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:
Influenza and pneumonia
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
Mental health counselors
Registered dietitians and nutritionists
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.
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.
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