“I see Lifestyle Medicine as
integral to the way we
deliver care to our patients”
“Those who don’t make time for exercise will eventually have to make time for illness”
– Edward Stanley
What is Lifestyle Medicine?
Lifestyle Medicine is an evidence-based approach to preventing and treating disease by focusing on creating healthy lifestyle habits including regular physical activity, healthy eating, adequate sleep, managing stress and building healthy relationships and support systems.
I work as a GP in the NHS and I am a strong believer in the importance of prioritising conversations about lifestyle with our patients and supporting them in using lifestyle interventions to prevent and treat lifestyle related chronic disease including obesity, diabetes and mental health problems.
The choices we make matter. Everyday habits and behaviours, such as eating an excess of unhealthy food, drinking too much alcohol, continuing to smoke and not being physically active, are responsible for around 40% of all deaths in England, and cost the NHS more than £11 billion a year (Public Health England). The NHS has a critical role in treating illness and in keeping people well, but to help make the NHS sustainable for future generations, as clinicians we can play a role by being more proactive about supporting our patients to make positive lifestyle changes.
“Lifestyle Medicine” is nothing new. Neither is it complex or fancy. It is not the same as complementary or alternative medicine. Ironic that it has the word medicine in it as it offers an alternative way to preventing ill health and managing existing disease without an over reliance on medicines. Medicines play an important role in chronic disease and can be life saving, but I can’t help thinking that they are often used as a sticking plaster, rather than addressing the root cause of symptoms and disease. If making changes to our lifestyles was easy, then we would all be living the healthiest lives we could. It would be naive to believe that this is all that it takes. It’s not easy to break habits and create new healthy behaviours and the psychology of our habits, alongside environmental and social factors add complexity and challenge. Not to mention, the limited time we have with our patients in general practice ( 10 minutes) and the lack of training on nutrition and physical activity. These challenges certainly don’t put me off using a Lifestyle Medicine approach in my clinical practice.
Lifestyle medicine is seen by some as an adjunct form of treatment- an extra to what we are already offering our patients. I hope that one day it won’t even need a separate title, it will be integral to the way we deliver care to our patients, bridging the best aspects of public health and conventional clinical medicine. This requires a shift in the way we approach health and disease. There may be challenges ahead but I believe the change is coming and I am excited to be part of the Lifestyle Medicine movement!
Where can I learn how to use Lifestyle Medicine in my own life?
The 4 Pillar Plan: How to Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep Your Way to a Longer, Healthier Life by Dr Rangan Chaterjee. This book has easily digestible information on how to make simple easy changes to your lifestyle. I recommend this to both my colleagues and patients!
Mindfulness and meditation:
- Learn Mindfulness with the Be Mindful Online Course
- Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world
Work with a health coach who can support you in making positive changes in your life and creating the healthy lifestyle you want.
I’m a doctor/ healthcare professional/ medical student- how do I learn more?
- Join the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine ( student membership available)
- Take the Diploma in Lifestyle Medicine– the next exam sitting is in August 2019
- Join the Inspired Medics mailing list for FREE for updates on Lifestyle Medicine and other educational events in Yorkshire
- Join your local Nutritank society for medical students