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Medical science has made huge advances in treating infectious diseases in the past century. Antibiotics, vaccines and access to clean drinking water mean that they pose much less risk.
The great challenge to doctors in the 21st century comes from chronic diseases: diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune and mental health conditions. Lifestyle choices play a role in all of these conditions, and lifestyle medicine seeks to address these.
A different approach
Current healthcare approaches do not adequately address chronic diseases. Most people have their condition detected at an advanced stage, and doctors offer expensive medicines and interventions to deal mainly with the complications that arise. But what if we could intervene earlier to prevent or even reverse the disease process? Lifestyle medicine aims to achieve this by focusing on six pillars:
- Nutritional health
- Mental wellbeing/managing stress
- Social connections/relationships
- Minimising harmful substances (like alcohol or smoking)
It might sound obvious, but with an evidence-informed, scientific approach, these pillars represent powerful tools in our fight against disease. They are much more potent at prolonging lifespan and healthspan (proportion of your life lived without disease/impairment) than any drugs currently available.
For this approach to be effective, a doctor needs to move away from their traditional role as an expert who simply imparts information.Years of experience has shown us that simple advice such as “exercise more” or “eat less” is not effective. A lifestyle medicine doctor plays the role of a coach, working in collaboration with their patient to determine their values, goals, motivations, and harnessing these to enable lasting behavioural changes. Does this mean abandoning treatments like drugs and surgery? Definitely not!
Pharmaceuticals still play a key role. Lifestyle medicine recognises this, but aims to maximise optimisation of the ‘six pillars’ alongside other management strategies.
We hope that this completely removes the need for medication for most people, but this may not always be the case. Lifestyle interventions may prevent you from ever getting cancer for example, but if you were unlucky enough to have the disease, we’d want to use all tools available (drugs, surgery and lifestyle changes) in your treatment.
The lifestyle medicine approach involves a multi-disciplinary team of allied health professionals and at Osler we work with a trusted network of nutritionists, trainers, psychologists and coaches to get the best results. For more information, contact us at the website below or visit us in person to learn how we can help you to take control of your wellbeing.
Dr Neil Forrest is a British trained GP family doctor based at Osler Health Star Vista (off Holland Rd).
For more information
Visit our website or make an appointment to learn how we can help you to take control of your own health and wellbeing. osler-health.com