Whenever we are faced with a lesser-known area of expertise, we tend to avoid treading that path and completely ignore those grey areas due to the lack of information. The unknown eludes us from broaching that subject even if it could possibly provide a healthier life. Let’s talk a bit about lifestyle medicine, a relatively novel topic to be studied but nonetheless an important aspect that must be adopted into our daily lives.
It is not rocket science, but the lack of clear guidelines and proper guidance has probably pushed it to the back burner for decades. Recently it has been garnering a lot of attention because of its integral influence on people’s lives.
There’s nothing ‘novel’ as well, lifestyle medicine consists of the simple but important things that we tend to overlook due to our fast-paced routines. Here is a really brief introduction to the world of lifestyle medicine.
Worldwide, it has been found that we are leading more sedentary lives. With everything at our fingertips and requiring minimal effort, the average person has become less active both physically and mentally. When compared to a few decades earlier, nowadays, things are easily available, and less energy is required for tasks. Considering a few examples like the availability of ready-to-cook meals, the opportunity to work from home, and getting everything delivered, somewhere, all of this has largely led to us being less active.
This can be linked to the emergence of a large population being diagnosed with non-communicable or more commonly known as, lifestyle diseases. Some common diseases are diabetes mellitus, hypertension (high blood pressure), and high cholesterol. These diseases invariably affect an individual’s lifespan and pave the way for heart-related conditions and even cancers. This is where lifestyle medicine comes into action.
Though in its early stages of implementation into the medical curriculum around the world, it is now being given due attention and several courses are being developed.
The important factors forming the core of lifestyle medicine
The definition of lifestyle medicine as given in the Journal of the American Medical Association is “ an evidence-based practice of assisting individuals and their families to adopt and sustain behaviors that can improve health and quality of life”. This can be coarsely translated to, adopting behavioral changes that will positively improve an individual’s health.
Some harmful choices by a person like poor diet, lack of physical activity, high stress levels, unhealthy habits of smoking, and excessive alcohol use, all lead to the development of these serious conditions.
Why has it not been given its due importance?
There are several possible reasons for the insufficient focus on lifestyle medicine till now. Firstly, it could be because it does not form a prominent part of a regular consultation. Not enough stress has been put into counseling people about healthy lifestyle choices and their benefits.
Secondly, it doesn’t have a separate course in the medical curriculum. Hence, students do not have structured lessons in their courses which can have an impact on their confidence while counseling individuals about it.
Thirdly, lifestyle medicine is largely restricted only to medical education. Better outcomes can be expected if the basics of the nonmedical sides are included in every field of study.
Fourthly, people may not be aware of the substantial importance of developing healthy habits. There may be conflicting opinions and also adapting to a healthy lifestyle is not easy if they’re used to a sedentary one.
All these factors may have collectively led to the lackadaisical attitude towards this aspect of medicine.
How to integrate lifestyle medicine into daily life
A few recent changes, for instance, more studies being published, are establishing, and proving that healthy choices indeed form an integral part of our lives.
Several courses are also being developed to improve the knowledge about this aspect of medicine, in medical schools and even to the general public. It’s now being tackled by a multi-disciplinary team rather than a single doctor handling all sides. Many companies have started implementing corporate wellness programs to keep their employees’ health in check.
Slowly, it has been expanding to other fields of study, and every student enrolled is given an outline about healthy lifestyle choices and behavioral changes to improve their health.
More stress is being laid on regular health risk assessments which motivates a person to keep track of their health.
Lifestyle medicine is truly a fusion of different facets of medicine and useful lifestyle changes.