What Does Lifestyle Have to Do With Health?

As it turns out, it could impact up to 80 percent of your health! We all know we should be eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and trying to manage our stress. But did you know that by doing those things you can help prevent, treat, and oftentimes reverse chronic disease? That is what lifestyle medicine is.

Lifestyle Medicine is Real Science

Lifestyle medicine is evidence based, not just a new diet fad or exercise craze, “There is a mountain of evidence supporting the importance of healthy eating, physical activity, stress reduction, tobacco cessation, and social connections. Today’s fast paced, 24-7, fast food, technology driven world makes it much easier to eat processed fast food, spend most of our day sitting, and living with chronic stress,” explains Dr. Michelle Tollefson, a physician and associate professor in the Health Professions Department overseeing the lifestyle medicine curriculum at Metro State University.

Dr. Tollefson talked with 9Health during Health Happens, our weekly Facebook Live show we do every Tuesday, “We have to make it a priority to use lifestyle as medicine and modify our environment to support healthy lifestyles,” she adds.

80 % of Chronic Disease Can be Prevented

The World Health Organization says 80% of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke can be prevented by healthy lifestyle habits, especially eating habits. So, what can you do to change behavior and start using lifestyle as medicine? Dr. Tollefson says working with a wellness coach or talking to your primary care provider is a good place to start. She also recommends picking one of the pillars of lifestyle medicine to focus on.

Pillars of Lifestyle Medicine:

  • Healthful eating of predominately whole plant-based foods
  • Increase physical activity
  • Use strategies to manage stress
  • Form and maintain meaningful relationships
  • Sleep 7-8 hours per night
  • Avoid substance abuse

Know Your “Why”

Once you pick one to start with, know your “why” or think about how the new behavior connects with another goal or value. “For example, do you want to increase your physical activity so that you have more energy to play with your grandchildren? You are more likely to follow through on this goal than if you just think about how your doctor wants you to exercise to lose weight,” Dr. Tollefson explains.

Set SMART Goals

Another tip to help you stay on track – write out your goal as a SMART goal A SMART goal is a short statement that is:

– Specific

– Measurable

– Achievable

– Relevant

T – Time bound

An example of a smart goal for physical activity could be to walk around the block after dinner, four days over the next week. Then if you discuss your goal with someone to help hold you accountable, you are more likely to be successful.

Lifestyle medicine can add years to your life and life to your years. In addition, it only has good side effects!