LIFESTYLE MEDICINE - A New Way To Look At Health Care
I lost my wife and the mother of my children to cancer in 2011.
She was only 39 years old. I have recently lost both of my parents to health complications that I feel could have been avoided with different lifestyle choices.
While supporting beloved family members during their health struggles, I began to critically analyze the healthcare system. I felt like the doctors and nurses were doing the best that they could based on what they knew, but I felt like the real health solutions were beyond their scope.
As humans, our ability to create is the main thing that separates us from the animals.
In that role the human collective has created a world that promotes tremendous stress, causes strain in our relationships, encourages unhealthy eating, allows very little time for exercise, deters us from getting sufficient sleep, and drives us to use alcohol and drugs to cope.
We have largely removed ourselves from having any meaningful relationship with the Natural World; and in the process we have created a culture in which healthy living requires you to be some sort of a “health nut” in the eyes of most people.
What if healthy living was as simple as this: eat less - mostly plants, love more, stress less, move more, drink less alcohol, quit smoking, and get more sleep?
In theory most medical personnel would agree that these factors will promote healthy outcomes.
But medical training does not teach healthcare professionals to promote healthy living as a primary treatment to prevent and reverse chronic disease, manage weight, and otherwise lead their patients to live an abundant life. Rather, pills and procedures are the primary treatment, with lifestyle changes being a complementary consideration.
Thankfully, an emerging healthcare specialty is working to change all of that.
Founded in 2004, the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) is the medical professional society for physicians and other professionals dedicated to the clinical and worksite practice of Lifestyle Medicine as the foundation of a transformed and sustainable healthcare system.
Lifestyle Medicine is the use of evidence-based lifestyle therapeutic intervention - as a primary treatment - delivered by clinicians trained and certified in this specialty to prevent, treat, and often reverse chronic disease.
Lifestyle Medicine operates from the premise of these six pillars of health: a whole food plant-predominant eating pattern, regular physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances, and positive social connection.
While already living the plant-based lifestyle, I discovered Lifestyle Medicine while writing for a local publication. I interviewed the only board-certified Lifestyle Medicine Specialist in the Kansas City area.
I was so moved by his life story and so impressed with the principles of Lifestyle Medicine that I decided to make him my only practitioner.
In my first session with him, my blood markers were good except that my LDL cholesterol was a bit too high and my omega 3/omega 6 ratio was off.
Whereas most physicians would have put me on low-dose statins and advised me to eat fish or take fish oil supplements, I was instead advised to make a couple of simple changes to my diet that did not compromise my plant-based ethics.
I followed the instructions, and in six months, my LDL was well within a healthy range, and I even lost 10 pounds.
It was during this time that I began exploring my options for studying health and wellness coaching with an emphasis on Lifestyle Medicine.
Never before have I felt so empowered to lead others to create a healthy lifestyle for themselves and their loved ones.
Healthcare in the United States costs $3.3 trillion dollars annually, with 90% or more of all healthcare spending tied to the treatment of conditions rooted in unhealthy lifestyle choices. 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.
With all of our increased medical spending, our collective health is getting worse, not better.
One could argue that the very solvency of America is dependent upon our getting healthy. In a much-needed paradigm shift, 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, empowering patients to take control of their own health, while alleviating the overwhelming stress on the healthcare system and the heavy burnout experienced by many healthcare professionals.
The value of Lifestyle Medicine is becoming recognized by all aspects of medical practice, with ACLM members representing the broad diversity of the medical profession and related fields that comprise effective practice models.
Members include primary care physicians, specialists, researchers, professors, students, public spokespersons, hospital administrators, nutritionists, health coaches, public health professionals, and many others.
More than a professional association, ACLM is a galvanized force for change. ACLM addresses the need for quality education and certification, supporting its members in their individual practices and in their collective mission to domestically and globally promote Lifestyle Medicine.
As more healthcare professionals see the benefits of identifying and eradicating the root cause of disease, ACLM has experienced a 500 percent increase in membership over the last five years.
Lifestyle Medicine is a healthcare revolution whose time has come.
One such revolutionary is newly-elected New York City Mayor Eric Adams. Suffering from partial blindness because of diabetic retinal neuropathy and facing possible amputations due to type-2 diabetes, Adams did some research.
After watching the documentary Forks Over Knives, Adams adopted a plant-based lifestyle. He reversed his diabetes, regained his eyesight, and the tingling in his hands and feet ended. Furthermore, his A1C (blood sugar level indicator) dropped, his blood pressure and cholesterol levels normalized, and he lost 35 pounds.
With a desire to promote healthy outcomes for others, Mayor Adams is expanding Lifestyle Medicine services to hospitals citywide.
HOW CAN I FIND LIFESTYLE MEDICINE HEALTH PROFESSIONALS?
Primary care doctors, nurse practitioners, and nearly every medical specialty has certified Lifestyle Medicine Specialists. You may search for a Lifestyle Medicine Specialist in your area. Additionally, Plant Based TeleHealth offers remote primary medical care from board-certified Lifestyle Medicine Specialists for patients in most states.
For additional support in making lifestyle changes, Plant Based TeleHealth partners with Terra Health Coaching, a digital health coaching platform rooted in the principals of Lifestyle Medicine and Behavioral Science.
Terra Health Coaching also provides weekly one-on-one coaching with health coaches trained in Lifestyle Medicine, many of whom also have advanced clinical training in various medical specialties.
Former ACLM President George Guthrie said, "Medicine is supposed to restore health and wholeness to those who are sick. For chronic lifestyle-related diseases, the best treatment is intensive lifestyle change. Science and experience are teaching us that effective treatment is available, and reversibility is imminently plausible in many cases.”
With this statement the American College of Lifestyle Medicine is pointing patients and clinicians in the right direction.
Whole Harvest plays an important role by committing to providing whole food plant-based meals and snacks that have no added oils, no processed sugars, and minimal added sodium. These emphases meet the standards of the Lifestyle Medicine culinary philosophy.
Vince Tucker is a Lifestyle Medicine Health and Wellness Coach, active member of The American College of Lifestyle Medicine, and a Certified Master Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator.