Promise of Lifestyle Medicine for Heart Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, and Cerebrovascular Diseases

Mayo Clin Proc Innov Qual Outcomes. 2024 Feb 26;8(2):151-165. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocpiqo.2023.11.005. eCollection 2024 Apr.


The burden of noncommunicable chronic diseases has relevant and negative consequences to persons, health care systems, and economies worldwide. Chronic diseases are the leading cause of disability and mortality and are responsible for 90% of health care expenditure. The most common chronic diseases are diabetes mellitus (DM), cardiovascular disease, and cerebrovascular disease (stroke and vascular cognitive impairment). Modifiable risk factors (MRFs) for these conditions include hypertension, hyperlipidemia, smoking, poor diet, and low-physical activity; with hypertension being the most prevalent MRF. Most MRFs can be successfully targeted through lifestyle medicine (LSM), which is a medical specialty that addresses the root causes of chronic diseases through its primary, secondary, and tertiary preventative approaches. Lifestyle medicine comprises 6 pillars (nutrition, physical activity, sleep health, stress reduction, social connections, and substance use) which through various behavioral approaches, focus on regular physical activity, healthy eating, good quality and quantity sleep, and meaningful social connections coupled with the reduction of stress and substance use. This paper will briefly review the evidence and promise of individual LSM pillars in addressing the underlying MRFs of DM, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease (specifically stroke and vascular cognitive impairment). Lifestyle medicine holds a great promise for comprehensive and much improved population health. However, the adoption of LSM at the societal scale requires a multifaceted approach and widespread integration would galvanize a paradigm shift to prevent, treat or reverse chronic diseases from the root causes and achieve health equity.