The medicine of the future will focus on lifestyle as medicine. Lifestyle involves more than diet and exercise even though these remain the two main supporting pillars of health. Besides body, lifestyle medicine also emphasizes the importance of mental health and spirituality. Recognizing this important triad, Integrative Medicine specialists embrace the body, mind, spirit connection. Unfortunately, many in our society have reduced health care to taking the right pill. Many also tend to believe that pharmaceuticals will make up for their lifestyle improprieties. It is certainly no secret that our lifestyle choices, supported by unhealthy advertising, have led to an epidemic increase in heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Epigenetics involves the modification of genetic expression by our lifestyle choices. Modern science has proven that we can avoid inherited diseases 70-80% of the time by altering our lifestyles. Diet is certainly an important cornerstone (more on this later), but exercise is also extremely important. We all know this, but seem to lack the motivation to be consistent until something really goes wrong, either personally, or we experience the pain of losing a loved one. In other words, we make lifestyle changes when the pain outweighs our lack of motivation and consistency.
Currently, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week to maintain minimal fitness. This translates to 30 minutes 5 days weekly. Those who wish to really be physically fit should devote 300 minutes per week to at least moderate exercise. Both “cardio” and resistance or weight training are part of the goal.
For too long, mental health issues have been the “step child” of American medicine. Typically, insurance reimbursement has been poor, and there is still a stigma to going to a counselor or a “shrink”. Let’s face it, most of us do not want to appear weak and in need emotionally. After all, what will people think! In my opinion, the acceptance of extreme violence in video games and the
entertainment industry, compounded by the loss of sanctity of life, have greatly exacerbated the decline of mental health in our country. Certainly there are other issues, but you have to look no farther than today’s news.
Recently, science has redefined the importance of spirituality. Regardless of your beliefs or non-beliefs, there are numerous studies confirming the importance of not only meditation, but prayer. People who are believers and practice prayer, regardless of religious affiliation, have better health care outcomes and spend less time in the hospital. One study at a major university has also demonstrated the power of “absence prayer”. In this double blinded, controlled study, ICU patients who received prayer from unrelated strangers who prayed for them by first name only had statistically measurable improvement vs. those who did not receive prayer. The patients and the hospital staff who cared for them did not know who was receiving prayer until the end of the study! As stated, there are numerous other scientific studies supporting the importance of spirituality.
I plan on reviewing the scientific importance of diet and several new, surprising revelations in “Tomorrows Medicine Today” next month. So, stay tuned. Personally, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to share and the confidence the editors of Splurge have placed in me. My practice continues to be dedicated to finding the TRUTH and sharing it with those who remain open minded.