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Lifestyle Medicine targets the roots of one’s health problems


Dr. Bonnie Coyle is the health director of Cabarrus County and her specialty is Lifestyle Medicine. There are six pillars to Lifestyle Medicine. They are: Healthful eating, increased physical activity, improved sleep, managing stress, forming and maintaining relationships, avoid tobacco and other pollutants.

I recently had the distinct privileged of attending a conference where Dr. Bonnie Coyle was a featured speaker. She spoke on the topic of Lifestyle Medicine. Dr. Coyle is the health director of Cabarrus County. They call it the Health Alliance there and her specialty is Lifestyle Medicine. First, I was not aware that a physician could become a specialist in Lifestyle Medicine. Second, I was mesmerized by her talk and want to share some of it here with you.

It is no secret that caring for people is extremely expensive and the care of chronic disease is a big driver of this. Some say that 90 percent of care is in the form of chronic disease care. Estimates are that six out of every ten people have some type of chronic disease and that four of every ten has more than one chronic disease. Chronic diseases would include, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, COPD, kidney disease and Alzheimer’s to name a few.

Lifestyle Medicine targets the root of these problems and how to reduce the cost of these diseases. It aims to increase the time one is healthy and vital and compresses into a smaller time that part of life that has illness and then death.

There are six pillars to Lifestyle Medicine. The first pillar is healthful eating. Here we look for whole foods and eat a plant-based diet. Whole foods refer to single ingredient foods that are minimally processed, as they appear in nature, such as an apple or broccoli. Plant based indicates foods where 95 percent of the calories come from plants, legumes, fruits, whole grains, and vegetables. This type of diet is believed to improve heart disease, diabetes and mental health to name a few.

The second pillar is increased physical activity. This would include aerobic exercise, strength training, improvement in flexibility; exercise that maintains balance and the activities of daily living. The key word here is activity. Studies have shown the more someone sits, the greater their chances of declining health. The exercise recommendations are 150 minutes a week, 30 minutes a day and two days of strength training.

The third pillar of health is improved sleep. Most adults need to get 7-8 hours of sleep each day. Studies have shown when this does not happen health is negatively affected. We see more obesity, diabetes, emotional distress, impaired learning and loss of memory to name a few. As I always say, sleep is a necessity not a luxury.

The fourth pillar of Lifestyle Medicine is managing stress. Making sure there is time for renewal of the person on a regular basis. Natural therapies include getting sunshine and fresh air, using meditation, releasing stress and replacing it with positive things.

The fifth pillar of Lifestyle Medicine is forming and maintaining relationships. It is well known that having good, healthy relationships is so important to health. Family, if it be from nature or nurtured, is so important. Each of us needs to believe we belong to a tribe because our networks, friends and family add so much to a full life.

The sixth pillar is to avoid tobacco and other pollutants. Besides tobacco avoid alcohol, illicit drugs, pollutants, preservatives and chemicals. These are items that we all know will decrease the life span of an individual.

I am intrigued by Lifestyle Medicine. It emphasizes good health. Much of it is common sense. By following these pillars one can improve their life, enrich their life and elongate their life.

Is that not what we all want?

Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at