January 2022 Wellness Corner: Learn about the six pillars of Lifestyle Medicine

Lifestyle Medicine is the use of evidence-based lifestyle therapeutic intervention-including a whole food plant-based eating pattern, regular physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances, and positive social connection-as a primary modality, delivered by clinicians trained and certified in this specialty, to prevent, treat, and often reverse chronic disease. Of note, a whole food plant-based diet consists of mostly food from plants (such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, and legumes) with little to no animal products (such as dairy, meat, and eggs). Lifestyle Medicine describes the impact of daily habits and health practices on overall health and wellbeing of individuals. All six pillars of Lifestyle Medicine are associated with improving emotional well-being, positive emotions, and physical well-being. Lifestyle Medicine can potentially play a significant role in preventing and ameliorating physician burnout.

Some physical activity is better than none and adults should aim to move more and sit less throughout the day. According to an updated 2018 physical activity Guideline, physical activity improves sleep onset, duration, and quality of sleep. A single episode of physical activity enhances brain executive function including concentration, attention, emotional regulation, memory, ability to plan, organize, and speed of processing. Additionally, physical activity reduces depressive symptoms in those with and without clinical depression. 

Human body has power to heal itself by optimization of six pillars of Lifestyle Medicine. Lifestyle habits are the most important determinants of human health. It is cost effective and reduces the need for expensive medical/surgical interventions.

Another concept related to Lifestyle Medicine is the influence of these behaviors at epigenetic level. Epigenetics is the study of non-DNA sequence components of genetic inheritance. These non-DNA sequence components act like gene-switches that modify and control gene expression. Unlike the gene themselves, the epigenetic sequences can and are changed and modified by numerous environmental and genetic factors. Lifestyle and especially diet and physical activity have major influence on epigenetics. The key point is that genes are not our destiny, but our lifestyle is. The changes we make today will change our lifestyle, and ultimately change our future.

Reference: Foundations of Lifestyle Medicine 3rd Edition, 2021

Dr. Askari is a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physician here at Queen’s and has recently obtained her certification in Lifestyle Medicine in the US. If you have more questions about Lifestyle Medicine, email Sussan at askaris@providencecare.ca.