Experts prescribe 4 lifestyle 'medicines' for healthy life
Many people around the world are stressed, worried, sleep-deprived and suffer from largely preventable lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.
Being overweight or obese contributes to the 50 percent of US adults who suffer high blood pressure, 10 percent with diabetes and additional 35 percent with pre-diabetes.
And the costs are unaffordable and growing. About 90 percent of the nearly $4 trillion Americans spend annually for health care in the US is for chronic diseases and mental health conditions.
But there are new lifestyle "medicines" that are free that doctors could be prescribing for all their patients.
Lifestyle medicine is the clinical application of healthy behaviors to prevent, treat and reverse disease.
More than ever, research underscores that the "pills" today's physician should be prescribing for patients are the six domains of lifestyle medicine: whole food plant-based eating, regular physical activity, stress management, and positive psychology and social connection.
Whole-food, plant-based eating
Diets high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and lower in animal products and highly processed foods have been associated with prevention of many diseases.
These diets have also improved health and even reversed common cardiovascular, metabolic, brain, hormonal, kidney, and autoimmune diseases as well as 35 percent of all cancers.
Regular physical activity
For decades, surgeon generals' guidelines have emphasized that daily moderate-to-vigorous aerobic physical activity has both immediate and long-term health benefits.
For example, why we age and the rate at which we age – chronological age versus biological age – is determined by multiple molecular processes that are directly influenced by physical activity.
And now scientists are gaining a better understanding of the cellular and molecular changes that exercise induces to reduce disease risk.
Though some stress is beneficial, prolonged or extreme stress can overwhelm the brain and body. Chronic stress increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel disease, obesity, depression, asthma, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders, and obesity.
One of the most powerful mechanisms to reduce stress and enhance resilience is by eliciting a relaxation response using mind-body therapies and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Positive psychology and social connection
Maintaining a positive mindset through the practice of gratitude and forgiveness has a significant impact on psychological and subjective well-being, which are, in turn, associated with physical health benefits.
Social connectivity, namely the quantity and quality of our relationships, has perhaps the most powerful health benefits.
Conversely, social isolation – such as living alone, having a small social network, participating in few social activities, and feeling lonely – is associated with greater mortality, increased morbidity, lower immune system function, depression and cognitive decline.