What do you eat when a hurricane is approaching your neighborhood?
Anything you want!!!
So as Mr. S. stocked our home with batteries, bottled water and band-aids, I stocked our fridge with brownies, fried chicken, and meatballs. I’m not exactly sure why. I guess I needed to be comforted by my old friends, sugar and fat. I suppose it was a blessing that we lost power and all of the food went bad before it could be finished. We had been eating so well after having attended Philadelphia’s premier Health and Wellness Event, Forever Young, a week ago. The event featured Dr. Andrew Weil, a world-renowned pioneer of Integrative Medicine. Though many of you may not know his credentials or accomplishments, most of you probably recognize his face.
I’ve always thought of Dr. Weil as the “Santa Clause of the medical world,” from his looks no doubt, but more because of the gifts this educator has bestowed on his followers for four decades. His words of wisdom on healthy living and aging are found in the numerous books, tapes, and CDs he has authored and recorded.
This is just my small collection.
So for me, it was Christmas in October, as he continued to share his valuable gifts with more than 1600 health care professionals and interested lay people at the Forever Young event.
The event included other expert physicians as well as practitioners, chefs, and educators. There were also mini fitness classes and breakout seminars on improving everything from our sleep habits to our sex lives, and even our golf games.
The first annual Forever Young event was the vision of the talented Toby Strogatz, founder and CEO, with the help of over 100 tireless volunteers to benefit the Raymond and Miriam Klein JCC. (www.kleinjcc.org). The Healthy Living Sponsor for the event was the Einstein Healthcare Network (www.Einstein.edu).
So are you ready for your gifts?
Dr. Weil gave two lectures that day. The first was a description of the future of health care, and the second was on healthy aging. Though his thoughts on our very bleak health care system and what has to be done to change it were quite fascinating (more info can be found in his book, Why Our Health Matters), this week Figs & Function will focus on his lecture, Healthy Aging.
Dr. Weil’s would like us to:
- Accept the aging process as a natural universal process, and even embrace it.
- Learn how we can maintain and optimize our health so we can feel well, enjoy life, have a sense of purpose, and be able to meet life’s demands.
- Avoid the recommendations of the anti-aging medicine movement of slowing, stopping, or reversing the aging process because it distracts us from our ultimate goal—to maintain health as we go through life.
Dr. Weil asked the audience rhetorically,
“Is it necessary to get sick as we age? Do we have to accept that we will get one of the age-related diseases: cardiovascular disease, cancer or neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s? Or is it possible to live long and well, and then have a rapid drop-off in the end?”
He called this concept Compression of Morbidity. Basically it’s the act of squeezing the time of disability and decline at the end of life into as short a period as possible.
He answered his own question by stating that:
The aging process and age-related diseases are separable. Our goal of healthy aging should be to reduce our risk and delay the onset of any of the age-related diseases.
I know, I know, please cut to the chase! What should I be doing to stay healthy for as long as possible?
Dr. Weil says that all of the diseases of aging have a relation to chronic high levels of inflammation. Since this is the case, we need to look at our genetics, but also our dietary choices, our exposure to toxins, and our stress levels. We need to learn the basic principles of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
Dr. Weil’s Five Lifestyle Strategies
- DIET AND NUTRITION
- DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
- PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
- ADEQUATE REST AND SLEEP
- STRESS MANAGEMENT
DIET AND NUTRITION
- Reduce our intake of processed and manufactured foods. These foods have all the wrong fats and wrong carbs, and cause blood sugar spikes and inflammation.
- Get back into the kitchen and cook like our parents and grandparents did, with real, whole foods.
- Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet.
This is a “tweaked version of the standard Mediterranean diet to increase its anti-inflammatory potential,” which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. This is a lifestyle way of eating and includes antioxidant-rich vegetables, fruits, tea, red wine, and dark chocolate, along with fish, high-quality and natural dairy products, soy foods, beans and lentils, and whole grains, seeds, and nuts. Weil is not a vegetarian, but he respects people’s choices. He eats chicken and turkey sometimes, and red meat rarely.
It’s a collection of many of the recipes for meals found in his six restaurants across the country, called True Food Kitchen. Each dish served is not only delicious, but also promotes well-being for the diner. I can’t wait to share with you some of the wonderfully simple and healthy recipes in the coming months.
Dietary supplements are not substitutes for foods that contain them. They act as insurance in case we have certain gaps in our diet.
1) Vitamin D
- Vitamin D is a key component of our body’s defenses.
- This is one of the most important defenses against cancer.
- The best way to get Vitamin D is through sun exposure. However, if we live north of Atlanta our bodies don’t produce enough Vitamin D six months of the year, so we should take Vitamin D3 supplements. It‘s best to take this vitamin with a fat-containing meal because it’s better utilized by the body that way.
- (Dr. Weil’s recommendation is 2000 IU/day, however we all have different needs, so please check with your health care provider for guidance.)
2) Fish Oil
- Dr. Weil recommends a distilled and toxin-free brand of fish oil. His suggestion is for 2-4 grams/day of fish oil, however again, I would suggest checking with your own personal health care provider for a recommendation that would benefit you specifically.
Dr. Weil suggests that we be physically active every day. As we go through life we should adapt our exercise routine to the changes in our physical bodies. He revealed to the audience that he was a runner at one time, but now at age 70, his body is more comfortable swimming. We need to use our best judgment to remain healthy and injury free. Pay attention to your body. If walking feels good, then walk. Just move.
Of all of his suggestions for aging in a healthy way, the two things that he feels are most important are to:
- Maintain physical activity throughout our lives.
- Maintain our social and intellectual connectedness.
- He says we are fortunate for the advent of computers because it allows us to remain social and connected with email.
- In order to preserve our mental function he suggests we continue to exercise our minds. So all of the frustrations that many of us feel as we try to adapt and learn something new are actually helping our brains. We don’t have to master a new language or the new computer operating system, or be a world-class bridge player or whatever it is that we aspire to. Just attempting to learn something new is key. (Thank goodness for that!)
ADEQUATE REST AND SLEEP
- Medications do not replace sleep.
- Sleep in complete darkness.
- Have some exposure to bright natural light every day.
Dr. Weil suggests that in order to promote good sleep, we should be in dim light for an hour before we are in the complete darkness of our bedrooms at bedtime. This will set our brains in the right biochemical state for a sound sleep.
Okay, life is stressful, but Dr. Weil is a true master when it comes to stress management. I lost him a little as he put on his MD hat, speaking of how cortisol, the main hormone that is directly related to stress, is toxic to the neurons in the hypocampus of the brain (which affects memory and emotion, I think). I was able to quickly jump back on board when he gave us a brief demonstration of a breathing technique that we can practice twice a day to change our nervous system and combat the harmful effects of stress.
He said we don’t need to eliminate stress, but just reduce it so we don’t feel the numerous stress-related disorders such as migraines, digestive illnesses, or neck and back pain.
Click the triangular play button below to follow a short breath work practice by Dr. Weil. (Audio Tape)
By practicing this breathing technique morning and night, you may be able to curb your cravings, and even control your anger when someone cuts you off while driving, as well as reduce some chronic digestive and panic disorders.
So my friends, if Dr. Weil’s healthy philosophies speak to you and your own goals, you can go to his website at www.drweil.com to get more info. I hope this synopsis of Dr. Weil’s lecture was helpful and I wish you all healthy aging!
Until Next Time,