Medical Lifestyle Assessment
How Much Does Lifestyle Dictate Health?
Table of Contents
- How Does Lifestyle Impact Health?
- Non-Communicable Disorders
- Lifestyle Habits
- What is a Medical Lifestyle Assessment?
- Benefits of a Medical Lifestyle Assessment
- How is a Lifestyle Assessment Performed?
- Information for the Patient
- Information for the Doctor
- How do Lifestyle Assessments Help the Public?
How Does Lifestyle Impact Health?
Why is a lifestyle assessment important for your medical care? In current society, it is more popular to take medication than to make lifestyle changes, even when those changes could improve overall health. The reality is that many diseases and disorders today are preventable and can be managed with the right lifestyle choices. Lifestyle assessments give your medical professional detailed information to help properly decide what care you need.
Globally, non-communicable disorders (NCDs) account for 71% (41 million) of all annual deaths.1 This makes them the leading cause of death and disability worldwide, with more than 3 in 5 people dying from NCDs.2 Non-communicable disorders are non-infections and non-transmissible diseases that can be caused by genetics or lifestyle and behavioral factors.
They include cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, stress, and anxiety.2 Such diseases typically progress slowly and have a long time span. Most importantly, most non-communicable disorders are preventable, as they are often caused by negative lifestyle habits.
Chronic respiratory diseases
In the U.S., more than 88% of annual deaths can be attributed to NCDs.3 30% of these are due to cardiovascular diseases, 22% due to cancers, 9% due to chronic respiratory diseases, 3% due to diabetes, 24% due to other NCDs, 5% due to communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions, and 7% are due to injuries.3
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), and specifically coronary heart disease and strokes, are the leading cause of death globally and in the United States. CVDs can be largely prevented by addressing the following risk factors and lifestyle habits: tobacco use, unhealthy diet, obesity, physical inactivity, and diabetes.
The cancers that cause the greatest number of deaths are lung cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer, colon cancer, and breast cancer. The behavioral and dietary risk factors for these types of cancers include high body mass index, lack of physical activity, low fruit and vegetable intake, tobacco use, alcohol use, and viral infections (such as Hepatitis B and C).
Chronic Respiratory Diseases
Chronic respiratory diseases are diseases of the airways and other structures of the lungs, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is caused mainly by tobacco smoke (firsthand or secondhand smoke).
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body cannot effectively regulate blood sugar. It can cause death when untreated but can also be prevented and delayed when addressing the following risk factors: diet, physical activity, and body weight.
Habits and behaviors that impact health generally include physical activity, diet, sleep patterns, smoking, drinking, and drug consumption. For this reason, in recent years, there has been a greater shift in healthcare towards addressing lifestyle habits that may negatively impact a person’s health and put them at risk of developing diseases, particularly NCDs, which can be largely avoided and prevented.
Most of the modern-day healthcare system is reactive, meaning that people typically go to the doctor once they have a problem that they need to address. Preventative health care focuses more on adopting healthy lifestyle habits in order to prevent and avoid certain diseases that cause premature death.
Additionally, with the development of more effective drugs, improved healthcare, and better nutritional and hygienic conditions, the average human life expectancy has almost doubled in many developed countries. This means that people are living much longer, but not necessarily living healthier lifestyles. Therefore, it is important to address lifestyle habits that might cause the deterioration of life earlier than necessary.
What is a Medical Lifestyle Assessment?
A medical lifestyle assessment involves the collection and analysis of health-related information that is then used by clinicians and health care teams to support healthy behaviors and change harmful behaviors. This process is completed with a healthcare provider where a patient provides an overview of lifestyle habits, such as dietary habits, physical exercise, drinking or smoking habits, drug use, sleep patterns, stress levels, and more. This assessment gives primary care teams the opportunity to examine a patient’s health status for potential health risks in order to help prevent NCDs.
Lifestyle assessments are not intended to be used as diagnostic tools, and they do not include complete medical histories, medical testing, or complete medical information. Instead, they look specifically at how lifestyle factors influence a person’s health. In other words, lifestyle assessments focus more on preventative measures rather than physical health examinations, which may evaluate current health status. Lifestyle assessments focus on long-term health and making positive changes to health to improve longevity.
What Health Concerns are Typically Discussed in a Lifestyle Assessment?
Although medical lifestyle assessments will vary from one healthcare provider to the next, the following issues are typically discussed:
Social support/social isolation
Ability to manage your own health
Quality of life
Any other health behaviors, risks, or concerns
Who Performs a Lifestyle Assessment?
A lifestyle assessment will typically be performed by a primary healthcare provider but might also be performed by a team of staff. For instance, specialist doctors who are already seeing the patient might be involved in the lifestyle assessment.
In a typical lifestyle assessment, a lifestyle assessment form will be completed that involves a list of questions, which will then be discussed with a doctor. Any changes to health or health care plans that are implemented as a result of a lifestyle assessment may involve other health care providers, such as specialists, psychologists or psychiatrists, nutritionists, personal trainers, social workers, and more. After completing a lifestyle assessment, the patient and their healthcare provider will make a plan of action in order to address any problems or concerns.
What are the Benefits of Medical Lifestyle Assessments?
Many people go to the doctor only when they have a problem or for a routine checkup. It is less common that people go to the doctor as a preventative measure to discuss lifestyle habits. Many people have habits that they know aren’t healthy, such as going to sleep late or drinking alcohol; however, not everyone knows how to change those routines.
There are benefits to having a medical lifestyle assessment done, particularly in preventing diseases. There are also benefits to the healthcare system in collecting data and information on people’s lifestyles. This data helps determine the health status of citizens and to implement policies or changes in healthcare.
Medical lifestyle assessments improve people’s health by:
Improving the patient-healthcare provider relationship by creating rapport and having a dialogue surrounding current health.
Giving patients the opportunity to talk about issues that might be sensitive to some people, such as mental health issues, alcohol or drug use, and sexual activity.
Helping healthcare providers identify and prioritize patient health issues and goals.
Providing patients with information and education surrounding how lifestyle habits can impact health.
Helping patients understand their health status and step to improve their health.
Reminding patients to be aware of behaviors and habits that affect health or are risk factors for chronic conditions.
Tracking patient health behavior over time and improving patient follow up.
Measuring and monitoring patient data at the population level for proactive care.
Identifying issues that might require referrals, specialist help or additional resources.
How is a Lifestyle Assessment Performed?
A medical lifestyle assessment is usually presented as a questionnaire that includes a variety of questions. Some questions require yes or no answers, others require a rating on some type of scale, others require selecting the applicable answers, or some might be open-ended questions that the patient will fill out the answers for. Here is an example of the type of questions that a person would be asked to fill out and discuss with their doctor. While this is a fairly long list, there might be other questions that a healthcare provider might ask.4
Date of birth
Number of children
What are your main health concerns?
How are you feeling?
What are you doing for your health presently?
- Healthy diet
- Medical doctor
- Prescription medications
- Relaxation techniques
What do you believe might be the causes or underlying factors of your current health concerns?
Have you experienced any trauma or loss in the past?
What level of stress are you experiencing during this time of your life?
What are the major causes of stress in your life?
- Mental Health
- Physical Health
- Unfulfilled expectations
What does your stress look like?
Do you have any coping mechanisms for your stress?
How many hours do you sleep daily on average?
What time do you go to sleep?
What time do you wake up?
What time do you wake up? Do you wake up feeling rested?
What is your typical energy level?
Daily Life & Exercise
What is your occupation?
How many hours do you work every day?
What time do you start and end work?
Do you enjoy your work?
Do you smoke cigarettes?
- If yes, how many?
- If no, are you ever exposed to second-hand smoke?
How many hours do you spend daily, on average:
- Watching TV
- On social media
- Using your computer
What do you do for exercise?
How frequently do you exercise?
What are your interests and hobbies?
Do you take vacations regularly?
When was your last vacation?
Do you actively participate in a church or spiritual group?
Do you wish to gain or lose weight?
Do you have high blood pressure or low blood pressure?
How much weight would you like to gain or lose?
Are you currently taking any medications?
- If yes, list the medications and reasons for taking them
List any vitamins, minerals, herbal, and homeopathic remedies you are currently taking and the amounts/dosages you are taking
Do you have any allergies or sensitivities?
How often do you have a bowel movement?
Have you ever been hospitalized?
- If yes, for what reason?
Have you ever been diagnosed with an illness, mental or physical?
- If yes, explain what and when you were diagnosed
Do you have trouble having a bowel movement?
- If yes, is it related to a particular food or circumstance?
Do you have loose bowel movements?
- If yes, is it related to a particular food or circumstance?
Have you ever been treated for alcohol or substance abuse?
Are you or could you be pregnant?
Are you pre-menopausal or post-menopausal?
Are you experiencing menopausal symptoms?
- If yes, specify what symptoms
Have you had a bone density test?
- If yes, what were the results?
Has your father, mother, sibling, grandparent, sibling, or another relative ever had:
- Heart disease
- Mental illness
- Intestinal disease
How many times a day do you eat?
- How many main meals do you eat? What times of the day?
- How many snacks do you eat? What times of the day?
Do you eat meals:
- With family
- At home
- In a restaurant
- On the run
Do you feel like there are restrictions on your diet due to the preference of others? (Family, roommates)
- If yes, explain
On a typical day, what do you eat for
At what time do you have your last meal or snack of the day?
How many ½ cup servings of each do you typically eat in a day?
- Whole Grains
- Dairy Products
Things You Use
Do you eat or use:
- aluminum pans
- fried foods
- refined/processed foods
- luncheon meats
- artificial sweetener
- fast foods
- air fresheners
- scented body products
Things You Drink
Please indicate how many cups of the following you drink per day:
- Fruit juice
- Vegetable juice
- Soft drinks
- A meat-eater
How often do you eat meat?
How often do you consume dairy products?
What are your favorite foods?
How often do you eat them?
What foods do you crave?
Do you experience any symptoms if you miss a meal?
Are there any foods that you avoid?
- If yes, why?
Do you experience any symptoms after eating?
Is there anything else health or lifestyle-related that you would like to share?
What Information Does a Lifestyle Assessment Give?
A lifestyle assessment test can offer valuable information to patients. For starters, many people have unhealthy habits that they may not realize are affecting their lives.
For example, they might not get enough sleep, be under severe stress, smoke cigarettes, or drink alcohol, and not realize that it is affecting their health. In reality, these activities can compromise long-term health and increases the risk of developing a non-communicable disorder.
Another effect of smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or using other substances is the possibility of developing a substance use disorder. While mental health issues and substance abuse issues have not typically been categorized as non-communicable diseases, they exhibit the same criteria in that they are non-infectious and non-transmissible disorders caused by lifestyle habits (e.g., drinking and abusing substances).
Therefore, a lifestyle assessment can bring awareness to health problems or lifestyle habits that put a person at risk for certain diseases. For example, a person might discover that their dietary habits have put them at risk of diabetes.
Essentially, a lifestyle assessment helps a person be informed and proactive with their health. It teaches how lifestyle choices impact health outcomes. It also helps the doctor be more informed about their patients’ health and gives them the opportunity to create an action plan.
How Do Lifestyle Assessments Help Doctors?
A doctor will most likely use the results of a lifestyle assessment for two purposes. The first is to give the patient a better understanding of health. The assessment also helps doctors recommend what changes might help people avoid certain diseases or disorders.
A lifestyle assessment also gives a healthcare provider a better understanding of what has caused certain disorders or diseases. Oftentimes, laboratory tests may not cover all possible health issues, and lifestyle choices might have a larger impact on the patient’s issues that may not be detected during a routine exam.
A lifestyle assessment tool is also a way for doctors to foster better relationships with their patients, making them feel more comfortable discussing sensitive issues.
The second way that a doctor might use the results of a lifestyle assessment is to collect data for public health issues.
While the results of a lifestyle assessment are confidential, the information might be used anonymously in order for healthcare professionals to determine what types of unhealthy lifestyle choices or habits may cause certain diseases or disorders.
This helps healthcare professionals to learn about the effects and outcomes of different medications patients take or health interventions that have been implemented. It helps healthcare professionals to understand how certain lifestyles might relate to specific populations, age groups, genders and more, and how such lifestyles have effects on health outcomes. Providers are then able to compare and contrast different lifestyles and measure how these affect health outcomes.
How Do Medical Lifestyle Assessments Help the Public?
Gathering such information can help healthcare professionals to implement public health policies that address the prevention of NCDs. This information can help professionals understand public health trends. Empowered with this data, health professionals can implement strategies that improve the overall health of the public and promote healthier lifestyles and choices. By doing this, the aim is to improve the health and longevity of peoples’ lives and to decrease the number of deaths caused by NCDs. The leading cause of death should not be preventable diseases and disorders.