Lifestyle Medicine is now on Cape Cod. This new approach to medical care has been proven to benefit the health of the community, as well as being a paradigm shift that creates true health care reform.

What is Lifestyle Medicine? According to the American College of Preventive Medicine, it is the use of lifestyle interventions within conventional medicine to lower the risk for a number of lifestyle-related diseases; or if such conditions are already present, to serve as an adjunct to the management plan.

The desired goal of health care reform is to improve health outcomes and control costs. The problems that continue to plague health care in the United States remain challenging. More than two-thirds of the adult population in the U.S. are overweight or obese, less than 25% get adequate servings of fruits and vegetables, more than 20% continue to smoke and less than 30% achieve enough physical activity for health benefits. Health care professionals must focus on helping individuals understand that their daily habits and actions profoundly affect all aspects of their health. Health care dollars continue to be spent on treatment of disease rather than prevention. Chronic diseases account for 78% of our annual health care costs. Lifestyle and environmental factors such as diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking and chronic stress are significant underlying causes of these diseases.

So why is health care so expensive while our outcomes remain relatively poor? Presently “prevention” therapies are defined as early detection of disease, such as screening tests, mammograms, or colonoscopies. Although important, these costly procedures do not actually prevent the disease from occurring. Lifestyle medicine plays a critical role in management and prevention of chronic diseases. It includes a patient centered approach with interventions tailored to each patient’s unique medical, psychological and socio-cultural situation. The treatment plans focus on the entire risk factor profile rather than on isolated illnesses.

The predominant lifestyle-related medical conditions seen in primary care include obesity, hypertension, diabetes, elevated lipids, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and osteoporosis.
According to the American College of Preventive Medicine:
3 out of 4 do not get enough physical activity,
4 out of 5 need to significantly improve their diet,
2 out of 3 need to lose weight,
1 out of 3 adults age 30 – 64 average less than 6 hours of sleep per day.

To further analyze a specific condition, heart disease remains the number 1 killer in America today. A comprehensive review of the largest national studies has shown that four lifestyle changes in patients with cardiovascular disease can affect the risk of death as follows:
36% reduction with smoking cessation
24% reduction with regular physical activity
20% reduction with moderating alcohol use
44% reduction with dietary changes

If patients are told by their primary care provider to lose weight, quit smoking, exercise more and follow a healthy diet, the patient is more likely to comply. However, the resources including time and support to guide individuals on how to do it are lacking. It takes more than simple advice to change behaviors. The challenge is to convert awareness into behavior change. Lifestyle medicine techniques provide that missing link, using patient education and behavioral science methodology.

Delivery of care currently is based on medication and surgery and there are no incentives to treat disease with lifestyle medicine. A change in emphasis is critical to the future of health care reform. According to an analysis by the Cleveland Clinic, enrolling patients with heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and certain cancers into a lifestyle medicine program could reduce net health care expenditures by $930 billion over 5 years. It would also result in dramatically improved health and quality of life for Americans. There is pending legislation addressing interventional lifestyle treatment. It will support the development of a health-based economy rather than one based on illness. If lifestyle medicine takes hold, our “sick care system” will be transformed into a “health care system”.

On November 19th, 2011, Carol Penfield M.S., NPc, Nurse Practitioner will be opening her private medical practice specializing in lifestyle medicine, which will be accepting most insurances. The office is located beneath the Chatham Health & Swim Club. Please feel free to call: 508-945-7761 for more information or to book an appointment.