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Can Lifestyle Medicine Help You? (The Answer is Yes)

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Author name: Lee Health

Lifestyle medicine is a prescription for healthier living. 

That’s the simple definition, but it’s much more than that, says Dr. Sandraliz Solano, a board-certified family medicine practitioner with Lee Physician Group who applies all the fundamentals of lifestyle medicine in her practice.

“While much of conventional medicine focuses on treating disease, lifestyle medicine focuses on the patient as a whole and offers a more holistic approach,” Dr. Solano says.

The medical definition of lifestyle medicine is an evidence-based approach to prevent, treat, and even reverse diseases by replacing unhealthy behaviors with positive, healthy ones, Dr. Solano says.

“That includes healthier habits that involve choosing more whole foods rich in fruits and vegetables, increasing physical activity, improving sleep quality, managing stress better, developing and sustaining healthy relationships, and reducing risky behaviors that lead to substance abuse like tobacco and alcohol use,” she explains.

Dr. Ram Kafle, who is board-certified both in family medicine and in obesity medicine, says genetics may predispose people to certain diseases, but lifestyle and environment also play a big role in disease occurrence.

“For example, if you take medications because you’re hypertensive (you have high blood pressure), research has shown that lifestyle modifications such as eating healthier, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight can lower your blood pressure and reduce your need for antihypertensive medications,” Dr. Kafle says.

Dr. Kafle and Dr. Solano are onto something, says the research. In the U.S., the primary causes of premature adult deaths are related to unhealthy behaviors, such as tobacco use, poor diet and lack of physical activity.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), chronic diseases related to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking and alcohol are the major causes of death and disability.

In fact, WHO says 80% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes and 40% of cancer could be prevented primarily with improvements to diet and lifestyle.

How lifestyle medicine works

Changing our dietary habits, increasing physical activity and reducing our tobacco and alcohol use, can significantly decrease the rates of these chronic diseases, often in a relatively short time, according to Dr. Kafle.

For example, scientific evidence suggests the major health benefits of embracing a lifestyle medicine approach can include:

  • Eating more whole foods including fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts and whole grains
  • Engaging in daily physical activity
  • Moving from saturated animal fats to unsaturated vegetable oil-based fats
  • Cutting the amount of highly processed fatty, salty and sugary foods in the diet
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight (within the normal body mass index range)
  • Stopping smoking, and reducing alcohol use

“The overall aim of lifestyle medicine is to educate, equip and empower patients to protect their health, prevent disease and, often, even reverse disease through the power of their own lifestyle choices,” Dr. Solano says.

Lifestyle medicine integrates clinical experience and patient values with the best available research information to achieve the best outcome, adds Dr. Kafle, citing a growing body of research supporting the effectiveness of lifestyle medicine.

A core strength of lifestyle medicine is the relationship doctor and patient forge in developing a treatment plan specifically for the patient, both doctors agree.

“Lifestyle medicine is a multidisciplinary approach that encourages doctors and patients to communicate so patients can share in the decision-making and make their values and preferences known,” Dr. Kafle explains. “Together, the doctor and patient can determine an appropriate course of action. This concept is powerful because it helps ensure that patients receive the right care in the right setting at the right time.”

Dr. Solano adds that lifestyle medicine is truly patient-centered.

“It empowers patients to take ownership of their health. Lifestyle medicine is not intended as a cure-all disease approach, or to replace certain medications or procedures, but it does positively affect the overall health of an individual and can reverse chronic disease, like diabetes,” says Dr. Solano. “It also reduces health care costs related to chronic disease management, and it helps improve patient satisfaction.”

Reach out today

Dr. Ram Kafle and Dr. Sandraliz Solano practice at the Bonita Bay Lifestyle Center, 26800 S. Tamiami Trail, Suite 340, Bonita Springs, FL 34134. For an appointment, call 239-495-4490.