When I see a patient for the very first time, I like to spend an hour getting to know them. Not just to learn about the health problems they’re experiencing, or about what they eat or how much they exercise, but also about what their goal for their health is.
The answer to that last question is almost always the same – “I want to not only live long but also live well.”
And you should know that ultimately, everything we do in medicine has that very goal in mind. Our mission as physicians is to help our patients achieve healthy longevity. We don’t do tests or procedures or prescribe medications simply because we can, we do this because we hope that through testing, fixing or medicating a condition we can help our patients live longer better.
I always point this out to my patients. That my role is not to make a cholesterol or blood pressure number perfect. Those are simply means to an end. My role is to help them achieve their greater health goal.
But when it comes to achieving healthy longevity, the truth is that what I can do pales in comparison to what you can do yourself.
The secret to healthy longevity lies not in how many procedures you’ve had or whether you’re on the best combination of the latest drugs. People who live long well do so because they LIVE WELL.
This is always my biggest message at the first visit. And a discussion about the four pillars of healthy longevity is nearly always part and parcel of my initial consultation with every patient I see. Because our perception of what are considered mainstay therapies (pills and procedures) versus complementary therapies (diet, exercise, stress reduction, etc.) is completely backwards.
Core to healthy longevity is what we eat, how much we move, and how we experience joy and love. This is the mainstay therapy. Complementing that is what modern medicine offers – antibiotics, stents, chemotherapy, surgery…
And here’s the biggest thing you need to know: without the mainstays of diet, exercise, joy and love, any medical intervention I can offer will not only be woefully incomplete but may not even work as well as expected.
So as we start the new year, think about what you can do to eat a little better, move a little more or experience more joy. You don’t have to change everything or be perfect. But any attempt to shore up even one of your pillars will reward you many times over.
Especially if your health goal is to not only live long but also live well.