What is Lifestyle Medicine?

Lifestyle Medicine can treat and prevent noncommunicable diseases

Reducing the Global Burden of Noncommunicable Diseases

Lifestyle-related Diseases/Noncommunicable Diseases

Lifestyle-related Diseases (LRDs) or Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading causes of death and the central issue in contemporary and future public health globally. NCDs are amenable to health promotion, prevention, and medical interventions. Improved social conditions, quality of diet, body weight, smoking cessation, and increased physical activity can greatly reduce the burden of NCDs. Scientific breakthroughs in genetics and molecular biology provide new opportunities for success in preventing and treating LRDs/NCDs through a new medical speciality: Lifestyle Medicine.

Lifestyle Medicine is an Evidence-based Medical Specialty

Lifestyle Medicine Definition

The American College of Lifestyle Medicine, the Australian Lifestyle Medicine Association and the European Society of Lifestyle Medicine define Lifestyle Medicine (LM) as:

Lifestyle Medicine is a branch of evidence-based medicine in which comprehensive lifestyle changes (including nutrition, physical activity, stress management, social support and environmental exposures) are used to prevent, treat and reverse the progression of chronic diseases by addressing their underlying causes.
Lifestyle medicine is often prescribed in conjunction with pharmacotherapy and other forms of therapy.
Lifestyle medicine interventions include counseling, screening, and clinical application of lifestyle modifications (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes, TLC).

Lifestyle related diseases include:

  • Obesity and Metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular Disease, Stroke, Heart attack, hypertension
  • Cancer (esp. some forms of cancer such as colon cancer)
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Depression

Lifestyle Medicine is an interdisciplinary field of medicine, psychosocial sciences, public health, and biology. Key principles include primary prevention strategies that address lifestyle habits, as well as the treatment of the underlying cause and pathophysiology (e.g. low-grade systemic inflammation) common to LRDs.

The European Society of Lifestyle Medicine focuses on:

  1. Preserving health and well-being by promoting healthy lifestyle behaviours;
  2. Treating unhealthful behaviors (poor-quality diet, excess energy intake, physical inactivity, smoking), in addition to risk biomarkers (adverse blood lipids, high blood pressure, hyperglycemia, obesity);
  3. A combination of individual-level and population-based health promotion strat- egies that aim to shift the majority of the public toward the next level of improved health and well-being

Hippocrates can be seen as the father of Lifestyle Medicine, he recognized the power of lifestyle as medicine 2,500 years ago.

Lifestyle Medicine is Needed

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) more than 70% of diseases (such as heart disease, type-2-diabetes, some forms of cancer, high blood pressure and obesity) worldwide are caused by lifestyle factors (such as bad nutrition, lack of physical activity and chronic psychological stress). The leading causes of mortality worldwide are lifestyle-related diseases(1,2). There is now strong evidence that lifestyle factors have profound impacts on the pathogenesis of these diseases.
ESLM is founding member of the Global Lifestyle Medicine Alliance GLMA with the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, the Harvard University Institute of Lifestyle Medicine  and the Australian Association of Lifestyle Medicine. GLMA is dedicated to globally promoting evidence-based lifestyle medicine.

Scientific Evidence

The pathogenesis of noncommunicable disease is increasingly better understood. Recent research has highlighted the strong connection between lifestyle factors (physical activity, nutrition, psychological stress) and the pathology of chronic diseases.

Lifestyle factors have a significant influence on human biology, cells and gene expression.


Example of the Strong Interaction of lifestyle Factors on Human Biology

Example of the significant interaction of lifestyle and human biology

Taken from Nature Physiol 587.23 (2009) pp 5559–5568

Clinical Lifestyle Medicine

Clinical application of lifestyle medicine for prevention of chronic diseases or supportive treatment of chronic diseases. This includes but is not limited to: comprehensive medical history review, a lifestyle assessment including review of nutrition, physical activity, stress management, depression alcohol, tobacco), physical exam and a  range of screening tests, fitness/cardiovascular evaluation and blood tests. Lifestyle factors are then modified to optimize health and physiology.

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[1] World Health Organization (WHO). Global status report on noncommunicable disease 2010. Available at http://www.who.int/nmh/publications/ncd_report_full_en.pdf.

[2] Mathers CD, Loncar D. Projections of global mortality and burden of disease from 2002 to 2030. PLoS Medicine 2006; 3: e442.

[3] Kvaavik E, Batty GD, Ursin G et al. Influence of individual and combined health behaviors on total and cause-specific mortality in men and women: the United Kingdom health and lifestyle survey. Arch Intern Med 2010; 170: 711–718.

[4] Rosengren A, Hawken S, Öunpuu S, et al. Association of psychosocial risk factors with risk of acute myocardial infarction in 11 119 cases and 13 648 controls from 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case-control study. Lancet 2004; 364: 953-962.

[5] Boffetta P, Couto E, Wichmann J et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and overall cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). J Natl Cancer Inst 2010;s 102(8): 529–537

[6] Parkin DM, Boyd L, Walker LC. The fraction of cancer attributable to lifestyle and environmental factors in the UK in 2010. Br J Cancer 105: S77-S81.

[7] Danaei G, Vander Hoorn S, Lopez AD et al. Causes of cancer in the world: comparative risk assessment of nine behavioural and environmental risk factors. Lancet 2005; 366: 1784–1793.