Major Regan Stiegmann, DO, MPH, FACLM illustrates how she implemented diet and lifestyle changes to help military personnel improve health outcomes and reverse chronic diseases in her keynote, ‘Biohacking our Military's Best: How Lifestyle & Performance Medicine is Optimizing Health in the Department of Defense’ at Hint Summit 2022. In this inspirational talk, she reminds the audience full of clinicians and people who are in the business of healthcare that ninety-percent of health issues are addressed outside of medical care. Lifestyle medicine examines this ninety-percent which consists of:
- Substance Abuse
- Stress Management
- Healthy Relationships
The Department of Defense has a chronic disease burden that comes at a huge cost and is also a threat to national security. Dr. Regan Stiegmann points out that while the U.S. Military recruits the healthiest Americans in the nation, by the time these individuals return to civilian life, they become the unhealthiest Americans in the country. There are habits in the Department of Defense that contribute to this including unhealthy intake of substances, caffeine, nicotine and poor nutrition. There is over $7B that the Department of Defense is spending each year just on obesity, tobacco, and musculoskeletal disease, not to mention the other health issues that plague the military such as alcoholism.
Biohack #1: Identify the Problem and Show Up with a Solution
“There is a time lag of 17 years between new knowledge generated by scientific research and when medical professionals change how they deliver care as a result.” - National Academy of Medicine, 2001.
Poor diet has surpassed tobacco use as the number one cause of death and disability in the U.S. Dr. Stiegmann acknowledges that the training clinicians receive in this country centers on the management of chronic disease instead of identifying the root causes of disease. The majority of diseases killing Americans - seven of the top ten, are all preventable with lifestyle changes.
“Your health is comprised of what you eat, how you move, how you sleep, how you think, how you regulate stress and how you mitigate risky substance use with a huge focus on what you eat.” - Major Regan Stiegmann, DO, MPH, FACLM
Positive social connections are also an important contributor to your health. “Humans do not determine their future. Humans determine their habits and their habits determine their future.”
Biohack #2: Speak Things into Existence
Examining the health of the US Air Force Academy prior to the pandemic in October of 2019, which included 2,076 members, excluding cadets, 68% have one or more of these health issues: overweight, obese, diabetes, pre-diabetes, and/or type 2 diabetes. These statistics mimic basically what every military base looks like. In order to change these devastating health outcomes, Dr. Regan Stiegmann stewarded a solution with Lifestyle & Performance Medicine (LPM) mobilizing the Military Health System to learn and practice LPM.
Biohack #3: Hunt the good
By putting Lifestyle & Performance Medicine into practice, Dr. Stiegmann and her colleagues saw better health outcomes, lower absenteeism, increased engagement, greater focus, higher energy, heightened creativity, fewer accidents, and higher productivity amongst military personnel. There are now nineteen Lifestyle & Performance Medicine clinics in the Department of Defense around the world.
Dr. Stiegmann invites clinicians to contribute to this movement of Lifestyle Medicine by practicing its six pillars, getting involved with the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, and encouraging patients to be active participants in their health.
Major Regan Stiegmann explains how she cared for one of her Air Force patients who was forced to forgo a deployment due to a medical disqualification. This patient, at 35 years of age had type 2 diabetes, was overweight, had high bad cholesterol and high blood pressure. He experienced brain fog, chronic fatigue and had low energy levels. Dr. Stiegmann provided her patient with a choice of pills or plants to manage and improve his blood sugar and other issues. The patient decided to go the plant route and they started seeing results in 7 days with a drop of 55 points in LDL cholesterol.
“We are humans, we are built not only to heal, we are built to perform” - Major Regan Stiegmann, DO, MPH, FACLM
By eating real food, Dr. Stiegmann’s patient not only improved his health condition but also had more energy, exercise stamina and was no longer bogged down with brain fog instead of having the side effects of prescription drugs had he gone the pill route. After 2.5 years of eating a primarily plant based diet, Dr. Stiegmann’s patient was able to put his diabetes in remission and does not need to be medically managed for it. He has lost over 35 pounds, has normal blood pressure and LDL cholesterol and is qualified to deploy.
Watch the full keynote by Major Regan Stiegmann, DO, MPH, FACLM and see how transformative Lifestyle Medicine in practice can be.