The Institute for Lifestyle Medicine defines Lifestyle Medicine as: “the evidence-based practice of assisting individuals and their families to adopt and sustain behaviors that can improve health and quality of life.

Multiple behaviors fall into the category of Lifestyle Medicine (LM). In this post, I focus on the six behaviors shown below, and I like to think of them as being their own types of ‘medicine.’  

  • Food as medicine
  • Community as medicine
  • Stress reduction as medicine
  • Movement as medicine
  • Sleep as medicine
  • Play as medicine

No doubt you have heard of the first one — it comes from a quote by Hippocrates: “let food by thy medicine” — but thinking of the others as types of medicine might not be as familiar.

In a paper entitled “Healthy living is the best revenge,” [1] researchers looked at whether reduced risk of the major chronic diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer) was associated with four healthy lifestyle factors. The four factors were: never smoking, having a body mass index lower than 30, performing 3.5 hours/week or more of physical activity, and adhering to healthy dietary principles (high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grain bread, and low meat consumption).

Over an average of nearly eight years, the participants who followed all four factors had a 78%  lower risk of developing a chronic disease than participants who didn’t follow any health factors.

But LM is more than just a preventive strategy, it can also be an effective strategy during the time when you have a disease as well as in the prevention of recurrence of a disease. 

LM differs from traditional medicine in several aspects, but one key difference is that it requires the patient to be an active partner in the process, rather than just passively taking a pill. Personal motivation is therefore integral to LM.

This “active” and involved role can be encouraged by personalizing LM – where the treatment recommendations take into account you, as a specific individual both in terms of your health and body, but also in terms of your beliefs, values, family life circumstances, etc. Personalized treatment recommendations might come as a result of from functional laboratory tests, genetic testing, as well as from your healthcare practitioner taking the time to get to know you. With a personalized approach you are able to see why a specific recommendation applies directly to you, empowering you with the information you need to regain control of your health.

In the context of CALMERme and integrative cancer care, by incorporating lifestyle medicine you can make a big difference in terms of your quality of life, reduction in side effects from conventional treatments, improved outcomes, and reduction in risk of both occurrence in the first place and recurrence.

We’ll discuss all these factors in future blog posts, along with plenty of specific examples. 

Out of the six categories of LM, which are you not paying attention to —  food, community, stress reduction, movement, sleep, or play?

[1] Health Living is the best revenge

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