Lifestyle medicine has become the most compelling trend in healthcare. It involves the use of evidence-based lifestyle therapeutic interventions - focusing on dietary patterns, regular physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances (like alcohol and tobacco) and positive social connection, to prevent, treat and also reverse chronic conditions.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes, are the leading cause of death worldwide and represent an emerging global health threat. In Kenya, NCDs are the second leading cause of death with a rate of 81 deaths per 100,000.
Actions have been taken to aid the control of NCDs. Kenya launched a five-year national strategic plan in July 2021, to aid the control of NCDs with the aim of reducing premature deaths by a third.
Studies continuously show the effectiveness of lifestyle medicine in the prevention and treatment of NCDs, with the benefits being better health, improved quality of life, low-cost and low-technology treatment requirements. For example, data show that behaviour changes could prevent 80% of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes, and 40% of cancer diagnoses.
What can we do?
Lifestyle medicine addresses root causes by focusing on the lifestyle choices that give rise to NCDs such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, hypertension and chronic respiratory diseases. When implemented, lifestyle medicine can prevent, treat, and even reverse these conditions. The American College of Lifestyle Medicine has established six guiding pillars when embracing lifestyle medicine:
Nutrition - A whole-foods- and plant-based diet helps your body function efficiently.
Exercise - Physical activity promotes the health of the mind and body.
Sleep - The amount and quality of sleep you get affects the immune system.
Stress management - Finding ways to manage stress helps reduce tension and lower blood pressure.
Substance abuse - Avoidance of addictive substances such as tobacco, alcohol and drugs is important in lowering your risk of cancer and heart disease
Relationships - Healthy relationships are beneficial for mental and physical health.
Lifestyle medicine calls us to simply eat well, move more, rest, stress less and love more. The goal is to live long and live well. What are your health goals in 2022?