Lifestyle Medicine

Many common chronic diseases are rooted, at least in part, in lifestyle. Among them are leading causes of death worldwide: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and certain cancers. Not only do these chronic diseases cause death and disability, they are responsible for 80% of health care costs in the United States.

Lifestyle intervention

By changing your lifestyle, you can often prevent, halt, or reverse these common chronic diseases. This is particularly true if you pursue an intensive, therapeutic lifestyle intervention. 

“Almost all clinical practice guidelines for the top chronic diseases recommend lifestyle changes as the first line of treatment.”

Catherine Collings, MD, FACC, MS, DipABLM
President, American College of Lifestyle Medicine

More than 40 peer-reviewed publications document the effectiveness of the Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP) lifestyle intervention in reducing and reversing risk factors related to: 

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Other chronic disease

When you join the CHIP community, you embark on a journey to a new lifestyle. You learn how to shift your daily habits to help your body recover and thrive.

Targets for change

Imagine that your lifestyle choices were rated on a scale of 1 to 10, based on how well they sustain your health. A rating of 1 represents a habit that is damaging to your health. A rating of 10 represents an ideal, healthful way of living.

CHIP works by shifting your way of life from the low end of the scale toward the high end. It helps you create positive change across 6 targeted areas:

Activity

Exercise, even gentle movement like walking, lowers blood pressure, elevates mood, improves circulation, strengthens muscles, boosts immunity, and leads to more restful sleep.

Nutrition

Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are key to restoring health. CHIP recommends a plant-rich, minimally processed eating pattern.

Sleep

7-8 hours a night of restorative sleep is critical for weight control, blood sugar regulation, cardiovascular health, mood, dementia prevention, and keeping your immune system strong.

Social Connection

Family, friends, and community play a powerful role in maintaining health. Research links social connection with fewer ailments and a longer life.

Risky Substances

Alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and drugs can threaten your health, as can environmental toxins and pollutants. It is important to understand and manage the risks. 

Stress Management

It’s no secret that managing stress makes you feel happier. But it also helps you control your weight, reduce risk for heart disease and dementia, reduce muscle tension, get sick less often, and sleep soundly.

Taking aim at disease

Because CHIP is designed to improve overall health, it reduces and reverses risk factors for a wide range of diseases. Upon entering the program, participants complete a health-risk assessment and blood analysis. In 10 weeks, participants repeat the tests. CHIP compares the original and new measurements to identify changes in key biometrics and wellbeing scores.

Many CHIP participants not only reverse disease, but sustain their health improvements for years.

CHIP achieves impressive results in highest risk patients

Average biomarker declines after a 30-day intervention

Triglycerides

44.1% decline

Initial level: Above 500mg/dl

Fasting plasma glucose

19.9% decline

Initial level: Above 125mg/dl

Total cholesterol

19.8% decline

Initial level: Above 280mg/dl

LDL cholesterol

16.1% decline

Initial level: Above 190mg/dl

Participants with metabolic syndrome

10.4% decline

Body mass index

3.2% decline

Cardiologist aims to reverse heart disease using CHIP

Dr. Brian Asbill speaks about the effectiveness of the CHIP program at Mission Heart. 

Proven to work

A body of research supports the premise that lifestyle modification is an effective tool to prevent, treat, and reverse disease.

Activity

Reduces premature death

Moderate-intensity walking at or above 150 minutes a week (30 minutes, 5 times a week) reduced premature death by 20% in older adults. Even walking less than 120 minutes a week is beneficial compared to no walking. 

Cuts heart disease rates in half

The Women’s Health Study (~40,000 subjects ages 45+) found those walking even 1- 2 hours a week (10-20 minutes, 6 days a week) had about half the rates of heart disease compared with women who did not walk, after adjusting for other factors. 

Improves memory and cuts risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

An analysis of 11 studies found regular exercise can cut the risk of dementia by 30 percent; by 45% for Alzheimer’s disease. 

In another study, exercise training increased volume of the hippocampus — a part of the brain responsible for short-term memory — by 2%, improving memory and effectively reversing age-related loss in volume by 1- 2 years. 

Has anti-inflammatory effect

Physical activity is a known anti-inflammatory. In one study, researchers found that a single 20-minute exercise session at a moderate intensity—like a brisk walk—is enough to produce an anti-inflammatory effect at the cellular level. 

Lowers risk of developing type 2 diabetes

An analysis of 10 studies involving more than 300,000 participants compared risk of developing type 2 diabetes among people who walked briskly for about 2.5 hours a week (about 22 minutes a day, 7 days a week) and those who did little or no walking. Participants who walked had a 31% reduction in risk without accounting for body mass index (BMI) and a 17% reduction when accounting for BMI.

Nutrition

Prevents heart disease and premature death

Analysisof the Global Burden of Disease study, which spanned 195 countries, noted that “69% of ischemic heart disease deaths worldwide could be prevented if healthier diets were adopted.”

It also concluded, “More than six million deaths could be avoided by reducing intake of processed foods, sugary beverages, trans and saturated fats, and added salt and sugar, while increasing intake of fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.”   

Sleep

Sustains cardiovascular health

Research connects poor sleep to spikes in blood pressure, both during the sleepless night and the following day. Sleep problems are also associated with heightened risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from cardiovascular disease.

Social Connection

Reduces mortality risk

People with strong social relationships tend to live longer than those who lack a social network.

Risky substances

Tobacco: Smoking cessation saves lives 

Research links smoking to a vast range of adverse health effects, among them cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, reproductive health outcomes, and many more.

Stress management

Helps prevent heart disease

Evidence suggests that reducing stress can protect your heart.

“Within 2 months of going on the CHIP program, my cholesterol was halved. My blood pressure was down. In fact, I had to lower my blood pressure pills.”

Mark M.

Intensive lifestyle changes improve cardiac health

The Lifestyle Heart Trial demonstrated that intensive lifestyle changes may lead to regression of coronary atherosclerosis after 1 year.

In this randomized controlled trial, patients with moderate to severe coronary heart disease were randomly divided into two groups. One group adopted intensive lifestyle changes: a 10% fat whole foods vegetarian diet, aerobic exercise, stress management training, smoking cessation, and group psycho-social support. The control group made moderate lifestyle changes. 

After 1 year, results were as follows:Patients adopting intensive lifestyle changes
After 1 year of intensive lifestyle changes
Usual-care control group
After 1 year of moderate lifestyle changes
LDL cholesterol37.2% reduction6% reduction
Frequency of anginal episodes91% reduction165% increase
Average percent diameter stenosisRegressed from 40.0% to 37.8%*

*Change correlated with the degree of lifestyle change.
Progressed from 42.7% to 46.1%

Source: “Intensive Lifestyle Changes for Reversal of Coronary Heart Disease,” Journal of the American Medical Association, Dec. 16, 1998, Vol. 280, No. 23