With two board-certified doctors in this specialty at IMC, we will now offer Lifestyle Medicine consultations to complement our existing GP services. A prescription for a lifestyle medicine approach to disease would be tailored to the person’s state of change, marking a difference from more typical consultations. Such a journey could be a few weeks or months, depending on the patient’s health goals.
Dr Sundus Hussain-Morgan and Dr Charu Narayanan, Board Certified in Lifestyle Medicine, shed light on their journey into Lifestyle Medicine.
Driven by a passion for making a holistic impact on patients’ lives, Dr. Sundus’ interest in Lifestyle Medicine sparked from a desire to identify the root causes of health issues related to lifestyle factors. She pursued extensive training, earning International Board Certification in Lifestyle Medicine from the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. This certification signifies competence in using evidence-based knowledge for prescribing “Lifestyle Prescriptions” and behaviour change strategies.
Dr Charu has always been interested in approaching health from the prevention perspective. She first trained in nutritional Medicine and later studied Lifestyle Medicine to obtain the International Board Certification in Lifestyle Medicine conferred by the American College of Lifestyle Medicine in 2020. With her extensive knowledge and training, she feels uniquely positioned as a doctor to personalise healthcare and work with her patients to reverse/ reduce disease risk rather than just treat it.
Chronic Disease and Lifestyle Medicine
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are escalating globally, constituting a “hidden” pandemic. These diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity, account for a staggering 71% of global deaths, with two out of three occurring prematurely, as identified by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Despite this alarming trend, a significant number of NCDs can be prevented through modifiable lifestyle factors. The challenge lies in fostering enduring, healthy lifestyle choices amidst the modern era’s sedentary lifestyle, obesogenic food environment, and mounting stressors.
Lifestyle Medicine is a new emerging specialty that helps facilitate and support patients in cultivating lasting lifestyle changes. By leveraging evidence-based information and interventions, Lifestyle Medicine aims to empower patients to prevent, reverse, or mitigate the burden of chronic diseases, often leading to reductions or discontinuation of medications.
How does Lifestyle Medicine differ from conventional Medicine?
In conventional Medicine, lifestyle advice is the first line in preventative care and managing chronic diseases. Patients are usually given basic information about improving their diet and increasing their physical activity but are often left to implement the changes on their own, which can be challenging. Time and a doctor’s knowledge may be restrictive factors, as nutrition and lifestyle interventions are not given the same emphasis as other subjects in Medical School curriculum. Often, these areas are thought to be outside the scope of a doctor’s role. However, this is slowly changing, and more doctors are taking a greater interest.
Lifestyle Medicine complements conventional Medicine by placing a spotlight on assessing six foundational pillars that contribute to health and well-being:
Nutrition – A whole-food, plant-predominant diet with little ultra-processed food is likely to be nutrient-dense and rich in fibre and antioxidants. It has been shown to prevent, treat and even reverse chronic disease.
Physical activity – Reduce sedentary behaviour and encourage regular physical activity as well as purposeful weekly exercise. More studies are demonstrating the health benefits of physical activity beyond weight maintenance/loss in treating chronic conditions, such as being as effective as medication when treating anxiety and depression and alleviating the symptoms of menopause.
Restorative sleep – The aim here is to work towards adequate, good-quality sleep and avoid behaviour that hampers the same. Interrupted or reduced hours of sleep has wide-ranging effects, including a higher risk of chronic disease and mental health disorders.
Stress management (including Mental Health)– We can’t stress this enough! Undue stress causes anxiety, depression, poor immunity, obesity and more. Our job as lifestyle medicine doctors is to help patients recognise negative stress responses and help them reduce stress through healthy coping mechanisms.
Reduction of harmful substances – Smoking and alcohol are known to increase the risk of various chronic diseases and death. Educating and helping patients to address the problem and deal with relapses is part of the journey.
Social connection – The quality of one’s connections with family and friends can determine physical and mental health. We saw mental and physical health both suffer due to the isolation of people over the pandemic!
A collaborative and positive approach is taken to explore healthy habits, behaviour changes, and potential barriers. Lifestyle Medicine Doctors work to create personalised, realistic action plans with regular follow-ups, addressing one or multiple pillars based on individual needs. Acting as a health coach, they celebrate small victories and provide ongoing support through challenges.
Why choose a Lifestyle Medicine consultation?
Anyone keen on preventative health, managing chronic diseases, addressing obesity, combating excessive drinking or smoking, or struggling with healthy lifestyle choices stands to benefit. Lifestyle Medicine Doctors employ health coaching techniques, emphasising starting small and building on established habits. Acknowledging the inevitability of relapses, the approach remains positive, compassionate, and encouraging, offering benefits that extend beyond treating the immediate condition.
Envisioning the Future of Lifestyle Medicine:
The global rise in Lifestyle Medicine is promising. This discipline’s benefits, including the sustainable reversal of diabetes and effective chronic disease management with fewer medications, are gaining recognition.
Dr Sundus envisions a future where Lifestyle Medicine is offered as part of medical school curriculums worldwide and becomes integrated into all medical visits.
As non-communicable diseases surge, the imperative shift from reactive “sick” care to proactive “health” care necessitates the critical role of Lifestyle Medicine in this transformative change.
In this landscape, Dr Charu envisions Lifestyle Medicine playing a pivotal role. By prioritising preventive measures and lifestyle choices, we have the potential not only to curb the impact of current health crises but also to strengthen the resilience of our population in the face of unforeseen challenges.
For a comprehensive understanding of our Lifestyle Medicine services, don’t hesitate to reach out. Please email us at [email protected] to receive detailed information tailored to your needs. Alternatively, talk with your GP to explore how Lifestyle Medicine can specifically benefit you. We’re here to empower you on your journey to optimal health and well-being!