Your lifestyle is the way in which you live your life. It sounds simple but, there are many factors involved in a lifestyle and they vary from person to person. This is because attitude, perceptions and viewpoints. Lifestyle can include your habits, your passions, and even your hobbies. It is every component that exists in your life, creating your style of life. This may seem simple enough, but it eventually leads to the question: what is lifestyle medicine?

Medical researchers have found strong evidence to support the impact of lifestyle on health, both physically and mentally. Some will be positive, and others will be negative. For instance, exercise can offer rewards for your physical and mental health, while smoking cigarettes offer negative consequences.

It is important to know the difference between positive and negative lifestyle factors, and how to choose those that will lead to lifestyle habits.

Healthy Lifestyle Habits

One study reports there are at least five healthy actions you can take to have a better and much longer life. These include eating a healthy diet, exercising, avoid becoming overweight, avoid drugs and alcohol, and do not smoke.

These may seem like common sense, but many find it difficult to follow all these guidelines.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking kills nearly 480,000 people a year. Alcohol claims the lives of one in ten adults. In addition, obesity is one of the leading causes of death in America.

While most of know and understand the negative lifestyle factors that can lead to poor health, or even death, some still choose to participate in the negative activities. This could be happening for many reasons, many of them individualized per person.

Some may have formed addictive habits, while others may have genetic profiles that make them more susceptible to diseases.

Yet still, others may simply lack a fear of negative consequences because they assume their doctor will be able to prescribe a medicine to fix their problem.

Many patients ask the question “what is lifestyle medicine?”. It’s essentially creating a wide approach to traditional medicine; one that includes your lifestyle behavior as well.

There are physicians today who realize just prescribing medicine to a patient is not the best path for their patients to achieve ultimate health. Instead, they recognize the importance of helping patients change the lifestyle habits that may be causing distress.

These physicians are implementing lifestyle medicine into their practices and seeing positive results.

Making simple changes such as improved nutrition, increased physical activity and stress management can raise a person’s quality of life.

What Is Lifestyle Medicine?

Lifestyle medicine has been proving for decades that when applied, can prevent, treat, and even reverse health-related conditions; by teaching patients how to make comprehensive lifestyle decisions. This means if they are engaged in negative lifestyle habits, they are taught to replace those with healthy and positive ones.

So, what is lifestyle medicine? How does one replace negative lifestyle habits with positive ones?

For a person who does not exercise, starting them on an exercise program would be a goal in lifestyle medicine. For a person who works in a high stress environment, learning stress management techniques would be a priority.

Lifestyle medicine gives patients control over their health, and motivates them to seek a healthier quality of life. The principal areas of focus in the beginning are typically geared toward nutrition, sleep, relationships, exercise and eliminating addictions like tobacco.

The belief is that the body was created with everything it needs to heal itself. Positive behaviors encourage the body to protect itself from illnesses.

So rather than just rely on traditional medicines to do all the work in healing patients, lifestyle medicine makes the patient an active participant in their own care.

Lifestyle medicine differs from traditional medicine in that it reverses the priority of treatment. Meaning, doctors put lifestyle changes first, and use medicine as a supplement. This seems to be the opposite of traditional medicine today.

The Downside of Conventional Medicine

Conventional medicine usually goes something like this: a patient meets with their doctor, many times for less than half an hour. In that half an hour, the doctor must complete many tasks, from checking vitals to reviewing a chart to listening to any current complaints.

Many times, doctors simply prescribe a medicine to ease the symptoms of the patient’s ailment. The doctor then leaves to visit his or her next patient. Nurses and staff make sure you understand your orders and where your prescription is being sent.

Patients leave understanding little about their ailment and even less about the medicine they have been prescribed. Rarely have they been told that in addition to medicines, they can implement positive behaviors that will lead to better health.

If doctors would take the extra time to teach patients the importance of making behavior changes, they could reap the benefits of lifestyle medicine.

Benefits of Lifestyle Medicine

Lifestyle medicine is backed by major scientific proof that it works. With education and acquiring proper skills, patients are seeing improved quality of life with the use of lifestyle medicine.

A person can improve areas in their life such as social skills, relationships, physical health through exercise, nutrition, sleep and managing stress. It has even been shown to reduce healthcare costs. Meaning, making changes in the way you eat, drink, move and relate to others can reduce the amount of time you spend with a doctor.

Lifestyle medicine looks at the whole person to discover the best course of action for preventing and healing physical and mental issues. Doing so can reduce the number of chronic diseases, which cause millions of deaths each year.

The good news is that lifestyle medicine is free and can be implemented right away. You can start making positive changes as soon as today.

Start Making Changes Today

If you’ve been asking yourself: “what is lifestyle medicine?”, consider making some of these changes today.

While you can start making better choices and choose positive behaviors now, it is still important to get the assistance of a lifestyle medicine physician to assist you in this journey.

Lifestyle medicine practitioners are certified by the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine. To do so, a doctor must already be certified by a medical specialty board and credentialed as a physician.

With this specialized training, your doctor can teach you the skills necessary to replace the behaviors linked to your medical issues with the positive behaviors that will give you a higher quality of life.