Lifestyle Medicine Is Not New… but Needed

February 19, 2024


Therapies for complementary and alternative medicine are nothing new and neither are ancient methods that may not conform to conventional medical practices. Recently, the more holistic approach of Lifestyle Medicine has received a lot of media attention. But, the concept of using certain plant-based treatments protocols to prevent, treat, cure, or reverse adverse health effects isn’t new.

Around 400 B.C., the Greek physician Hippocrates coined the quote “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. As one of the most famous ancient physicians, he refused to ignore the functionality of food including both what to eat as well as how much to eat. Today, if your goal is for healthy living, it’s impossible to ignore the role foods can play as a sustainable change in lifestyle habits.

“Although diet and lifestyle cannot replace life-saving medical treatments,” says Hans Wolf, M.D., the founder of WOLFPACC Physicians Achievement Concept Course. “The fact that 70% of Americans are considered to be overweight or obese means medical students today who are interested in taking a complementary approach to healthcare should take advantage of the opportunities they have to learn more about integrative medicine.”

Difference in lifestyle and functional medicine…

Functional medicine is a specialty within integrative medicine that focuses on the interaction of genetics, environmental impact, and lifestyle factors to determine the underlying cause of disease or illness. It delves into the underlying physical, mental and emotional needs of the patient. This type of root-cause medicine focuses on personalized therapies tailored to treat the cause. Like holistic medicine, functional medicine is not linear and may span over many months.

Lifestyle medicine is a modern holistic approach to providing healthcare that also focuses on treating the root causes of a patient’s health issues. In practice, lifestyle medicine is based on scientific evidence that the body can heal itself when the factors that cause disease are removed. Chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes that were once thought to be irreversible have been reversed by lifestyle interventions using evidence-based methods.

Six Pillars of Lifestyle Medicine

In addition to diseases like obesity, cases of dementia are growing exponentially. Although current treatment protocols do not reverse cognitive impairment, according to a recent article published in Cureus, there is credible evidence that demonstrates improvement in neurocognitive decline by applying the following six pillars of Lifestyle Medicine, which include:

  • 1) Add Plant-Based Nutrition – According to an article published by the National Institute of Health, the major benefits of a well-planned plant-based diet include a reduction in the number of medications taken to treat chronic conditions, a decreased risk of cancer and ischemic heart disease, and a reduction in body weight. However, plant-based diets are not an all-or-nothing approach and should be personalized to each individual’s needs.
  • 2) Increase Physical Activities – Being physically active is one of the most important things you can do to improve brain health, manage your weight, and strengthen your body for improved performance of “activities for daily living.” Although people vary greatly in their need for weight management, both healthier eating patterns and increased physical activity play an important role in restoring good healthy and promoting well-being.
  • 3) Better Manage Stress  – It’s no secret that poorly managed stress can lead to a number of chronic health problems, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and an increased the risk of developing depression and anxiety. Moreover, long-term stress can lead to burnout and is a major contributor to absenteeism, destructive behavior, substance abuse, and suicide. Intervention may be crucial to reduce stress and prevent damage.
  • 4) Avoid Risky Substances – Increased levels of perceived stress in adulthood is thought to be a trigger for the use of risky substances, such as alcohol, nicotine, cocaine and opioids. All are associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline. Whereas the relationship between risky substances and body weight can vary, dependence on these drugs can cause psychological problems like depression and contribute to physical disease like obesity.
  • 5) Get Restorative Sleep – According to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, sleep is a critical aspect of human health and is the foundation upon which other lifestyle therapies are improved. Healthy sleep can improve daytime functioning and support better health outcomes like weight management. Sleep allows the body to repair and replenish cellular components that are depleted when you are awake. As we age, stages of sleep tend to change and shortens to 7 to 9 hours in adults
  • 6) Interact with Social Connections – Social connections play a major role in physical and mental well-being. The feelings of closeness to others strengthens the immune system. Whereas, a lack of social connection can be harmful to your health, it is associated with obesity, high blood pressure, and participating in risky behaviors, such as smoking and drug use. Having trusting relationships supports higher self-esteem and emotional empathy.

It should be easy for medical students to understand how the six pillars of lifestyle medicine can work as an interconnected strategy to help patients achieve a healthier body and overall well-being. Moreover, research supports the concept that by taking small steps each day while following the six pillars people can increase their resilience to stress, live a healthier life, and reduce neurocognitive decline.

Is the Hippocratic Corpus Relevant Today?

It is important to note that historians differ in their view of Hippocrates’ treatises, which are comprised of more than sixty documents filled with ancient aphorisms that led to his title as the “Father of Western Medicine”. It is likely these early doctrines were actually written by multiple generations of followers of the Hippocratic School of Medicine. But, prior to the Hippocratic Corpus, physicians believed illnesses were god-sent as a form of punishment for one’s ill deeds.

Regardless of your personal beliefs, what cannot be ignored is the fact that Hippocrates relied on evidence-based medicine to tell patients to eat healthier and exercise more than 2,500 years ago. One of his famous quotes was: “It is very injurious to health to take in more food than the constitution will bear, when at the same time one uses no exercise to carry off this excess.” In addition, he declared that disease begins in the gut and long before medical literature about the role of intestinal microbiome.

Similar to how the philosophies of Aristotle and Plato are analyzed in business ethic courses today, a modified version of the Hippocratic Oath is still being administered by most medical schools to young physicians who are ready to enter the profession. Although no one knows for certain who actually scripted the Oath, the wisdom contained in the oath and its modern versions govern the principle of beneficence by which new doctors promise to observe when practicing medicine.


Hippocrates’ concern for well-being is parallel to current medical practice’s mindfulness of the importance of diet, exercise and activity with regard to patient health. Paradoxical as it may sound, the writings of this family of ancient Greek physicians can potentially offer a new perspective on contemporary medical issues like obesity, which involves the need to restore and maintain good health. Undoubtedly, Hippocrates will long be remembered as an important historical figure and a great physician who exercised a permanent influence on the development of medicine as well as the ideals and ethics of today’s practicing physician.

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Dr. Hans Wolf devoted decades to developing WOLFPACC’s “The Power 5” Methodology for helping medical students understand how to apply the basic sciences that they learned in medical school to the practice of medicine. If you’re ready to be the best physician you can be, contact us today to schedule a USMLE or COMLEX review program.