Holistic Life Support Presents:
Lifestyle Medicine: Improving Health-Related Quality of Life by Optimizing Diet, Exercise and Sleep
Health care begins with a healthy lifestyle. About 75% of modern American diseases are lifestyle-based, which means we have significant power over our health outcomes, and can simultaneously decrease our health care costs, with our everyday choices.
What is a healthy lifestyle? It’s important to learn what a healthy lifestyle actually is in order to implement it and experience best results. A healthy lifestyle is an overarching pattern of living that promotes good health in three key areas: diet, exercise, and sleep. While their importance may not have been emphasized in the past, the evidence of the major impact they have on our health is remarkable and well worth the time and effort to experience. As the foundation of a healthy lifestyle, optimizing diet, exercise and sleep is the basis of Lifestyle Medicine with Holistic Life Support.
“Diet” simply refers to the food and drinks we consume, and does not definitively focus on weight or good health. However, a healthy diet does. What does it mean to “eat healthy”?
A healthy diet decreases risk of disease and in many cases can even halt or reverse the progression of disease. For example, heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the United States every year since 1917, which the standard American diet has largely contributed to, as have more recent fad diets that are not evidence-based, such as low-carb, which has actually been shown to increase heart disease and mortality. But, quite amazingly, there is one (and only one) evidence-based diet that is proven to reverse heart disease (1), and that is the Whole Food Plant-Based diet. This diet has also been proven to benefit a number of other health conditions plaguing modern Americans, including type 2 diabetes and obesity (2), multiple sclerosis (3), rheumatoid arthritis (4), and more.
What does Whole Food Plant-Based mean?
Eating foods that come from the Earth and as close to their natural form as possible, with little or no processing: fruits, vegetables, greens, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains such as oats, brown rice, and whole wheat, along with herbs and spices – all preferably grown organically, without pesticides or GMO. Plant foods that have been heavily processed and concentrated, such as olive oil and cane sugar, are not generally on the list, but may be used occasionally, not to exceed 15-20% of the daily diet.
Why? Whole plant foods contain all the good macronutrients (amino acids/protein, carbs and essential fats) the body needs for fuel and growth, as well as abundant vitamins and minerals and powerful health-promoting phytochemicals, all in nature’s perfect packaging. These foods provide excellent nourishment for body, mind, and spirit, and eating a varied array of them to sufficiently meet caloric needs composes the ideal human diet, aka a healthy diet. This diet also shatters the myth that eating healthy is expensive or boring, as whole plant foods are some of the lowest-cost foods on the market, and culinary creators have been working wonders with them so that they are still as engaging and pleasing to our senses as we have come to expect from food. The difference is that this food also remains true to the original definition and purpose of food, and that is to fuel the body and promote good health, and leaves out the disease-causing foods.
For best results, a healthy diet completely excludes animal products, which are meat and dairy. For people who are transitioning from a standard American diet, which is heavy on meat and dairy, to a Whole Food Plant-Based diet, up to 3 servings a week of meat from a high-quality source may be allowed.
Why? While we do hold respect for the ethical treatment of animals and the planet, Holistic Life Support primarily focuses on the human health aspect of animal products and diet. Milk, including milk products such as pizza and ice cream, contains a growth hormone called IGF-1 that’s implicated in health conditions ranging from acne (5) to prostate cancer (6) and breast cancer (7). Consumption of meat products has been shown to lead to obesity (8) and colon cancer (9), the #2 leading cause of death among Americans.
The importance of understanding that our dietary choices are tied to our health outcomes cannot be overstated. For the great transformation of people and the planet, Holistic Life Support practices, promotes and teaches the Whole Food Plant-Based diet. While this diet is a very natural way of eating, there are some nuances to it that require education for proper implementation and best results, especially during the initial transition from a standard American diet, which may also require counseling to overcome junk food addiction. Holistic Life Support is also qualified to guide patients through elimination diets, such as in the case of food sensitivities and autoimmune conditions, as well as provide insight on using herbal preparations to help achieve specific goals.
Exercise is not so much about weight loss as it is about healthy weight and lifestyle maintenance. Rather than seeing exercise as a chore or as a negotiation for indulging in junk food, we advocate finding our favorite activities and making them a regular, positive part of our lives.
Why? Because here’s a little secret: exercise doesn’t burn that many calories. It takes an entire hour of running to burn the calories from just a couple slices of pizza, which isn’t realistic for most people – pizza usually motivates us only to take a nap, not go for a run.
So instead, we create success by focusing on a Whole Food Plant-Based diet with an emphasis on more low calorie-density foods for healthy weight loss (2) while incorporating more movement into our every day routines. This helps to reinforce our healthy lifestyle choices while also making a measurable impact on health-related quality of life in a number of ways.
Researchers who tested a treatment of walking for thirty minutes a day found it had significant health and quality of life benefits (10):
• Reduced pain and disability in arthritis patients by 47% • Reduced progression of Alzheimer’s/dementia by 50% • Reduced progression of diabetes by 58% • Reduced hip fracture in post-menopausal women by 41% • Reduced anxiety by 48% • Reduced depression by 30-47% • Decreased risk of death by 23%
One of the easiest ways to get started now is to walk for thirty minutes a day, whether at your gym, mall, neighborhood, scenic city streets, or nature trail. For those who are dealing with obesity and have difficulty moving, a good starting point is to walk for ten minutes at a time, gradually increasing to three times a day – again, not to lose weight, but to build the daily habit and a health-promoting mindset.
Further, exercise can have a beneficial effect on sleep simply by tiring out the body. This is another example of how holistic health works: improvements in any one area will also benefit the others, because they are all connected as a whole.
In addition to cardio exercise, Holistic Life Support practices, promotes and teaches The American College of Sports Medicine exercise guidelines, including strength training, balance, stretching/flexibility, and healthy weight maintenance.
Sleep is a required balance to waking life: it is a time of rest, recovery and repair after the work/exercise/stress of the day. There are many known health effects of sleep; for example, during sleep, the brain employs its team of “street sweepers” to clean out protein and debris that build up during the day – buildup that’s implicated in Alzheimer’s/dementia, which is why people who don’t get enough sleep are at higher risk, as these proteins and debris don’t get sufficiently cleared out. Also during sleep, the brain goes into deep wave states that process our thoughts and emotions, and without this, it’s akin to having a desk stacked high with file folders – and the poor thinking and moodiness that results.
Most Americans are under-slept and unaware of it, which can affect everything from immunity (11) to productivity (12) to mood (13) to Alzheimer’s/dementia risk (14), so it’s important to become aware of the need for good quality sleep and to prioritize it as part of a healthy lifestyle.
The standard measurement of good sleep is six to eight hours per night, but here is a further qualifier: waking up feeling fully rested, without the aid of an alarm clock.
While that may sound like just a dream, it is indeed attainable with proper sleep hygiene. This includes designating the bedroom for sleeping only (no TV or work), maintaining a consistent bedtime and wake-up time every day, and winding down an hour before bedtime to prepare for sleep. Holistic Life Support provides additional education, tools and counseling to optimize your quality of sleep.
Of course, exercise also benefits sleep, as mentioned above, and diet too plays a role: for example, people who are dealing with obesity also commonly have sleep apnea, which results in waking up throughout the night and never achieving the deeper, restful levels of sleep that are necessary for good health. By correcting diet and losing excess weight, better sleep is a natural result, which may also lead to better food choices (such as not needing to rely on caffeine and sugar to stay awake during the day), and the upward trend toward good health continues.
Lifestyle Medicine with Holistic Life Support addresses these three main components of lifestyle – diet, exercise, and sleep – to promote a better health-related quality of life. If you have a health condition, Lifestyle Medicine works in alliance with your primary care physician, and it’s important that you continue working with your doctor for treatment. If you are taking medications as prescribed by your doctor, it’s important that you continue to do so until your doctor discontinues your medications.
However, drugs are not meant to do the heavy lifting in our lives, and we must put in the effort to give ourselves the best chances for success, and Lifestyle Medicine is designed to give you the educational materials, toolkits, and counseling to support that.
For a free consultation on how Lifestyle Medicine with Holistic Life Support can benefit you or your family, group, organization, school, clinic, hospital, or workplace, please click here to contact.
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