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Combining a Harvard education and a lifetime of practicing natural and preventive medicine, New York Times best-selling author Andrew Weil, MD, has written 15 books on health and well-being and is an expert on healthy aging. We recently spoke with him about how much of healthy aging is truly within our personal control.
"Recent research has disproved the long-held idea that genes dictate our health destiny," he explains. "Instead, the science of epigenetics has shown that genes are turned on or off by a variety of influences, including how we eat, exercise, and sleep. Even our thoughts have impact."
Here's what matters most—in the words of Dr. Weil:
Nutrition: Eat an anti-inflammatory diet featuring nutrient-dense vegetables, low-sugar fruits such as berries, which provide protective antioxidants, and fatty cold-water fish including wild Alaskan salmon, a rich source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Exercise: I am a great advocate for walking at a brisk pace for at least 30 minutes daily. It requires no training or special equipment, fits easily into busy lives, and, when done with a friend, helps counter social isolation.
Sleep: Sleep deprivation's side effects include dysregulation of the hormones that regulate appetite, leading short-sleepers to chronically overeat. To sleep well—limit caffeine, invest in light-blocking shades and a quality mattress, and avoid staring at screens after 8:00 pm.
Stress Reduction: Regularly practicing mindfulness mediation and breathing exercises can help to calm the sympathetic nervous system, which in many of us is chronically in "fight or flight" mode.
Social Connection: Research has suggested that social isolation, prevalent among the elderly, is as hazardous to health as smoking 15 cigarettes daily or being an alcoholic. It's vital to remain connected to others as we age through church membership, volunteering, part-time employment, or in any other way that makes sense for the individual's situation and inclination.
Appropriate Medical Care: Americans in general are overmedicated and often subjected to inappropriate, ineffective surgeries. This is especially true of the elderly. Physicians trained in integrative medicine can provide direction in safe, gentle, inexpensive lifestyle-based therapies for a wide variety of conditions including the "diseases of aging" such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, or mild cognitive impairment.
Curious to read our full interview with Dr. Weil? Sign up to receive the 1440 catalog.
From renowned integrative medicine pioneer Dr. Andrew Weil comes a weekend that will inspire you to take control of your health before you get sick. Explore the latest advances in science, nutrition, sleep, and mind-body medicine that will show you...