A foundation of conventional medicine, lifestyle medicine is an evidence-based therapeutic approach to preventing and treating disease. Lifestyle medicine grew out of a need to prevent chronic diseases that are caused by lifestyle choices such as smoking, excessive alcohol use, and unhealthy eating habits
Lifestyle medicine focuses on replacing unhealthy habits with positive changes. As an older adult, your primary care provider might discuss your lifestyle choices with you to help prevent or reduce the severity of chronic illnesses. Ideally, making positive changes will help change the outcome of lifestyle-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, or other conditions that can affect seniors.
What is Lifestyle Medicine?
Primary care providers who take a lifestyle medicine approach look at the underlying causes of diseases and conditions and identify ways to help prevent them from occurring. Traditional Western medicine often focuses on treating the symptoms and progression of a disease through medications or procedures. Lifestyle medicine complements that treatment by working to prevent or reverse disease through healthy habits.
There are six key components of lifestyle medicine. Below, learn more about each one and review a few tips on implementing these changes into your daily routine.
6 Pillars of Building a Healthier Lifestyle
1. Focus on Nutrition
Eating a balanced diet, including meals that incorporate colorful fruits and vegetables, contributes to a balanced diet and may help lower risks of cognitive decline. Choosing plant-based foods such as beans, lentils, and seeds is also beneficial in maintaining good nutrition.
Planning and preparation are key to meeting your nutrition goals. Creating a menu that includes simple healthy recipes will limit the need for take-out. Leftovers can be a no-fuss, nutritious option for lunches throughout the week.
Related: Gets tips on healthy eating and good nutrition for older adults >>
2. Exercise Regularly
Adding regular physical activity to your daily routine through walking, biking, strength training, or dancing can have a significant impact on your health. Exercise helps control weight, prevent diseases, and increase your energy level.
It’s important to consult your physician before starting a new exercise program, but adding physical activity to your day doesn’t have to be complicated. You can try parking further away from the store to gain additional steps, or grab a few cans from your pantry and squeeze in some arm exercises while watching your favorite show.
Related: Learn why exercise is beneficial and how to get started >>
3. Seek Help for Substance Use
Substance use can increase your risk for cancer and heart disease. Limiting or ceasing your use of alcohol or tobacco can improve your health and reduce your risk of certain health conditions and diseases. If you have difficulty with substance use, please talk to your doctor about treatment and support options.
4. Manage Stress
Experiencing chronic stress can put your body in a flight-or-fight mode the majority of the time, which can negatively impact your immune system. A weakened immune system can increase your risk of developing health conditions such as anxiety, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Try practicing meditation, journaling, or spending time in nature to combat stress. Talking to a counselor can also provide support and identify new ways to manage stress in your life.
Related: Discover the benefits of meditation and how to get started >>
5. Practice Good Sleep Habits
Like chronic stress, a lack of sleep or getting poor-quality sleep can weaken your immune system. Insufficient sleep has been attributed to numerous diseases and conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.
Creating new sleep habits can start with a simple bedtime schedule. Plan out what time you’ll go to bed each night and when you need to wake each morning. Try to avoid sleeping in, and instead add in brief 15-20 minute naps when you feel tired.
It’s also recommended to avoid screen time a few hours before bedtime. This includes mobile devices and watching television. Try adding relaxation activities, like mindfulness or reading a book, to help calm your mind for more restful sleep
6. Focus on Relationships
Connecting socially with others can improve your overall mood and wellbeing and help reduce the risk of experiencing loneliness or depression. Isolation is a risk factor for older adults, and seeking out social connections is important to maintain good overall health.
Make time to chat with friends and family either in person, over the phone, or through video calls. Greeting your neighbors or talking to staff at the grocery store can give you a much-needed boost and improve your mental health.
You can also meet others through volunteer opportunities or classes that interest you. Finding those that share your interests is a great way to build meaningful relationships with others.
Related: Get ideas on staying socially active >>
More Lifestyle Resources
To get additional tips and resources on building a healthy lifestyle, view articles in The Bristal’s blog. Learn easy, low-impact exercises, try the MIND Diet for better cognitive health, and more under our Lifestyle category.