle by smoking cessation, healthy eating, and becoming physically active could prevent 80% of chronic disease.
Lifestyle medicine, when properly used, is said to to improve purposefulness, increase energy, and give you a positive outlook on life, according to physician’s who prescribe these interventions.
Lifestyle medicine interventions can impact:
- Heart disease
- Cognitive function
- Erectile dysfunction
- Weight management
Recommendations from major scientific bodies, including the American Cancer Society, the Diabetes Prevention Program, the American Heart Association, and the national Cholesterol Education Program, focus on lifestyle improvements as a means for prevention.
Foundation of Lifestyle Medicine – Tips for Change
There are six key areas for improvements in our lifestyles that will improve our health at any age.
These are the areas caregivers and their senior loved ones should implement change for their health.
- Nutrition – eat a balance at each meal including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy products. Meet the bodies’ need for nutrients by including a variety of foods, especially those the nutrients of concern, because they are often eaten in inadequate amounts such as fiber, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and vitamins A,D, E, and C
- Physical Activity – move it or lose it, 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, choose something you enjoy so you will keep doing it
- Sleep – repair and heal our bodies during sleep which needs adequate time and sleep quality
- Tobacco Cessation – large cause of death, time to stop
- Stress Management – managing and recovering from stress
- Healthy Relationships/Socialization – connections impact our health
Experts now agree that genetics are not as important as a healthy lifestyle when improving our health.
Lifestyle medicine is simply lifestyle as medicine. It should be the first line of treatment where you work with healthcare professionals who help you make changes.
Continuing an unhealthy lifestyle will rob you of the life in your (and your senior loved one’s) years!