To Your Health: Living Longer & Better

To Your Health: Living Longer & Better

We will not live forever, but how can we live longer and better?


That is the key question I get asked daily.

Not too surprisingly, much of what happens with regard to quality of life is up to us. We will all die eventually, but the question of how we can live a more active, productive, satisfying, and enjoyable live will be explored in this post, though not full: space and time constraints mean I won’t be able to cover all aspects of overall wellness.

Why do certain populations live longer and healthier lives and have a lower incidence of cancer, hip fractures, dementia, coronary artery disease, as well as other afflictions?

A primarily plant-based diet is one common factor.

Do we have to be 100 percent plant based? Probably not, but at least 80-90 percent of our calories should come from whole foods in plant kingdom. I like to think about diet this way: we should eat foods with no legs or at most two legs. That leaves out all those four-legged creatures.

The second feature of those fortunate groups is constant moderate physical activity.

It takes longer to burn the same amount of calories when you’re doing moderate-intensity activity like walking, rather than running or other vigorous exercise. Intensity has no significant effect on weight loss or fat loss. What matters is the total number of calories you burn and that’s a matter of how hard you exercise and for how long. The key is don’t sit, but walk, bike, ski, hike, swim, climb, or just take the stairs.

A good way to accomplish the next goal is to take socially engaging walks with families or friends. Social engagement is common among all the groups that live longer and healthier.

Remember Sitting is the New Smoking and none of these healthy populations sit much, nor do any of them smoke.

Nuts, whole grains, limited alcohol, faith – and empowered women – are other common features.

A recent study just published on 12-31-15 showed the importance of whole grains over simple, processed carbohydrates. Greater consumption of potatoes, especially french fries, was associated with a higher type 2 diabetes risk, independent of BMI and other risk factors. Replacement of potatoes with whole grains was associated with a lower type 2 diabetes risk.

Also, it goes without saying that these populations have a very low incidence of obesity.

Now on to some of my very personal thoughts as a practicing physician for 37 years.

Never ever overestimate the power of your doctor or pills to keep you healthy.

We cannot buy health in a bottle. Supplements will never replace a healthy lifestyle.

 Always question why you are prescribed a certain medication and when or if you can get off the drug. Common side effects and statistical benefits should be discussed. Are there natural alternatives such as turmeric, rather than ingesting non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like Advil or Aleve? Do I really need antibiotics for what is probably a viral infection?

Every year, you should discuss lab results such as thyroid function tests, 25 Hydroxy Vitamin D, B 12, lipids, CRP, and appropriate chemistries, and blood tests with your doctor in person or over the phone.

Trends may be important even if labs are in the normal range. What were my results last year compared to this year? For example, if the kidney function test called creatinine went from 0.8 to 1.2 this may be very significant even though labs will state the results are both normal.

Make sure you have appropriate screening tests to help prevent disease.

A colonoscopy starting at 50 may be reasonable for a person without risk factors such as obesity, smoking, or family history, but should be started much earlier for at-risk populations. The same applies to many other screeners such as mammograms and PSA. The timing of those tests should be based upon multiple risk factors including genetic and family history. Genetic screening is commonly used in my practice: those with strong family histories of colon, breast, ovarian, and other cancers should think about whether genetic screening tests might be appropriate.

The risks of medical radiation can be significant.

Keep track of all tests like CT scans. CT scans may be equivalent in radiation exposure to 100s of chest X-rays. Sometimes these tests are essential, but sometimes they are orders without good reason, even when an imaging technique that does not involve radiation could have be used. MRIs or ultrasounds, for example, do not involve radiation.

The younger we are, the greater the risk from excessive medical radiation.

Remember I am talking about those individuals exposed to numerous CT scans, PET scans, or nuclear medicine tests. I am not that concerned with people who have had only a few of the above tests, but always ask if there is another way to approach the evaluation of any existing medical problem.

Vital answers you need come from asking simple questions we often forget bring up.

I have given you a lot to sleep on tonight.

And while we are on the subject, we should not forget the importance of adequate sleep in the New Year.

Short sleep duration and poor sleep continuity have been implicated in susceptibility to infectious illness. Specifically, those sleeping between 5 to 6 hours were at greater risk of developing a cold compared to those sleeping greater than 7 hours per night.

Lastly, please keep in mind you could have a plant-based diet that is extremely unhealthy. Make sure your predominately plant-based diet is whole foods and not vegetarian foods like donuts, white bread and pasta, cookies, cakes and french fries.

Editor’s Note: Our relationship with Dr. Alan Safdi started several years ago when we attended a Wellness Conference at The Peaks Resort & Spa. Dr. Safdi, is a gastroenterologist with a talent for offering evidence-based medical findings for healthy living in easily digestible sound bytes. We next heard him speak at Telluride First’s inaugural Integrative Wellness Conference, where the audience got just taste of his encyclopedic knowledge on mind-body wellness. To fill in the gaps, Telluride Inside… and Out plans to post nuggets from Dr. Safdi regularly.

More about Dr. Alan Safdi: 


Dr. Alan Safdi

Dr. Alan Safdi

Dr. Alan Safdi is a speaker, contributor, and serves on the advisory board of the Telluride First Foundation.

He is board certified in Internal Medicine and in Gastroenterology and is a Fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology. A proven leader in the healthcare arena, he has been featured on the national program, “Medical Crossfire” and authored or co-authored numerous medical articles and abstracts. He has been an investigator in over 581 studies and is President of both the Consultants For Clinical Research and the Ohio Gastroenterology and Liver Institute.

Dr. Safdi has been involved in grant-based and clinical research for about 35 years and is passionate about disease prevention and wellness, not just fixing what has gone wrong. He is an international lecturer on the subjects of wellness, nutrition, and gastoenterology.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.