The role of a health coach in lifestyle medicine

I’m sure you are aware that chronic disease rates in Canada, and around the world, are skyrocketing.

About two-thirds of all deaths in Canada each year are a result of chronic diseases and they cost us around $190 billion annually. About 58 per cent of our yearly health care spending ($68 billion) goes toward chronic diseases. More and more Canadians of working age (34-64) are living with the affects of chronic disease.

Worldwide, about 36 million people each year die from cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases. These four major chronic diseases share some risk factors – physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, stress, smoking and the harmful use of alcohol.

Because these diseases are due to our lifestyles and choices we make, they are also being called lifestyle diseases, or lifestyle related illnesses and together are the leading causes of death worldwide. They account for nearly 60 per cent of deaths and if we keep on this same track, by 2020 lifestyle diseases will be responsible for an estimated 73 per cent of deaths.

Due to the linkages with lifestyle and illness, there is a field of medicine emerging called lifestyle medicine. The research being done in this area is extensive and shows lifestyle and behaviour does in fact affect the course of an illness. And it proves there is huge value and benefit for people with chronic illnesses in making lifestyle improvements.

Lifestyle diseases include atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke; obesity and type 2 diabetes; and diseases associated with smoking, alcohol and drug abuse including some cancers.

In treating these diseases patients are given prescriptions for medications, treatment plans, therapies, protocols, and today they are also given a lifestyle prescription which can include diet, movement and stress reducing techniques.

This is one of the reasons I got into health coaching. I truly believe, that while we might not be able to completely eradicate chronic diseases, we can significantly decrease the susceptibility, quantity and severity of chronic illnesses through diet and lifestyle.

But implementing your lifestyle prescriptions not easy. Our fast-paced, modern, sedentary ways of life make it difficult to eat healthy, get regular movement and live peaceful, balanced, non-stressed lives.

Most people know what they should be doing differently. They understand the reasons why they should eat more veggies, get more exercise, drink more water and sleep eight hours a night. Their intentions are good. They get off to great starts. But implementing and maintaining the changes on a day-to-day basis are where many fall down.

It’s not about the lack knowledge around a healthy lifestyle. It’s about not knowing how to make the behavioural changes needed to sustain good habits.

Research shows that adults with common chronic, lifestyle conditions who participate in comprehensive programs to helps modify and improve lifestyle, can experience fairly quick, significant, and sustainable improvements both clinically and in how they actually feel.

Health and wellness coaching is an area of support that can have great impacts by helping help clients adopt, implement and sustain healthy lifestyle behaviours that can prevent and control these chronic diseases.

This type of coaching is all about attitude, belief and behaviours, not just about diet and exercise. The process of health and wellness coaching gives clients a method and a professional ally to help you succeed at behavioural change and lifestyle improvements.

Health and wellness coaches can support this field of lifestyle medicine, by helping patients/clients implement and integrate the lifestyle prescriptions that medical professionals recommended, or that have been known to be beneficial for specific conditions.

P.S. If you are a health and wellness coach interested in building your skills to help clients implement their lifestyle prescriptions, please join me in my free facebook community for health coaches.

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