Introduction to Lifestyle Medicine

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Introduction to Lifestyle Medicine

This article provides an overview of lifestyle medicine and useful resources.


The new field of lifestyle medicine is emerging to enable healthcare providers to provide prescriptions guidelines and support for a wide variety of evidence-based lifestyle interventions that improve health and well-being and ameliorate many chronic diseases. These interventions are truly breakthrough medicines safe and effective approaches to improving health and well-being.

The leaders in lifestyle medicine include the American College of Preventive Medicine the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine at Spaulding/Harvard Medical School and the American College of Sports Medicine. Their work and articles are featured here.

First here are the top lifestyle medicine websites:

Institute of Lifestyle Medicine

American College of Preventive Medicine

American College of Sports Medicine

Exercise is Medicine™

Surgeon General

Medical Fitness Association

American College of Preventive Medicine - Lifestyle Medicine Initiative

The American College of Preventive Medicine is developing a strategy to support the development of lifestyle medicine as a new focus and specialty in medicine. ACPM describes lifestyle medicine:

Lifestyle medicine is a defined scientific approach to decreasing disease risk and illness burden by utilizing lifestyle interventions such as nutrition physical activity stress reduction smoking cessation avoidance of alcohol abuse and rest.  Lifestyle medicine is the recommended foundational approach to preventing and treating the majority of chronic diseases currently facing the United States and most Western based cultures.  Because it is natural and not supported by any core economic driver lifestyle medicine has not received the emphasis it deserves from educators or providers of health care.

Physician Competencies for Prescribing Lifestyle Medicine
Lianov and Johnson JAMA.2010; 304: 202-203.  


Institute of Lifestyle Medicine

The Institute of Lifestyle Medicine (ILM) was founded by Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Harvard Medical School to reduce the prevalence of lifestyle-related disease and mortality in our society through physician-directed interventions with patients. Led by Edward M. Phillips MD one of the defining voices in the field of Lifestyle Medicine the ILM is at the forefront of a broad-based collaborative effort to transform the practice of primary care medicine. This critical transformation is motivated by significant research indicating that modifiable behaviors—especially physical inactivity and unhealthy eating—are major drivers of disease and mortality. While the medical profession is generally aware of this there has yet to be a systematic and comprehensive effort to incorporate Lifestyle Medicine into standard clinical practice.

A not-for-profit educational organization the ILM is uniquely positioned to ignite physician involvement in Lifestyle Medicine by offering concrete tools and training to participating doctors empowering them to facilitate behavioral change and the culture of health and wellness for their patients.

Lifestyle Medicine & Heart Disease

Here is a recently published paper in the journal Circulation on lifestyle interventions and cardiovascular risk reduction:Interventions to Promote Physical Activity and Dietary Lifestyle Changes for Cardiovascular Risk Factor Reduction in Adults: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association Endorsed by the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association and the Society of Behavioral Medicine.

Abstract: Approximately 79 400 000 American adults or 1 in 3 have cardiovascular disease (CVD). 1  CVD accounts for 36.3% or 1 of every 2.8 deaths in the United States and is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States killing an average of 1 American every 37 seconds.1 Older adults some ethnic minority populations and socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals have an increased prevalence of CVD and vascular/metabolic risk factors such as hypertension dyslipidemia and diabetes; are more likely to have  2 risk factors; and are at increased risk of being sedentary overweight or obese and having unhealthy dietary habits.2–10 Black and Hispanic immigrants are initially at lower risk for vascular/metabolic risk factors and CVD than US-born black and Hispanic individuals2 but as they adapt to the diet and activity habits of this country the prevalence of vascular/metabolic risk factors increases.3 Each of these issues emphasizes the importance of interventions to promote physical activity (PA) and healthy diets in all American adults.

Even modest sustained lifestyle changes can substantially reduce CVD morbidity and mortality. Because many of the beneficial effects of lifestyle changes accrue over time long-term adherence maximizes individual and population benefits. Interventions targeting dietary patterns weight reduction and new PA habits often result in impressive rates of initial behavior changes but frequently are not translated into long-term behavioral maintenance.4 Both adoption and maintenance of new cardiovascular risk-reducing behaviors pose challenges for many individuals. According to the National Center for Health Statistics life expectancy could increase by almost 7 years if all forms of major CVD were eliminated.5 Improvements in morbidity and quality of life would also be substantial. In order to achieve these goals healthcare providers must focus on reducing CVD risk factors such as overweight and obesity poor dietary habits and physical inactivity by helping individuals begin and maintain dietary and PA changes. Each year >$44 billion including $33 billion in medical costs and $9 billion in lost productivity due to heart disease cancer stroke and diabetes is attributable to poor nutrition.6 In the year 2000 the annual estimated direct medical cost of physical inactivity was $76.6 billion.1 


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