What is “Lifestyle Medicine”?
The focus on lifestyle choices to prevent and treat chronic diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, CVD, and multiple types of cancer, has gained momentum in the past decade. And rightly so, as the leading causes of death among adults in the United States are related to lifestyle, including tobacco use, poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol consumption.
The World Health Organization estimates that, by 2020, two-thirds of all diseases will be the result of lifestyle choices.2 Nutrition, physical activity, and obesity, as well as substance abuse and tobacco, are included among the Healthy People 2020.
Leading Health Indicators, a set of high-priority public health issues in the United States. As a result, there’s a strong push toward taking a lifestyle medicine approach to health care, and nutrition education plays a primary role in this movement. With physicians traditionally receiving little or no training in nutrition science and reluctant to counsel patients on lifestyle behaviors that many fail to practice, the time is ripe for a more formal educational framework around lifestyle medicine.
What is lifestyle medicine? According to one definition from the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM), the flagship medical organization in the lifestyle medicine movement founded in 2004, “Lifestyle Medicine is the therapeutic use of evidence-based lifestyle interventions to treat and prevent lifestyle-related diseases in a clinical setting. It empowers individuals with the knowledge and life skills to make effective behavior changes that address the underlying causes of disease.”
The following are the primary features of ACLM’s Standards of Lifestyle Medicine5:
• It emphasizes promoting behavior changes that allow the body to heal itself.
• It focuses on evidence-based optimal nutrition, stress management, and fitness prescriptions.
• Patients are active partners in their care.
• The underlying lifestyle causes of disease are treated.
• The physician/provider educates, guides, and supports patients to make behavior changes.
• Medications are used as an adjunct to therapeutic lifestyle changes.
• The patient’s home and community environment are assessed as contributing factors.
“ACLM is a galvanizing force for change,” says Susan Benigas, executive director of ACLM and cofounder of The Plantrician Project, a nonprofit organization that hosts events and provides resources and tools for medical professionals who believe in the “food as medicine” pillar of lifestyle medicine. With health care costs skyrocketing to treat conditions caused by poor lifestyle choices, Benigas believes ACLM offers a beacon of hope. “As we teeter on the brink of health care cost-induced bankruptcy, we need to take swift action to educate, equip, and empower our medical professionals and those they serve with the ‘good news’ of lifestyle medicine,” Benigas says.
ACLM, along with the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM), a national medical specialty society of physicians dedicated to disease prevention, health promotion, and systems-based health care improvement,6 are collaborating to fill the gap in medical education to include a foundational lifestyle medicine curriculum available online to all clinical specialties. With the belief that team-based care is an essential part of lifestyle medicine, ACPM’s Associate Executive Director Danielle Pere, MPM, sits on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Primary Care Provider Advisory Board to help develop and implement strategies at the national level that will promote successful collaboration between dietitians and primary care physicians at the local level.
The Primary Care Provider Advisory Board will be presenting at ACLM’s annual meeting in May 2018 in Chicago on the importance of collaboration between dietitians and primary care providers to further individual and population health. ACPM believes lifestyle medicine is a core competency of preventive medicine and supports the continued exploration of the scientific basis, best practices, and the need for education in lifestyle medicine.7
Dietitians Are Major Players
As food and nutrition experts, dietitians play a key role in lifestyle medicine by educating other health care professionals about how food can and should be part of patient care and treatment plans and offering nutrition expertise to ensure success of treatment protocols in practice.
“In my mind, lifestyle has always been the platform for all nutrition intervention therapies I’ve recommended over my 30-year career,” says Rosanne Rust, MS, RDN, LDN, an author and communications consultant based in Meadville, Pennsylvania. “Nutrition plays a huge role in lifestyle medicine. Every diagnosis has a nutrition therapy that should accompany it,” she continues, adding that referrals to dietitians are one of the primary ways physicians can ensure results from diet therapy.
Dietitians can apply the most current scientific evidence available, which supports the consumption of whole, unprocessed or minimally processed plant foods as treatment for most of the lifestyle-related illnesses in the US population. RD’s can make an initial nutrition assessment and provide patients questionnaires about their eating habits. They can recommend physicians order blood tests for patients to screen for serum lipids, blood glucose, and vitamin D levels. And dietitians can discuss healthful eating options with patients, develop personalized meal plans and shopping lists, and suggest they attend nutrition clinics, community garden tours, seminars, food sampling events, and cooking classes to taste and learn how to prepare healthful foods.
December 2017 Issue – Using Food as Lifestyle Medicine
By Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, LDN – Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 19, No. 12, P. 36
To read more of the article, click the link – http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/1217p36.shtml
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Cathy Bowers, RD