Who Cares About Lifestyle … I Want Science!

FreemanThis post was authored by Andrew Freeman, MD, FACC (@heartcuredoc)

I have definitely heard people question the importance of lifestyle before. Exercise up until recently was considered “alternative” medicine, and diet was considered an adjunct to pills. However, very good data and research are now showing that once seemingly innocent things – diet, exercise, smoking cessation and now even mindfulness – are proving to be as potent or more potent for the vast majority of diseases that we treat.

The clincher here is this: How many of us actually “cure” disease? The answer: Mostly none of us. The pills and procedures we do usually palliate, remediate, or slow progression of disease, but almost none of what we do cures the underlying problem.

This is where the benefit of lifestyle and behavioral modification really shines. There is excellent data that lifestyle changes improve overall health outcomes, and with excellent nutrition, there is even a chance for disease regression. New research is even showing clear benefits associated with mindfulness.

ACC President Kim Allan Williams Sr., MD, FACC, and Simon Dack Lecturer David B. Nash, MD, MBA, both spoke to these benefits as part of Saturday’s Opening Showcase Session that focused heavily on the benefits of lifestyle changes in efforts to improve the health of populations. ACC’s first-ever Lifestyle Intensive, also on Saturday, allowed for thoughtful discussion and debate around lifestyle changes that can improve outcomes for patients living with or at risk of heart disease.  Even one of the first Late Breaking Clinical Trials of the meeting looked at the question of whether a mobile-health (mHealth) program to reduce physical inactivity can be implemented on a large scale. The answer: Yes!

Believe it or not, lifestyle medicine is a very powerful tool … and it is backed by hard science. We can’t truly say we practice state of the art medicine without this knowledge. Let’s improve outcomes with more living, and less doctoring.

2 thoughts on “Who Cares About Lifestyle … I Want Science!

  1. I am glad that the cardiology community is focusing on this issue now. Almost 20 years ago, one of my colleagues remarked one day, “All my patients today were fat!” This realization has really come to the frontlines today.
    For a long time, I have felt that we are not here just to give patients pills or to do procedures on them. Our job should include advice as to how we can help them live better, healthier lives.

  2. As a Heart patient, I have been one of the anomalies for the traditional cardiologist. Three and a half years ago I had my first nuclear stress test. The cardiologist read the test and sent me home saying I was ok. The nurse did not trust this opinion and another cardiologist was summoned. I had a 99% blockage of the LAD. I had an emergency stent put in, no myocardial infarction. I had been an ovo-lacto vegetarian for 28 years. At first I tolerated Statins up to about 6 months and then intense leg pain. I tried them all no success. Recently my Cardiologist, following standard procedures, wanted me on the new PCSK9 drug. After taking my own research into account, I have decided to go on a vegan diet. I already practice mindfulness and meditation. Exercise has been made difficult but the diet is helping me regain this. This article is excellent in that the truth about medicine is evident. It is more important for me to take charge of my health and be a partner with my doctor not a patient. Patients submit to the the treatment, partners work together. Remember, the highest stakeholder in my health is me. The physician must empower me to make my own choices with their guidance. Instead of being drug dispensers, physicians need to be more like coaches.

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