The importance of lifestyle in preventing, treating and even curing illnesses like diabetes and heart diseases was discussed at the latest conference at. ‘Lifestyle Medicine: An Emerging Healthcare Trend that Inspires’ brought together experts from across the world to discuss the latest trends, share data about the impact that lifestyle changes can have to an individual’s health, and explore best practice among clinicians.

Organised by WCM-Q’s Institute for Population Health, delegates learned how to evaluate a patient’s health with reference to their lifestyle habits, how to guide patients in their habits and how to develop nutrition and exercise regimens. Speakers included international experts in lifestyle medicine, such as Dr Wayne Dysinger – CEO of Lifestyle Medicine Solutions, Dr Darren Morton of Avondale College of Higher Education in New South Wales, and Dr Ahmad Al Mulla, a Senior Consultant in Public Health and Advisor to HE the Minister of Public Health, who delivered the keynote speech.

Dr Al Mulla said:

Given the high prevalence of chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes, it is timely and in our interest to implement lifestyle medicine programs in the State of Qatar. By doing so, we will reduce the burden and suffering associated with chronic diseases.’

Delegates to the two-day symposium were also able to take advantage of a number of workshops including ‘Nutritional Mythbusters’, that was delivered by Stephan Herzog, Executive Director of the American and International Boards of Lifestyle Medicine and was intended to debunk some common, but falsely held beliefs about diet. ‘How to Take Care of Ourselves’ which was led by Dr Mohamud Verjee, Associate Professor of Family Medicine in Clinical Medicine at WCM-Q, who examined techniques for stress management.

In a lecture entitled ‘The Promise of Lifestyle Medicine’, Dr Ravinder Mamtani, Senior Associate Dean for Population Health, Capacity Building and Student Affairs at WCM-Q, extolled the potential of behavioural changes to vastly reduce the number of cases of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. While not denying the importance of traditional, clinical medicine, Dr Mamtani explained that only around 15-20% of a person’s health can be attributed to medical therapies and treatments; the remaining 80-85% is due to lifestyles, behavioural and socioeconomic factors. How individuals live their lives and the personal choices they make with regards to diet, exercise, sleep, stress and the avoidance of behaviours known to be detrimental to health like tobacco consumption are vital to good health.

While emphasising the importance of training health professionals in lifestyle medicine, Dr Mamtani explained:

It’s not cancer and heart disease that kill people but poor nutrition and a lack of exercise; the real killers are poor lifestyle choices. I am not belittling medical care, but health professionals are missing the point about the importance of lifestyle, and we have been missing the point for a long time.’

In his lecture entitled ‘Lifestyle Medicine, Nutrition and Chronic Diseases: Time to Reverse an Epidemic’, Dr Wayne S Dysinger outlined how lifestyle changes can actually cure many chronic illnesses, including conditions that were previously thought incurable, like type-2 diabetes. He also debunked myths about low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets that have become popular in recent years as a method for losing weight, stating that for the vast majority of human history, complex carbohydrates formed the bulk of a person’s diet. It is only in the last few decades that consumption of fat and simple carbohydrates like refined sugar have increased, as have the accompanying rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.

The conference also featured a poster session, presenting findings from the latest research on lifestyle behaviours. Topics included the management of gestational diabetes through lifestyle, the awareness of health professionals to sleep hygiene, and the prevention and treatment of tobacco use.

Dr Sohaila Cheema, Director of the Institute for Population Health and Assistant Professor of Healthcare Policy and Research, said,

It’s apparent that lifestyle medicine has the potential to revolutionise the way healthcare professionals approach certain diseases and used correctly and possibly in conjunction with traditional clinical medications, we could see a new era of disease management. What was also apparent, though, was that for the most part medical educators need to take a more enlightened and proactive stance towards the teaching of nutrition, physical activity, sleep hygiene and stress management and impress upon healthcare professionals the huge benefits that may come from prescribing lifestyle changes to patients. Happily, the curriculum at WCM-Q recognises the importance of lifestyle medicine and hopefully, other colleges across the world will place a greater emphasis on the teaching of lifestyle medicine – alongside clinical therapies – in the near future.’