The most influential trend in medicine today, growing exponentially, is the emerging field of what is known as “lifestyle medicine” — lifestyle as treatment, not just prevention. That is a profound statement made by Dean Ornish, MD, founder of the University of California San Francisco’s Preventive Medicine Research Institute .
We tend to think of advances in medicine as a new drug, laser, or surgical device, something high-tech and expensive. Yet, the simple choices we make in what we eat and how we live have a powerful influence on our health and well-being. That is a primary focus for the staff and physicians at Austin Family Medicine and will be a major focus of our efforts in the years to come.
As many of you know we continually emphasize and return time and again to three overriding principles of good health :
1. Nutritional Optimization
2. Hormonal Balance
3. Cardiovascular Risk Reduction
We have seen remarkable benefits to our patients with this comprehensive approach to wellness, but we are not alone. Medical professionals at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, in collaboration with leading academic centers, have conducted a series of randomized, controlled trials and demonstration projects showing that comprehensive lifestyle changes alone often can reverse the progression of coronary heart disease and several other chronic diseases.
In 1979, a study showed that these comprehensive lifestyle changes improved myocardial perfusion after only 30 days. There was a 90% reduction in frequency of angina during this time.
In 1983, the first randomized, controlled trial showed that these comprehensive lifestyle changes could begin to reverse heart disease as measured by exercise radionuclide ventriculography after only 24 days. There were measured improvements both in the ejection fraction response and improved cardiac wall motion as compared with the randomized, control group. There was a 91% reduction in frequency of angina, pain related to lack of blood flow in the heart.
In 1990,in the Lifestyle Heart Trial, the first randomized, controlled trial showed that lifestyle changes alone can reverse the progression of even severe coronary heart disease. There was even more reversal after 5 years than after 1 year and 2.5 times fewer cardiac events. 99% of the patients were able to stop or reverse the progression of their heart disease, and there was a 300% improvement in myocardial perfusion.
Changing lifestyle changes your genes — there are proven benefits that these comprehensive lifestyle changes caused beneficial changes in expression of 501 genes in just 3 months. Downregulated genes included those promoting inflammation, oxidative stress, and the RAS oncogenes that promote breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. As you know we test several genetic aspects in our comprehensive cardiovascular risk assessment. Often, patients may say, “Oh, I’ve just got bad genes, there’s nothing I can do about it.” That is outdated and wrong thinking. The powerful effects of epigenetics on gene expression is in many cases the determining factor of disease control or progression. We can measure your telomeres which indicate DNA health and these same studies showed a 30% increase in telomerase after only 3 months of making these comprehensive lifestyle changes in these patients and after 5 years showed that these lifestyle changes may lengthen telomeres, the ends of our chromosomes that control aging.
The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study indicated that patients who adhered to healthy dietary principles (low meat consumption and high intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain bread), never smoked, were not overweight, and had at least 30 minutes a day of physical activity had a 78% lower overall risk of developing a chronic disease. This included a 93% reduced risk of diabetes, an 81% lower risk of heart attacks, a 50% reduction in risk of stroke, and a 36% overall reduction in risk of cancer, compared with participants without these healthy factors. Imagine the benefits not only to yourself, but to the health and financial benefit to Americans as a whole if we achieve even a fraction of these lifestyle change benefits.
One of the most interesting findings in all of the previously mentioned medical studies was this: the more people changed their diet and lifestyle, the more they improved in a variety of measurable factors. At any age, there was a statistically significant dose-response relationship between the degree of lifestyle changes and the degree of improvement in coronary atherosclerosis, in changes in prostate cancer, and in telomere length. Less heart disease, less cancer, improved DNA health.
We hope you will join us in facilitating these changes in your lifestyle and health to provide you with the maximum possible opportunity for a long and healthy life. This starts with a comprehensive evaluation and depending on your commitment can end with the substantial health benefits we have just discussed. We are committed to providing scientific, comprehensive, lifestyle medicine to maximize the health potential for all our patients.