You, or your older loved one, have a consistent pain in your hip, and you finally get a referral to an orthopedic surgeon…a hip specialist, no less. …or have had shortness of breath and your primary care provider recommends you be checked out by a cardiologist. …have a generalized fever for a number of days, you’ve lost your appetite and you have general body ache and sinus congestion. After the COVID test, there may be a referral to an infectious disease specialist.
Even the doctors sometimes complain about how “over-specialized” medicine has become. When did you last get a referral to a specialist who focuses on…well, lots of your body’s functions and their health? They are calling it lifestyle medicine, and it has a lot to offer almost everyone. One practitioner describes this emerging specialty: “it’s the use of evidence-based lifestyle and therapeutic interventions to prevent, treat, and reverse chronic diseases.” (click here)
What is the focus of “lifestyle medicine?” For those of you who are accustomed to a trip to your older loved one’s doctor as a lengthy review of existing prescriptions…and often getting one more added when leaving their provider’s office, this new specialty may seem a bit radical. But it’s radical in the right direction.
The five pillars of lifestyle medicine include:
- A whole food diet with nutrition built around predominantly plant-based healthy foods;
- Sufficient quantity and quality sleep on a regular basis;
- Stress management…primarily achieved through eliminating the stressors that many of us take for granted as part of 21st century living;
- Healthy relationships – get rid of that old idea about keeping friends close and enemies closer…just keep healthy friends;
- Avoid toxic substances like tobacco, excess alcohol consumption and such.
Do you see the real difference with this “new specialty?” It puts control back within the individual and works to avoid undue prescribing or tolerating unhealthy habits. And it’s guaranteed to improve cardiovascular function and minimize bone and joint issues. The key, however, lies within a patient who implements the changes. And this method has been largely “on the books” in medicine for years, but it’s been neglected…perhaps because too many patients are inclined to ignore, for instance, the first and second line treatments for heart issues…diet and exercise. If you are a caregiver to an older loved one, help them to this “new cure” perhaps by “being the change” yourself.
Charlotte Bishop is a Caregiver Coach, an Aging Life Care Advisor, a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.