The Future of Healthcare is Lifestyle Medicine

Updated: Feb 17, 2019


Written by our guest blogger Dr Katie Blissard Barnes

They thought they may spend the day convincing delegates this was the case but when asked for a show of hands, 99% of us believed wholeheartedly in this statement already. It was an indicator of how excited we were to be at this conference and how keen we were to absorb the knowledge and skills of the influential line-up of speakers. After a coffee and some delicious wholefood snack bars, we had an uplifting introduction to the day by founder of Inspired Medics, Angela Goyal who explained the need for a lifestyle approach if we are to solve the chronic disease crisis which is strangling the NHS. She described the audience as potential 'change-makers ' who can carry this movement forward to their patients and communities. Following this boost in our belief to influence true change in our patients through lifestyle, we moved onto the keynote speaker. Dr Aseem Malhotra couldn't fail to engage us all when he started discussing cardiovascular health. The key messages from his talk are summed up as follows: 1. Pharmaceutical companies fund much of the research into drugs and have a clear conflict of interest in raising the profile of medications they can make millions from 2. As a result, there is a myriad of misleading information & statistics as well as biased media attention 3. The 'status-quo' is being influenced by inaccuracies in research interpretation - Stats are presented to us in a misleading format even in even peer reviewed journals. Drug benefit is given as relative risk reduction whereas side effects are presented as absolute risk. The key point he kept returning to was that we are often encouraged to follow guidelines that may in fact not be beneficial to our patients in the long-term and by doing our own research and personally understanding the data, we can have honest and unreserved discussions with our patients and let them decide. We may find the number of medications we are prescribing drastically falls when armed with this information, let alone if we encourage patients to adhere to lifestyle modifications as well! It was a sobering start of the day for all of us and a chance to reflect on our own practice...which led in beautifully to a talk by Lucile Allen-Paisant, the director of Mind-It. She gave us all some simple tips on self-care...something so many of us forget to do amongst busy clinics! My take-home tips were:

1. What we stress about day-to-day we often have little control over! 2. What we want to ensure we fit into our week, every week, we should timetable in first! 3. The 10 fingers of Gratitude - encouraging us to be grateful for 10 things, every day rather than focusing on the one small thing that went wrong! Finally she walked us through a 30 second deep breathing exercise to refresh us all and remind us there are things we could all fit in throughout the day. We left, inspired, for a coffee break & the opportunity to chat to other delegates as well as some incredible exhibitors, about what we had taken away from the day so far before we turned to Dr Malhotra for some more on cardiovascular health. This presentation looked at our over-enthusiastic statin prescribing despite many patients being 'low risk'. He discussed relevant research and his bold belief that saturated fat is not to blame for our cardiovascular risk. In fact we should be looking to sugar and other processed carbohydrates as the culprit. It became the message of the day and you couldn't fail to be amazed at the quantity of research supporting this, and how the message has been diluted or simply ignored. This was followed by an equally fascinating talk by Dr Pratima Singh on the use of dietary interventions in mental health. Often we link diet & nutrition to cardiovascular & gastrointestinal health but she discussed the countless studies showing that nutritional deficiencies can be corrected & shown to lead to improved mental health outcomes. It was motivating to see that she worked closely with GPs to spread this knowledge and provide better outcomes for her patients. As a trainee psychiatrist, I soaked it all up, eager to take on board all the tips I could for helping my patients in clinic. Lunch was packed full of wholefood healthy options including salmon, chicken and falafel alongside a variety of fulfilling salads. I think everyone was relieved to see the nutritious menu in front of us after such a startling first half of the day. There was a lot more to come too and it was just as remarkable! The afternoon included the wonderful Dr David Unwin. He was a GP ready to retire until a patient changed his mind and convinced him to stay on. He has saved the NHS thousands of pounds in the process and improved the lives of many by helping his patients actually reverse their diabetes through dietary change. He discussed how he manages this in a 10 minute consultation and provides evidence of how the low carb diet really can transform lives. The crowds surrounding him at the end of the day was testimony to how phenomenal his talk was. After we had started digesting this information, it was onto Sam Feltham from the Public Health Collaboration who questioned the 'EatWell' guide we should all be abiding by for an apparently "healthy diet" and suggesting, in line with all the evidence from the day, that the government have this all wrong and as a result, so do we. There was palpable shock in the audience when he revealed financial conflicts of interest in the authors of the Eatwell guide. PHC have a whole new food chart which brought together everything that had been discussed that day beautifully! Finally, we were wowed by Sarah Davies, a functional medicine doctor who by her own admission has a controversial approach to her patients - the elimination diet. It is something I had never given much thought to but her personal stories were fascinating and compelling to say the least. We finished with a Q&A, a chance to put the speakers on the spot and ask some pertinent questions from the day.and there followed some heated discussion which demonstrated just how passionate the delegates are. We know there needs to be a change and we are desperate to make them...what we needed was a platform to come together and discuss the research and next steps we should be making, something Inspired Medics has provided us! As if we could gain even more from this enlightening & exciting day, we then had a choice of workshops we could attend including a careers workshop, yoga and an exercise session, or the option to do some more networking. I attended the careers workshop and faced the truth that Lifestyle Medicine is still a relatively small network relentlessly trying to make things better for our patients, but that it can be particularly challenging in an NHS environment. It isn't impossible to touch on the important hallmarks of Lifestyle Medicine however and I have already began taking what I've learned into my daily work. 


If you missed out on this event you can catch the digital version with extra content here It contains 12 modules and 7.5 CPD credits.


Written by

Dr Katie Blissard Barnes Trainee Psychiatrist Leeds