It’s official. Non-communicable diseases (“lifestyle” diseases) are now the leading cause of death around the world, with developing countries hit hardest, according to a new report from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“What is of concern is the fact that 9 million of the 36 million people who die every year because of non-communicable diseases die before the age of 60 years,” authors say. “We are talking about heart disease and strokes. We are talking about diabetes. We are talking about cancers and we are talking about chronic lung diseases.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-04-28/lifestyle-diseases-the-worlds-biggest-killer/2695712
With increasing stress, inadequate nutrition, raised blood pressure and cholesterol levels, inadequate sleep, lack of physical exercise and unhealthy levels of alcohol intake, it is no wonder our society is now dying from lifestyle diseases above all diseases.
Thomas Edison once said, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human body, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” This, needless to say, is the core of our belief system at Paddington Clinic, and for “lifestyle diseases”, it makes sense that we need “lifestyle medicine”.
We no longer can ignore that most chronic diseases are lifestyle related and, therefore, preventable and modifiable through education and self-care.
Lifestyle medicine is a new approach to patient care that uses evidence-based primary prevention measures to treat lifestyle-related diseases. Primary prevention involves behaviour and lifestyle changes such as healthy diet, stress management, rest and relaxation, exercise, maintaining supportive relationships and nourishing the spirit. While we often associate malnutrition as a problem in Third World countries, the reality is that lack of nutrition is as much of a problem in developing countries because our diets are so full of salt, fat, and sugar and so lacking in essential nutrients and minerals found in fresh, unprocessed foods.
What is also encouraging is that lifestyle changes that prevent a disease also make excellent complementary therapies for actually treating the disease. Thus, lifestyle medicine is becoming our best ally to facilitate disease prevention and for the reversal and rehabilitation of chronic illness. While pharmaco-medical treatments for chronic lifestyle-related illness can play an important role, it would seem logical to no longer accept them to be a complete solution to the problem.
Would you rather keep taking tablets for your high blood pressure, or manage the stress and poor dietary choices which may be causing the problem? Would you rather be dependent on reflux tablets, or learn how to minimize acidity in your food? Would you rather live a long, vibrant life, or end up one of the 9 million people dying of preventable, lifestyle diseases before the age of 60?
Differences between conventional and lifestyle medicine approaches:
- Patient is often a passive consumer of care
- Requires little or no behavioural change
- Treatment is often short term
- Treatment is in the form of external intervention (works from outside-in)
- Treats ‘branches’ (symptoms) of the illness
- Responsibility falls mostly on the clinician
- Medication or surgery is often the end treatment
- Success of treatment based on the change of observable symptoms
- Patient is active partner in care
- Requires sustained personal commitment
- Intervention mostly long-term
- Internal intervention: personal change, change in attitude/habit/lifestyle
- Treats ‘root’ (cause) of illness
- Responsibility falls mostly on the patient
- Medication used as an adjunct to lifestyle changes
- Success of treatment takes into account the change in general wellbeing and positivity
What we are passionate about seeing is the shift in mind-set from being the “victim” of an illness to being the “creator” (or co-creator) of your prognosis. Yes, lifestyle medicine is possible and achievable, but not always easy, and that is perhaps why people opt for the “easy road” and end up in bad health. Whether we are uneducated, or just plain lazy, it’s important to remember that motivation is the key challenge of any lifestyle change, and once motivation is established, it’s habit that will keep you going. People often then find that once they start living a cleaner, healthier life they feel better in their general well being, and they are then naturally drawn towards choices that are good for them and their health, and it doesn’t seem like an effort at all.
Just as lifestyle illnesses are multi-factorial, lifestyle medicine is often a multi-faceted solution best supported by a team of practitioners in a team of modalities. This is why we have Naturopaths, Massage Therapists, Acupuncturists and NLP practitioners to address all aspects of your health and well being – in both body and mind – to guide you on the road to happier, healthier living.
“If you do not change direction you may end up where you are heading.” Lao Tzu