What is Lifestyle Medicine?
The American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) is the medical professional society providing quality education and certification to those dedicated to clinical and worksite practice of lifestyle medicine as the foundation of a transformed and sustainable health care system.
Lifestyle medicine is a medical specialty that uses therapeutic lifestyle interventions as a primary modality to treat chronic conditions including, but not limited to, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Lifestyle medicine certified clinicians are trained to apply evidence-based, whole-person, prescriptive lifestyle change to treat and, when used intensively, often reverse such conditions. Applying the six pillars of lifestyle medicine—a whole-food, plant-predominant eating pattern, physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances and positive social connections—also provides effective prevention for these conditions.
Is lifestyle medicine a different type of practice than conventional medicine?
No, lifestyle medicine is actually the foundation of conventional medicine. Clinical practice guidelines for the top lifestyle-related chronic diseases support lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications.
Why is lifestyle medicine essential to sustainable health and healthcare?
The rise in chronic disease trends and related health care spending in the United States and in many other countries is unsustainable. Type 2 diabetes alone is a looming global pandemic with incalculable consequences.
This being said, there is good news.
While 80% or more of all health care spending in the U.S. is tied to the treatment of conditions rooted in unhealthy lifestyle choices, lifestyle medicine offers hope as a solution. Diseases and conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity and multiple types of cancer are among the most common and costly of all health conditions—but they are also preventable. Lifestyle medicine addresses root causes by focusing on the lifestyle choices that give rise to these diseases in the first place. When implemented, lifestyle medicine can prevent, treat, and even reverse these conditions.
The importance and urgency of lifestyle medicine
Chronic disease is the leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. Rates of chronic disease have never been higher, with the cost of chronic conditions eating up 86% of all health care dollars spent. Chronic disease is so common that more than half of U.S. adults have at least one condition, accounting for 90% of health care spending.
According to the World Health Organization, 80% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes and 40% of cancer could be prevented, primarily with improvements to diet and lifestyle.
The U.S. spends at least 18% of its GDP ($3.35 trillion) on health expenditures. If costs continue to rise, by 2050 Medicare and Medicaid alone will account for 20% of the GDP. All projections point to continued rises in chronic disease. If we don’t reverse this trend, we are headed for bankruptcy as a country. The solvency of our nation is at stake.
How lifestyle medicine can help
Lifestyle medicine is an evidence-based approach shown to prevent and treat disease. It treats the underlying cause of disease rather than its symptoms that are too often addressed with ever-increasing quantities of pills and procedures. Because it treats causes and not just symptoms, only through lifestyle medicine can we alter the course of spiraling health care costs.
A plant-predominant diet
The American College of Lifestyle Medicine’s (ACLM) official position statement on diet for the treatment and potential reversal of lifestyle-related chronic disease was published September 25, 2018. The statement reads: “For the treatment, reversal and prevention of lifestyle-related chronic disease, ACLM recommends eating a predominantly plant-based diet with a variety of minimally processed vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.”
This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical issue or disease. The author does not in any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of this article and will not be held responsible for the content of this article. The information in this article is not intended to replace a personal relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Always consult your personal health care provider for specific medical advice.
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