Author: Dr Yakira Mishan

This week I had the opportunity to attend the American College of Lifestyle Medicine’s 19th annual conference in person.

It was a truly inspiring few days filled with 2,000 likeminded people, incredible speakers and delicious whole-food plant based food.

The talks were excellent and there was no shortage of learning to be done but I would like to take this opportunity to share 5 of my biggest take home messages.

  1. Love leads to longevity- Dr Dean Ornish

Dr Dean Ornish received this year’s lifetime achiever award. Dr Ornish is definitely an amazing pioneer in Lifestyle Medicine and has published many very influential studies on the power of plant based nutrition and lifestyle interventions in the reversal of cardiac disease amongst other things. in his opening speech at ACLM he spoke about the importance of love and social connection to our health and wellbeing. I personally found this an incredibly powerful statement to make at the conference because it speaks to the unintended benefit of Lifestyle Medicine– its ability to bring us all together as like minded Health Care Workers to come together and be a community for one another.

  1. Beans and green to age gracefully- Dr Michael Greger

It was a huge privilege to hear Dr Greger speak about his new book on aging and how to age well. He brought in immense research covering a broad range of topics but ultimately it comes down to increases autophagy which can be done through fasting-24 to 48 hours- or lucky for us by increasing our spermadine intake which is especially high in beans and legumes. He really spoke to the power of plants, herbs and spices like cumin in aging well . I definitely cannot wait to read his new book which is coming out in the next few weeks  How Not to Age.

  1. Our Dopamine Setpoint- Dr Anna Lembke

The author of the number one best selling book Dopamine Nation Dr Lembke gave an incredible presentation explaining addiction and how it changes our dopamine setpoint so that eventually we are using our substance of choice to avoid the withdrawal and no longer for pleasure. This setpoint takes at least a month of abstinence to reset but when an addict is able to do that they are able to experience pleasure and joy normally again.

She made the point that for many of us we are addicted to our phones and find it extremely uncomfortable to ignore the ping of a message and often start to crave our phones and the scrolling. She advocates for a 24 hour phone free period to recalibrate our dopamine rush and cell phone addiction to some extent. This is a massive simplification of her brilliant teaching and I highly recommend her book so that you can rather learn it from her.

  1. Plant based food for a happier planet- Dr Neha Pathak

The intersection of health and climate change is a growing field. The concerns over the risks of flooding, poor air quality and food contamination make it impossible for the healthcare sector not to be invested in finding ways to improve the health of our planet as well. Project Drawdown looked at 100 of the most effective changes for climate change which we can implement right now and number 4 is adopting a plant based diet. Just another reason to cut back on animal products- for ourselves and our environment.

  1. Our children need us- Dr Christina Economos

The United States has a concerning rise in childhood obesity starting in children as young as 2 years old. While we may not be seeing the same numbers in South Africa the risk of the lifestyle being adopted by children today is still of concern. She has studied this topic for decades and been able to work in communities to try a whole host of solutions to get children to eat healthier and to move more. The literature and research supports that the more that is being done in a community to get children to eat better and move more- the better the outcomes. The two greatest things that the research recommends are increasing physical activity for children and eating breakfast. So truly encourage your children to eat a proper and healthy breakfast!

Finally, I think the most exciting part of being at the conference was being reminded that there are so many like minded Health Care Workers fighting to change the narrative of health, wellness and illness in our own communities and we have the science to back us and absolutely no shortage of passion and enthusiasm.