What Is Lifestyle Medicine?

Jillian O Keeffe

Lifestyle medicine is a field of medicine that is focused primarily on the prevention and treatment of illness through changes in daily living like more exercise and a healthy diet. The basis of this type of science is founded on the concept that lifestyle can produce diseases such as cardiac problems, diabetes and some cancers. Doctors who subscribe to lifestyle medicine also provide other forms of treatment such as certain medications, when the patient can benefit from them.

Physiotherapy, a type of lifestyle medicine.
Physiotherapy, a type of lifestyle medicine.

The food that people eat provides them with energy and nutrients, but it can also affect health. High intakes of salt, fat and sugar are associated with the development of diseases like heart disease, diabetes and joint problems. Often, a person who attends a doctor with one of these problems may receive medication or even have to go to hospital for surgical treatment. Typically, the patient also receives advice on diet and exercise, but as an adjunct to other treatments. A doctor who specializes in lifestyle medicine, on the other hand, may offer lifestyle options as a first choice, and retain other treatments as a second choice.

Historically, medical interventions such as medication and surgery were employed to treat disease. Lifestyle medicine, which opts for lifestyle interventions over traditional options, is based on the same type of scientific evidence as these other options. An example of the type of research that practitioners in the field look at is the proof, observed over time, that people who smoke develop lung cancer at much higher rates than people who don't.

Any medical condition that is associated with the choices people make in their everyday lives may improve through alterations in those choices. For example, the risk of lung cancer drops when a person stops smoking, and a person who suffers from osteoporosis, which is due to calcium deficiency and lack of weight-bearing exercise, may become better through a calcium-rich diet and an exercise regime. As well as physical disease, lifestyle medicine practitioners may also advise routines such as exercise or increasing a circle of friends to treat psychological problems like depression.

Improvements in medical conditions due to this type of medical treatment may be enough to resolve the illness. If the alterations in lifestyle are not enough, or come too late, then the doctor may also prescribe medications as a complement to the changes in life choices. Surgery, or other treatments like physiotherapy, are also options for the doctor and the patient.

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