Dr. Andrew Weil: Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

“Without enough focus on diet and exercise and too much focus on prescription drugs we don’t have a healthcare system; we have disease management.  The U.S. spends more on healthcare per capita than any other country, yet we’re ranked 37th in terms of health” ~ Dr. Andrew Weil

After seeing Dr. Andrew Weil present this week on topics such as our current healthcare system, healthy aging in America and what is needed to reverse much of the damage done, I decided to condense the 2 1/2 hour talk here.  Here’s what Weil suggests are the societal, medical and individual approaches needed to shift from disease management to disease prevention and health promotion in the U.S.:

What can society do?

  1. Make better food choices cheaper and easier. The unhealthiest foods are the cheapest while fresh fruits and vegetables are the most expensive.  Government subsidies are skewed and need to shift from corn and soy to fruits and vegetables.  Weil suggests making fruits and vegetables more accessible in underprivileged neighborhoods and free to all school children.
  2. Make better health choices fun.  In Sweden, a metro station staircase was turned into a musical piano (think Tom Hanks in “Big”) to encourage people to take the stairs as opposed to the escalator right next to it.  Check out thefuntheory.com for ideas.
  3. Make a cultural change where better lifestyle choices and health are fashionable and cool. Look at what’s happened with smoking – we all know it’s not cool and can’t escape the  consistent advertising, commercials and messages about the dangers of it.
  4. Change the way food is advertised and marketed, especially to kids!
  5. Present health information in ways people understand it. Give people a clear understanding of what health is (which is not absence of disease).  Health is an inner state of balance and resilience. “The body can heal itself; this isn’t new age voodoo, it’s biology.”

What Dr. Weil is doing and training other M.D.’s to do at his Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine:

  1. Restore focus of medicine to health and healing.
  2. Insist human beings are more than physical bodies (address spiritual and emotional aspects of individuals).
  3. Insist on importance of lifestyle factors. Stress importance of managing stress, relationships, exercise, sleep and proper dietary choices.
  4. Insist on importance of practitioner/patient relationship. Foster healing; which Weil believes has dissipated with for-profit medicine.

What can you do?

  1. Stop eating processed, refined and manufactured foods. Many diseases have a common thread: inflammation.  Inflammation can be caused by genetics, stress and diet.  Saturated fats and simple carbohydrates are leading causes of inflammation.  Weil suggests a diet full of olive oils, fishes, high quality cheeses and yogurt, antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, turmeric, ginger, red wine and dark chocolate. As well as 3 daily supplements: a multi-vitamin, an Omega 3 (2g/day), and Vitamin D (2000 i.u./day).
  2. Physical Activity. One of the greatest keys to healthy aging.
  3. Maintenance of Social and Family Connectedness. Maintain healthy and positive relationships with others.
  4. Know how to manage stress. Stress on the body and mind increase cortisol levels (our bodies “stress hormone”).  To neutralize high levels of cortisol practice breathing techniques, meditation and yoga.  Weil provides a great breathing technique to do upon waking and going to sleep (and throughout any point in the day when you need it):

Keep tongue touching ridge behind front teeth.

Breathe in through nose for a count of 4, hold breath for a count of 7, breathe out of mouth for a count of 7 seconds. Repeat 3 times for a total of 4 cycles.

After 1 month you can increase to 8 cycles max.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!



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