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What is lifestyle medicine?

What is lifestyle medicine?

Lifestyle medicine is good medicine for everyone! Lifestyle improves survival and quality of life in some of the sickest patients.

 

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Dr. Cate Collings is founding director of Lifestyle Medicine for Silicon Valley Medical Development and El Camino Health. She serves as current president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. She has dual board certifications in cardiology and lifestyle medicine.  Dr. Collings has 25 years of practice in invasive, general, and imaging cardiology, and has served in multiple leadership roles, including founding medical director of El Camino Health's Cardiopulmonary Wellness Center.

  1. What is lifestyle medicine?
    Lifestyle Medicine is a lifestyle-first approach to health care wherein evidence-based therapeutic lifestyle intervention is used to treat and often reverse chronic conditions.
  2. What are some of the most common health conditions lifestyle medicine helps to address?
    CDC statistics demonstrate that 60% of American adults are already diagnosed with one chronic disease and more than 40% are diagnosed with two or more, with estimates of 80-90% of these conditions lifestyle induced or lifestyle worsened. This includes the common conditions that affect the quality and quantity of life in ourselves and our friends and family members. Heart disease, pre-diabetes, high cholesterol levels, cancer, obesity, and liver and kidney conditions. Lifestyle Medicine is also for people who can't or don’t want to rely solely on medications, procedures, and surgery to manage their health.
  3. What aspects of lifestyle does lifestyle medicine focus on?
    The six essential lifestyle elements that optimize health, prevent, treat, and often times reverse conditions include nutrition and exercise with attention also directed to sleep, stress, substance misuse, and social connection. Taken all together, these are the six pillars of Lifestyle Medicine so you can see that the focus is on whole person health. Our body is complex, beautifully synchronized, and capable of healing with attention to these pillars.
  4. Lifestyle medicine is a new specialty. What makes it different from the healthy lifestyle classes offered by YMCA and other non-clinical programs?
    This is a great question and one that often comes up also in the context of discussing wellness. A big difference can be described in terms of properly targeted and dosed lifestyle interventions. If a person has a lung infection for example, there is a therapeutic dosage and duration of a specific medication to treat that infection. Any antibiotic at any dose for any number of days just won't work and may cause harm. Using exercise as a lifestyle intervention, we all know that any exercise is better than none for general health and wellness. But if a person is diabetic, the type, timing, and dosing of exercise is critically important to go beyond wellness into treatment and in combination with similarly dosed nutritional interventions, often times reversal of diabetes and insulin resistance.
  5. How does the program at El Camino Health work?
    Most people engage in our programs through the door of a physician consultation with one of our Lifestyle Medicine physician diplomats. By doing this, the physician can fully understand their medical conditions or risks and appropriate target lifestyle interventions. Together the patient and the physician determine whether an individual program best serves the individual or whether a group Lifestyle Medicine facilitated program is best. Some of it comes down to insurance and timing. Often people make use of both of the programs. We have a dedicated nutritionist, exercise specialist, and health coach as part of our team. In addition to our comprehensive programs, we offer free classes on a variety of lifestyle topics. We have hosted and anticipate resuming in-person, hands-on culinary medicine classes. In these classes, participants really learn about nutrition while cooking, and then we all share a meal together. It's fun and enlightening to many people. How can healthy food taste so good?
  6. How do you encourage patients to make what may be big changes and stick with the program?
    That's such an important question. We actually try to do less encouraging and particularly avoid pulling someone to do something against their will. We meet people where they are, understand their goals in a lifestyle change, and work together to make healthy lifestyle choices their easy choice. We use evidence-based methods of coaching to help people establish habits that stick. Regular contact, peer support, and a sense of empowerment help people make what they feared would be hard changes with less resistance. Often people remark that it's easier than they expected.
  7. What results are you finding with your patients?
    We have seen remarkable biometric changes, particularly in cholesterol levels, sugar levels, and body weight. Exercise and eating patterns markedly improve. But often patients also report sleeping better, handling stress better, an elevated "joie de vivre" or just a general enhanced feeling of physical and emotional wellbeing.
  8. What results are you finding with your patients?
    We have seen remarkable biometric changes, particularly in cholesterol levels, sugar levels, and body weight. Exercise and eating patterns markedly improve. But often patients also report sleeping better, handling stress better, an elevated "joie de vivre" or just a general enhanced feeling of physical and emotional wellbeing.
  9. What are some general dietary recommendations you can offer?
    We focus our nutrition guidelines around unprocessed and nutrient dense foods. This adds up to what is otherwise called a whole food plant predominant eating pattern. These are the foods that tap down inflammation, ramp up antioxidants, nourish the microbiome, and work through complicated epigenetic pathways to mitigate genetic risks. It turns out the diet that works for heart disease is also the same as the diets that work for diabetes, high cholesterol, cancer, dementia, and weight management-all the conditions that create disability and early death.
  10. Is lifestyle medicine good for everyone? How do I know if I can benefit from lifestyle medicine?
    I'd say lifestyle medicine is good medicine for everyone! But what's important is that lifestyle medicine isn't just to prevent disease. We work with patients with existing conditions because it's not just pills and procedures that work. We know that lifestyle improves survival and quality of life in some of the sickest patients. It's never too late to benefit from lifestyle changes.
  11. If I am interested in lifestyle medicine. What's the first step I should take?
    There are several possible first steps. Setting up a physician consultation by calling 650-962-4392 is a great first step. Attending a free class by registering under events and classes on our website www.elcaminohealth.org/lifestylemedicine is another way to explore lifestyle medicine more where you'll also meet some of our staff. Attending a CHIP info session is a great way to learn about our group program. For some people, they enter CHIP without a physician consult, obtain their pre-program and post-program blood work through their existing PCP. That's a fine way for many people. We are here to serve the larger community and welcome people from the Chinese Health Initiative community.

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