Lifestyle medicine: a modern medical discipline full of optimism
Lifestyle medicine is a rapidly growing global discipline that offers people more options to achieve better health before and alongside medication or surgical options. It describes approaches that nurses and other health professionals can use to support people to improve their sleep, mental wellbeing, relationships, reduce isolation, eat better quality food, increase activity levels, and avoid overusing technology, as well as the use of harmful substances such as alcohol and tobacco.
These concepts are not new – they have roots in ancient medical practice. However, discussion and support for lifestyle factors have been sidelined by an overemphasis on technology and pharmaceuticals in modern medicine. Medications can do great good, but repeated calls have been made to stem the risks from ‘overprescribing’, with the average number of repeat medications in England rising from 10 to 20 per person in just 10 years (Ridge, 2021). This is despite a patient preference for research into non-medication alternatives and for greater support to make lifestyle changes, particularly with regard to long-term conditions (Jarbøl et al, 2017). Healthcare providers and their patients have been found to overestimate the benefits and underestimate the harms from many frequently prescribed medications (Treadwell et al, 2020).
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