The Ultimate Revelation of Lifestyle Medicine

The Ultimate Revelation of Lifestyle Medicine

Written By: Julie Fitzpatrick, DPT – Health and Wellness Specialist

So what is all the buzz about Lifestyle Medicine?…

What exactly is it and is there merit to it?….  Can a change in lifestyle really impact our HEALTH?… And, what is the role of physical therapy in Lifestyle Medicine?

Around 400 BC, Hippocrates (The Father of Medicine) stated “Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food. Food and exercise work together to produce good health.”  Thomas Edison has been quoted saying “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his or her patients in the care of the human frame, in a proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” Perhaps the concept of Lifestyle Medicine isn’t so brand new after all?

After 25 years of treating patients in a variety of settings from outpatient to skilled care, acute rehab, and home health; I have emphatically come to the conclusion that “YES” there IS merit to this approach to patient care called Lifestyle Medicine.  Let me tell you why I am so excited about this!

According to the American College of Preventive Medicine, Lifestyle Medicine is the scientific approach to decreasing disease risk and illness burden by utilizing behavioral interventions such as nutrition, physical activity, stress reduction, rest, smoking cessation, and avoidance of alcohol abuse.

I know it sounds simple…  but it is really hard!! If everyone just ate healthy, exercised more, stopped smoking, quit drinking and decreased their stress, then everyone would lead a healthier, longer life. Despite the great efforts of fitness gyms, exercise classes and grocery stores now staffed with dieticians to help with healthy lifestyles; statistics tell us that we are facing epidemic proportions of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression, and osteoporosis. All illnesses that are directly related to lifestyle factors.

How hard is it?….According to a Mayo Clinic study that looked at population of 4,745 of U.S. Adults from 2003-2006, only 2.7% were leading a healthy lifestyle (being sufficiently active, eating a healthy diet following guidelines, being a non-smoker, and having a recommended body fat percentage).

There’s more…

  • Cardiovascular Disease: Lead cause of death in U.S. and will claim the lives of 1 in 3 women.
  • Obesity: More than one-third of the US is obese
  • Diabetes: nearly 10% of the U.S. have a form of Diabetes and 9 of 10 with prediabetes do not know the have it .

So, these staggering statistics cause us to stop and ask “Why is it so hard?”

When we have soooo many healthy options…”why” are we so “unhealthy”?   When we can find healthy recipes, exercise tutorials, tips on stress reduction, the importance of hydration, and smoking cessation all over the internet, why are so many of us at health risk?

The “standard American diet” of quick, cheap, processed foods is reeking havoc on our health. Our demanding schedules are pushing us to work long days and forcing us to overload evenings with kids activities leaving us with little or no time to cook or exercise. Our medical system is so burdened by reactive care, that minimal time is spent educating on the power of self care through nutrition and exercise.

We are starting to see more and more research emerge on the power of food to treat and reverse disease. We are also getting a clearer picture on the direct correlation between salt, sugar, fat and processed foods in the standard American Diet, as key contributors  to the nation’s high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Choosing the right foods and eliminating the wrong ones can have a positive impact on our overall health picture.

There is help available!… The American Physical Therapy Association recently stated “Physical Therapists play a unique role in society in prevention, wellness, fitness, health promotion, and management of disease and disability by serving as a dynamic bridge between health and health services delivery.”  In other words, physical therapists are not only experts in rehabilitation but they also have the expertise and the opportunity to help improve overall health and prevent the need for avoidable health care services.

As a HEALTHcare provider, I am so excited to help our patients truly learn how the power of healthy eating and appropriate exercise can not only help improve their current rehabilitation outcomes, but also help them to live their healthiest and best life. In the Get Healthy PT Program at Progressive Rehabilitation Associates (PRA), patients learn how adopting simple lifestyle changes, exercise and fueling the body properly can have tremendous impact on pain, inflammation, energy level and daily function.  Through individual goal setting and consult, participants receive the structure and guidance they need and want to live a healthier life.

Individuals with one or more of the following are excellent candidates for this program:

  • High blood pressure
  • Overweight with BMI greater than 25
  • Arthritis
  • Pre-Diabetic/Borderline Diabetic with desire to control through exercise and diet
  • Individuals with a desire to improve their physical health through nutrition and lifestyle choices

To learn more about PRA’s Get Healthy PT program contact Julie Fitzpatrick, DPT at 319-339-3611, or


American College of Preventive Medicine

American Physical Therapy Association

Mayo Clinic of Lifestyle Medicine Programs

Scientific Advances Regarding Sugar, Salt, & Fat, 2nd Edition, Gina Willett, Ph.D, R.D. 2015

Healthy Lifestyle Characteristics and Their Joint Association with Cardiovascular Disease Biomarkers in US Adults, Loprinzi, Paul D. et al. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Volume 91, Issue 4, 432-442.