The Power of Lifestyle Medicine
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

The Power of Lifestyle Medicine

Chronic disease is the leading cause of death and disability in the United States, with 60% of US adults having at least one chronic lifestyle disease such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease. People often believe if they have family members with heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic health conditions, that they are destined to also have these health problems. However, genetics is only about 20% of what determines our health, and incredibly, lifestyle behaviors such as nutrition choices and inactivity actually determine the other 80%.

The impact of lifestyle choices is profound. Lifestyle behaviors contribute to heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, stroke, obesity, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, fatty liver disease, and multiple types of cancer.  In addition, lifestyle choices impact osteoporosis, erectile dysfunction, autoimmune disease, cognitive decline, Alzheimer's disease, and more.

It is not too late to improve your health. Not only can you reduce your risk of developing chronic disease, but you can better manage a chronic disease, and even potentially reverse chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle Medicine is the most powerful tool you can tap into to make these changes. According to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM), “up to 80% of chronic health issues can be improved or reversed using comprehensive lifestyle improvement”.

To reduce chronic disease risk, try replacing unhealthy behaviors with positive behaviors in the following six areas:

  1. Nutrition: For the treatment, reversal, and prevention of lifestyle-related chronic disease ACLM recommends an eating pattern that is strongly focused on a variety of minimally processed vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
  2. Sleep: Lack of or poor-quality sleep is directly related to chronic disease such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
  3. Movement: Physical activity can improve your mood, bone density and cognition while also decreasing risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Try to sit less and move more throughout the day. In addition, adults should aim for a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate level activity (or 75 minutes a week of vigorous activity) as well as two days a week of muscle strengthening activities. Older adults should also include activities to improve balance.
  4. Stress Management: Chronic negative stress can contribute to obesity, lower immune function, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and more. It can be helpful to learn to recognize how your body reacts to negative stressors and to identify healthy stress-reduction techniques that work for you.
  5. Social Connections: Build positive, supportive social connections to positively impact your emotional and physical health as well as long-term health outcomes.
  6. Risky Substances: Addictive substances such as tobacco and alcohol increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, and more.  It is recommended to avoid or stop the use of tobacco. While it is better not to start drinking alcohol, if you do consume alcohol, the current recommendation is to limit it to two servings a day for men and one serving a day for women. Drinking less is always better than drinking more. Emerging evidence suggests that even drinking within the recommended limits may increase the overall risk of several types of cancer and some forms of cardiovascular disease.

For more information about any of these potential areas of dramatic health improvement, speak with your doctor or advanced practice provider at your next medical appointment, connect with trusted and highly credible online resources, or seek out a lifestyle medicine practitioner or health coach near you.

Kristina Schmidt, RN, NBC-HWC, is a national board-certified health and wellness coach and a lifestyle medicine practitioner at


Theme picker

Theme picker

Theme picker

Our Services


A commitment to excellence and a patient-centered approach sets Southwestern Vermont Health Care apart.

 Cancer Care
 Primary Care
 Rehab & Residential Care
View All Services

Theme picker

Theme picker

Theme picker