The Benefits of Lifestyle Education

Chelsea Moore, MS, CN, CHC


Healthcare professionals worldwide have come to realize that behavior and lifestyle changes are an essential part of health and healing. Lifestyle medicine is no longer “just” a prevention strategy. It is now recognized as a first-line treatment for many diseases of modern life.



According to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading causes of death in America are:

  • Heart disease

  • Cancer

  • Accidents

  • Respiratory disease

  • Stroke

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Diabetes

  • Kidney disease

  • Influenza and pneumonia

  • Suicide

However, lifestyle choices such as smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity, and alcohol consumption are the real culprits behind many of these conditions. Researchers estimate that poor diet and physical inactivity alone cause the second largest number of deaths in America.


What about our genes? Don’t they play a role in whether or not we get sick? Yes, but not as much as we once thought. For example, genetically identical twins can develop different diseases based on their behaviors and environment. This field of study is known as epigenetics.


Science shows that our choices have the power to either create disease or restore health. As a result, many chronic conditions are known as “lifestyle diseases” – they are influenced by the way we choose to live. This discovery has paved the way for new treatment approaches in healthcare.


What is lifestyle medicine?

Lifestyle medicine is often used in functional and integrative health practices. Although these approaches overlap, each has a unique purpose.

  • Functional medicine: Patients work in partnership with their healthcare providers to address the root cause of disease instead of simply treating symptoms.

  • Integrative medicine: Healthcare approaches used in conjunction with traditional medicine to treat the whole person. For example: acupuncture, aromatherapy, chiropractic, dietary supplements, guided imagery, massage, meditation, and yoga.

  • Lifestyle medicine: A therapeutic lifestyle intervention to prevent, treat, and reverse disease. The six primary areas of focus are nutrition, exercise, stress, relationships, sleep, and substance abuse.

What is lifestyle education?

Lifestyle education is one of the methods by which lifestyle medicine is delivered. It is commonly known as nutrition counseling, health education, or health coaching.


There are a variety of health and wellness professionals who can help patients make positive lifestyle changes. These include:

  • Doctors and other healthcare providers

  • Health coaches

  • Lifestyle educators

  • Mental health counselors

  • Registered dietitians and nutritionists

  • Personal trainers

At the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Center (PLMC) by Metagenics, lifestyle educators are part of the medical team. They work with doctors trained in functional and integrative medicine to create personalized treatment plans. Each patient’s medical history, lab work, medications, lifestyle, and current health concerns are taken into consideration.


Healing often requires a multifaceted treatment approach. That’s why PLMC lifestyle educators are trained in FirstLine Therapy®, a comprehensive program that addresses three pillars of long-term health: healthy eating, healthy living, and physical activity. Patients receive structured, professional supervision that helps them:

  • Establish realistic, personalized health goals

  • Monitor progress and stay on track

  • Learn how to eat and shop for nutritious foods

  • Manage food cravings and eat mindfully

  • Find an enjoyable way to exercise

  • Implement strategies to reduce stress

Lifestyle education has proven health benefits

A systematic review of randomized controlled trials is considered the highest level of evidence available. In these reviews, researchers look at (and sometimes combine) the results of multiple, well-designed studies. Here’s what they found:

  • Nutrition consultations help patients improve their quality of life, lose weight, and prevent unhealthy weight gain during pregnancy.

  • Motivational interviewing and lifestyle education sessions help patients who are at risk for heart disease improve their exercise, diet, and stress levels.

  • Patients who receive diabetes coaching experience significant reductions in HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar). More than six months of coaching is most effective.

  • Hypertensive patients who receive dietary recommendations experience greater reductions in blood pressure, especially when the recommendations are delivered by a nutrition expert.

  • Telemedicine (virtual) coaching sessions are effective in helping patients improve their diets. This can benefit people suffering from chronic conditions and those who are social distancing during the pandemic.

Bottom line

Lifestyle medicine is a first-line treatment for many diseases plaguing our nation. Patients receive education and support in the areas of nutrition, exercise, stress, relationships, sleep, and substance abuse. Studies show that lifestyle education can help patients improve their health and overall quality of life. Lifestyle education can be delivered by a variety of health and wellness professionals (including doctors, nutritionists, and coaches) both virtually and in person.

Chelsea Moore, MS, CN, CHC is a Certified Nutritionist and Health Coach. She graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and completed her Master of Science in Applied Nutrition at Northeastern University.


Chelsea is passionate about lifestyle education and women's health issues. She is a member of the International Association for Health Coaches and the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior.


plmcinformation@plmc.com

(253) 853-7233

www.gigharbor.plmc.com

References

  1. The Power of Lifestyle Medicine to Treat Chronic Disease. American College of Lifestyle Medicine Web site. https://www.lifestylemedicine.org/ACLM/Education/Webinar_Archive_Open_Source/The_Power_of_Lifestyle_Medicine.aspx. Published January, 2021. Accessed April 14, 2021.

  2. Leading Causes of Death. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm. Updated March 1, 2021. Accessed April 19, 2021.

  3. McGinnis JM, Foege WH. Actual Causes of Death in the United States. JAMA. November 1993; 270(18):2207-2212. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510180077038.

  4. Mokdad AH, Marks JS, Stroup DF, Gerberding JL. Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000. JAMA. March 2004; 291(10):1238-1245. doi:10.1001/jama.291.10.1238.

  5. Lifestyle Diseases: An Economic Burden on the Health Services. https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/lifestyle-diseases-economic-burden-health-services. Accessed April 19, 2021.

  6. Epigenetics. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Web site. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/science/epigenetics/index.cfm. Updated March 23, 2021. Accessed April 21, 2021.

  7. What is Epigenetics? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/disease/epigenetics.htm. Updated August 3, 2020. Accessed April 21, 2021.

  8. What is Functional Medicine? The Institute for Functional Medicine Web site. https://www.ifm.org/functional-medicine. Accessed April 14, 2021.

  9. Integrative Medicine. Mayo Clinic Web site. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/complementary-alternative-medicine/about/pac-20393581. Published June 19, 2020. Accessed April 14, 2021.

  10. Complementary, Alternative, or Integrative Health: What’s In a Name? National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health Web site. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/complementary-alternative-or-integrative-health-whats-in-a-name. Updated July 2018. Accessed April 14, 2021.

  11. What is Lifestyle Medicine? American College of Lifestyle Medicine Web site. https://www.lifestylemedicine.org/ACLM/About/What_is_Lifestyle_Medicine/ACLM/About/What_is_Lifestyle_Medicine_/Lifestyle_Medicine.aspx?hkey=26f3eb6b-8294-4a63-83de-35d429c3bb88. Accessed April 14, 2021.

  12. Mitchell LJ, Ball LE, Ross LJ, Barnes KA, Williams LT. Effectiveness of Dietetic Consultations in Primary Health Care: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Acad Nutr Diet. December 2017; 117(12): 1941-1962. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2017.06.364.

  13. An S, Song R. Effects of health coaching on behavioral modification among adults with cardiovascular risk factors: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Patient Educ Couns. October 2020; 103(10): 2029-2038. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2020.04.029.

  14. Sherifali D, Viscardi V, Bai J, Ali RMU. Evaluating the Effect of a Diabetes Health Coach in Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes. Can J Diabetes. February 2016; 40(1): 84-94. doi: 10.1016/j.jcjd.2015.10.006.

  15. Riegel GR, Ribeiro PAB, Rodrigues MP, Zuchinali P, Moreira LB. Efficacy of nutritional recommendations given by registered dietitians compared to other healthcare providers in reducing arterial blood pressure: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Clin Nutr. April 2018; 37(2): 522-531. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2016.12.019.

  16. Kelly JT, Reidlinger DP, Hoffmann TC, Campbell KL. Telehealth methods to deliver dietary interventions in adults with chronic disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. December 2016; 104(6): 1693-1702. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.136333.