Health reform law drives a trend to include lifestyle changes in a patient’s health care plan, alongside traditional medicine

Lifestyle changes can play a huge role in treating and warding off many health conditions and thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act there is now a shift to include helping people make these changes part of their health care plan, Laura Ungar reports for The Courier-Journal and USA Today.

In the first of an occasional series called “HealthVoices” that focuses on “areas where policy, public health and people intersect,” Ungar tells the story of Kevin French, who self-describes himself as “the quintessential unhealthy Kentuckian” and how lifestyle changes have made a difference in his health.

French tells Ungar that with the help of medical professionals and The KentuckyOne Healthy Lifestyle Center in Louisville he has “learned how to eat well, handle stress, exercise and “basically change everything.”

“My medicine usage has declined somewhat. I’m still on medicines but not the dramatic type like I was. Some of them’s been cut in half,” French told Ungar. “Several costs of medicines have declined dramatically.”

The center provides “medically supervised exercise, nutrition counseling, stress management and classes in disciplines such as yoga” and is the third such facility the medical system has opened in Louisville, Ungar writes.

Experts say that the ACA is driving this “colossal shift” in health care away from the “traditional reliance on pills and procedures by patients as well as the American medical system,” Ungar writes, but she also notes that the patient must also make a commitment to these lifestyle changes if it is to work, as French has.

A cardiologist at the center, Paul Rogers, told Ungar about the importance of lifestyle changes, especially exercise. in warding off cardiovascular disease, one of the state’s biggest killers.

“Compared to even the best medical therapy, we can decrease heart attacks, strokes and deaths by between 35 and 45 percent by changing lifestyle. The thing I see that holds people back most probably is effort and fear,” Rogers told Ungar. “The recommendations these days are 30 minutes of…aerobic activity six times a week. I think if people started devoting themselves to that, that would change the health of our state dramatically.”

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