Has Your Doctor Prescribed These Medicines?

By on February 3, 2021
medicines

The majority of Americans are stressed, sleep-deprived, and overweight. Most of us are suffering from largely preventable lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. Being overweight or obese contributes to the 50% of adults who suffer high blood pressure10% with diabetes, and an additional 35% with pre-diabetes.  If you struggle with any of these issues, wonder why your doctor has not prescribed any of these life-changing medicines.

The costs of treating the side-effects of our lifestyle are becoming unaffordable. About 90% of the nearly $4 trillion Americans spend annually for health care in the U.S. is for chronic diseases and mental health conditions. But there are new lifestyle “medicines” that are free that doctors could be prescribed for all their patients.

Lifestyle medicine is the clinical application of healthy behaviors to prevent, treat and reverse disease. The research underscores that the “pills” prescribed by today’s physicians should be lifestyle medicine.

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Whole-Food, Plant-Based Eating

Diets high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and lower in animal products and highly processed foods have been associated with the prevention of many diseases. These diets have also improved health and even reversed common cardiovascular, metabolic, brain, hormonal, kidney, and autoimmune diseases as well as 35% of all cancers.

We believe that future research should include larger trials or new research methods with emphasis on the quality of the patient’s diet. This would include more data on the micronutrient composition and protein sources of plant versus animal-based foods – not just the proportion of fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Such trials should include children, as many adult disorders are seeded as early as infancy or in utero.

Regular Physical Activity

For decades, surgeon generals’ guidelines have emphasized that daily moderate-to-vigorous aerobic physical activity has both immediate and long-term health benefits. For example, why we age and the rate at which we age – chronological age versus biological age – is determined by multiple molecular processes that are directly influenced by physical activity. And now scientists are gaining a better understanding of the cellular and molecular changes that exercise induces to reduce disease risk.

Restorative Sleep

Sleep helps the cells, organs, and your entire body to function better. Regular amounts of uninterrupted sleep of seven hours per night for adults, eight to 10 hours for teenagers, and 10 or more for children is necessary for good health.

Though understudied, there is evidence that high-quality sleep can reduce inflammation, immune dysfunction, oxidative stress, and epigenetic modification of DNA, all of which are associated with or cause chronic disease.

Stress Management

Though some stress is beneficial, prolonged or extreme stress can overwhelm the brain and body. Chronic stress increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel disease, obesity, depression, asthma, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders, and obesity.

One of the most powerful mechanisms to reduce stress and enhance resilience is by eliciting a relaxation response using mind-body therapies and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Addiction Reduction and Elimination

Many social, economic, and environmental factors have fueled the national rise in substance abuse generally and, most tragically, the opioid epidemic. Our bodies create a dependency on external factors that stimulate and create specific sensations. As we become better prepared to manage and thrive under certain levels of stress, the need to gain external stimulation will be reduced.

Positive Psychology and Social Connection

Maintaining a positive mindset through the practice of gratitude and forgiveness has a significant impact on psychological and subjective well-being, which are, in turn, associated with physical health benefits. Social connectivity, namely the quantity and quality of our relationships, has perhaps the most powerful health benefits.

Conversely, social isolation – such as quarantining during COVID-19, participating in few social activities, and feeling lonely – is associated with greater mortality, lower immune system function, depression, and cognitive decline. Interaction with others via virtual or physical encounters is paramount to a healthy person!

Inflammation’s Role in Lifestyle-Related Diseases

Unhealthy lifestyle behaviors produce a vicious cycle of inflammation. While inflammation is a healthy, natural way the body fights infections, injury, and stress, too much inflammation actually promotes or exacerbates the diseases described above.

The inflammatory response is complex. We have been using machine learning and computer modeling to understand, predict, treat and reprogram inflammation – to retain the healing elements while minimizing the detrimental more chronic ones. 

Overcoming Challenges and Barriers

Those who study lifestyle medicine are now discussing how we can leverage all of these approaches to improve clinical studies on the impacts of lifestyle interventions. There are environmental challenges and barriers that prevent many people from embracing the lifestyle fixes prescribed.

There are food deserts where healthier foods are not available or affordable. Unsafe neighborhoods, harmful chemicals, and substances create constant stress. Poor education, poverty, cultural beliefs, and racial and ethnic disparities, and discrimination must be addressed for all people and patients to appreciate and embrace the six “pills.”

The application of lifestyle medicines is particularly important now because unhealthy lifestyles have caused a pandemic of preventable chronic diseases that are now exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately afflicting those with these conditions.

Ask your doctor to “prescribe” these six “pills” for a longer and better quality of life. They are free, work better than or as well as medications, and have no side effects!

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Has Your Doctor Prescribed These Medicines?