Incorporating Lifestyle Medicine into Your Everyday Routines
Lifestyle medicine is a proven and powerful way to help prevent, treat, and often reverse chronic disease. We overview some best practices you can try incorporating into your lifestyle.
Many Vermonters practice lifestyle medicine, whether we know it or not. Lifestyle medicine is a proven and powerful way to prevent, treat, and often reverse chronic disease. This evidence-based approach to health care is based on six core pillars. Take control of your health by incorporating these best practices into your lifestyle.
- Eat nutritional whole foods that are predominately plant-based
- Manage stress
- Stay physically active
- Avoid risky substance use
- Get seven to nine hours of quality sleep
- Have a strong emotional support system in your life
Here in Vermont, we are fortunate to have easier access to healthy foods than most of the U.S. population. For us, the food supply chain could be as simple as from a local farm to your table. Farmers markets and local shops are common in Vermont. Eating regionally grown food allows you to choose more from plant-based sources. Changing eating patterns that include more foods primarily from plants is a foundational way to begin eating healthier. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans.
Managing stress prevents larger health issues. It can also lead to a more fulfilling and productive day-to-day lifestyle.
Taking a break is the most immediate and mindful way of reducing stress. Clearing our minds keeps us in the present. When we can regroup and recharge in a quiet place, stressful thoughts won't dominant your mind. Meditation, deep breathing, and yoga are ways to clear the mind. There are many websites and apps for your phone that offer free guided meditation. The simple act of stepping away from the chaos of the world, even for a brief time, can do wonders for our psyche. Consider dedicating part of your lunch break or morning to taking a walk or finding a place to meditate.
Increase Physical Activity
There is no time of year unsuited for outdoor physical activity in our Green Mountain State. Regular and consistent physical activity is an essential part of optimal health. Walking daily is a wonderful way of staying motivated to keep active. Walk with your dog, find a partner to walk and talk with, or go for a walk in the woods and commune with nature. You can also try one of these activities to keep you moving:
No matter what you do to stay active, you’ll feel better and have more energy for work and leisure time.
Avoid Risky Substance Abuse
Stopping the use of tobacco and limiting the intake of alcohol improve health and wellness. According to the American Cancer Society, at least forty two percent of diagnosed cancers in 2020, in the U.S., may have been avoidable. Nineteen percent of all cancers are caused by smoking. Eighteen percent of cancers are caused by a combination of alcohol use, poor nutrition, and physical inactivity.
Sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. Regular sleep also helps the body remain healthy and stave off diseases. Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night and being consistent reinforces your body's sleep-wake cycle. Here are guidelines for getting a good night’s rest.
- Do a relaxation activity an hour before bedtime, such as reading or listening to music
- Don’t go to bed hungry
- Avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime
- Keep your room cool, dark, and quiet
- Avoid prolonged use of light-emitting screens before bedtime
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day
Studies show that isolation is associated with increased mortality. Humans need social connectedness to build emotional resiliency. Our new “normal” has flipped the way we connect upside down, but it has not changed the need to connect. Surround yourself with people who lift you up, celebrate, and laugh with you. Send a meaningful text or set aside time to connect with those you care about and care about you. This the intangible component to completing your lifestyle medicine journey.
Healthy for the Long Term
Lifestyle medicine can keep you free of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and cancer. It is also one of the most effective ways of maintaining your physical and mental well-being.