Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael BrickeyAmy Gorman

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Host: Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey

Expert Guest: Amy Gorman

Broadcast: 4-1-08 on webtalkradio.net where the latest shows are broadcast and posted as podcasts

Art keeps us young by lifting our spirits, challenging our minds, and giving us perspective. Today’s guest, Amy Gorman became fascinated with artists in their nineties and hundreds. That inspired her to profile twelve artists in her book, Aging Artfully and the documentary film about the artists titled Still Kicking. She is a sculptress, an historian, and a storyteller. Her career has spanned all age groups from developing and being Executive Director of Kidshows for eighteen years to being a medical social worker with dementia patients. In the first part of the show, we’ll learn about artists she has studied. In the second part of the show, we’ll focus on how you can pursue art to help keep you youthful and fulfilled. Her website is http://www.agingartfully.com/

TRANSCRIPT ©Michael Brickey–excerpts permitted with attribution

MB: This is Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, cutting-edge thinking for being youthful at every age. On each show I interview experts on what it takes to live longer, healthier, and happier. Our program takes a holistic approach in addressing anti-aging psychology, medicine, alternative medicine, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Our emphasis is on innovative thinking and practices that have solid data and results.Perhaps Ponce DeLeon never found the fountain of youth because he was looking for magic water. Judging from how many people in their hundreds are artists, the fountain of youth may well be art. Art in its many forms lifts our spirits, challenges our minds, and gives us perspective.Today’s guest, Amy Gorman, became fascinated with artists in their nineties and hundreds. That inspired her to profile twelve artists in her book, Aging Artfully, and the documentary film about the artists titled Still Kicking. Amy Gorman’s career has spanned all ages. She developed and for eighteen years was the executive director of Kidshows, a nonprofit organization that introduces children to the arts. She’s been a medical social worker with dementia patients. She’s a sculptress, a historian, and a storyteller. In the first part of the show, we’ll learn about the artists she studied. And in the second part of the show, we’ll focus on how you can pursue art to help keep you youthful, creative, and fulfilled. Amy, how did you get from working with children to working with seniors?

AG: Well, I think when my son was in nursery school, I heard a psychologist come to the school and talk to the parents. And she was addressing, of course, parents – all the kids were three and four. And she said that – she was taking care of her older parent at the time – and she said, “You know, I’ve been thinking, if I didn’t work with children, I would work with older people.” And that always stuck with me. And then I was producing shows, introducing very young children to the arts, because that’s where my passion was. And I’m also a social worker and I worked for many years with older people as a social worker. So I saw the downside; I saw a lot of older people ill with dementia, with Alzheimer’s Disease. And I loved it. I loved working with the older people. So I always had a voice in the back of my mind and I said, “Okay, I’m doing it.” And then this project was, oh, a combination of things. It satisfied something I wanted to do from the story I just told you, but also it was because I was a sculptor, and as many artists confront, I was stuck in my sculpture, as I like to think of it. And I really wanted to speak with older people as role models. I wanted to get some guidance from them. And here I was, 62 when I began the project. So I went looking for the next generation.

MB: When you say “stuck,” you mean you hit an artistic block?

AG: Yes, I kept thinking I was on a plateau. That’s something, I think, that all artists go through.

MB: So did the older artists get you unstuck?

AG: They certainly got me thinking and doing something different creatively. And yes, that absolutely got me unstuck. At first I went off on the other tangent, interviewing and writing about them. And all the while, I was doing my sculpture.

MB: So how has your sculpting changed as a result of working with them?

AG: Oh, I suppose I’m just happier with it. I’m happier with the process. I think that’s it more than anything. The process doesn’t get me so upset anymore.

MB: So some of it maybe was, “If they can do it, I can do it?”

AG: Well, I think – yeah, maybe so. Maybe that’s it. Or maybe I had this creative burst with the writing of the book and working with the film. So I saw that creativity comes when you least expect it. And of course, I was in my sixties, and it’s never too late to start something new. It was a whole new experience for me.

MB: Well, sixties is just a kid.

AG: Yeah, exactly, exactly. It certainly felt like that, talking to nineties and hundreds.

MB: So how did you find these women?

AG: That’s a very curious question. It’s really word of mouth. I woke up one morning – I say this in the book – I work up one morning and age was on my mind. And that’s exactly what happened. So the whole thing was very organic. I mentioned my interest to a friend who was a composer and a pianist. And she asked me if I knew Lily Hearst. Lily was over 100 and playing the piano every day at the senior center in Berkeley, California, where I live. So I said, “I don’t know Lily but I’d love to meet her,” because when I talk about art, I’m talking about all the arts, not just the visual arts.

MB: Right.

AG: So we went to meet Lily and it was her 105th birthday. And truly, Michael, I just fell in love with her. She was completely with us in the room and you could have a conversation with her about anything. She was just wonderful. Of course, it was hard getting a meeting with her. She was busy. And I said, “I need more Lilys in my life.” I wanted more Lilys in my life. I wanted to surround myself with Lilys – very, very active, wonderful people in their hundreds. There she was. We had just listened to her play the piano. She played every day before the lunch hour. It was wonderful. And then I started mentioning it to other people, and they said, “Oh, do you know so-and-so? She’s over 90 and she’s a writer.” Or, “Do you know Frances? She’s a painter and she’s in her nineties.” And so on, and on and on. People – when they heard this, they thought of somebody and said, “Go speak with her,” “Go see her,” “Go see her.” It just unfolded that way.

MB: And the word of mouth probably contributed to getting such a wide variety of artists, I mean different types of art.

AG: Exactly. And once I realized that this was something I wanted to write, I wanted to bring it out to the world, I started making sure and rounding out the people whom I was seeing – I wanted a variety of art forms, I wanted a variety of personalities, and all kinds of diversity.

MB: Did you see anything in common with the artists that you studied?

AG: Yeah, I like that question. I did. I think one of the important factors in the women I interviewed is that they do not think about the negative very long. As it is said in some of the literature, they can shed stress. They don’t focus on the negative. They move on. They’re very busy – that’s another factor. They’re busy all day. They’re living right here, in the here and now, and they want to live that way. They don’t ruminate about past ambivalences or conflicts. They’ve passed that. And they’re really content to explore the here and now. And it is great to be in their presence. So that’s another common trait. They’ve also got a sense of humor, every one of them, and want to do their art every day. They have schedules. They’re quite disciplined people in their own way. They have schedules. They have a lot to do. And their art is part of their lives – very, very definitely. The people I interviewed all wanted to work at their particular art form. And it’s part of their regular schedule.

MB: The characteristics you’re talking about are common in vital centenarians, whether they’re artists or not.

AG: Exactly.

MB: I wonder if there’s a chicken and egg thing that the art helps them live longer, or does taking up art do that for people?

AG: Well, it is – we don’t know, do we? It is a kind of chicken and egg question. But we can only speculate that the art certainly helps give a purpose – I think purpose is very important in one’s life in general, all kinds of purpose. It does not have to be art. But with these women, it was art as one of their purposes. They had – they were interested in many different things. Many of them were writing letters to their congress people.

MB: What do they want from the congress people?

AG: Oh, various things. It would range from putting elevators in the metro, in the BART stations in the San Francisco Bay area. You know, political candidates that they were supporting, the war – we started this right around the time of the Iraq War, so they had their opinions, one way or the other. They’re busy.

MB: And some of them were on one side of the war and some of them on the other, or…?

AG: No, I would say that they were all on one side of the war, at least the ones that talked about it. One of the women in the book, Dorothy Toy, has a fascinating history. She’s still teaching dance. I went to her 90th party a few months ago. And she has students coming to her house, so she keeps busy that way. Another of the women who was a dance teacher and still had a dance studio but was in a wheelchair, and so she started teaching piano in her nineties. And she had – when I was interviewing her, she had seven students plus another teacher in the studio in back of her house taking care of all the dance students, but Ann was teaching piano, so that’s part of her routine.

MB: Are there ways in which they were different?
AG: Oh, I think, like any sample of people, you’ll see their personalities, of course, are all very different. And their history – they’d all had tremendous suffering in their lives of one sort or another. They are not women who had easy lives.

MB: Yeah, a lot of people have the assumption that people are living longer because we’re just lucky and had it easy, and it’s often quite to the contrary – they’re very tested people.

AG: Exactly. You learn to cope with – in fact, one of the women said – I’m remembering now – she said once you’ve had a serious tragedy really in your life and you’ve gone through it, you can manage with anything, because you learn coping skills.

MB: Can you describe some of the women? Maybe some of your favorites?

AG: Oh, sure. I couldn’t pick favorites, but I’ll mention a couple who actually were not in the film. In the film, all the women are between 90 to 106, the film Still Kicking. One of them who is not in the film has a great quote. This is Isabelle Ferguson, who was a painter and an illustrator, and at the age of 86 had always wanted to be an actor. There is a senior theater company, Stagebridge, in Oakland, California, fortunately, for people over 55. And these theater companies are spreading around the company, so if you’re interested in theater, anybody in the audience listening, you probably can find something in your community. But Isabelle, at the age of 86, had decided she wanted – she had always wanted to be an actress, so she joined. And she just had the best time. She’s a very funny person – I mean, humorous. She comes up with jokes all the time. She says, “Old age is hot right now. They don’t know what to do with us.” So she understands what all the talk is about and what you and I are interested in. She was fortunate to be part of this theater company when – they actually went to Las Vegas in her first show she was in, was called to Las Vegas. There was a convention of senior theater companies from around the country. So she just had a great time.

MB: Now you’ve got me really curious about these theater groups. What kind of repertoire do they do?

AG: You know, it will depend, from what I know. I mean, there’ll be scripts – the directors of the companies will find scripts, and oftentimes – in this theater company – people write their own stories, which is very therapeutic, and people love to hear about them. In this particular group, they go out to the schools and tell their stories to school kids. So it’s not a real theater company where you’re doing serious drama and people come. They may be doing children’s theater, for example, children’s plays, and they’ll mix the older – the seniors with some kids, so you have a family audience coming. There is a whole variety. I think it would depend on the bent of the director and what the director wants to do and what the people want to do who are taking the classes or joining the company.

MB: I’m delighted to hear that they’re creating their own things and telling their stories, as opposed to trying to do “12 Angry Men” and having people say, “Well, that’s not bad for somebody in their nineties but it’s not quite as good as if Tom Cruise had done it.”

AG: Exactly. I think the goals are very different – at least in this local theater company. I love the idea of seniors telling their own stories, especially to school kids. And then, you know, they have a lot of fun with costumes, because that is so much a part of theater. And some people are interested in making the sets, so they work behind the scenes.

MB: Well, there are a lot of shy seniors, sure.

AG: Yeah, yeah, to want to a join a theater company, you have to feel that you want to be in front of an audience – that’s often a stumbling block to a lot of seniors.

MB: Well, at any age.

AG: Yeah, exactly.

MB: How do the school children respond to these stories?

AG: Oh, I think the numbers of kids, at least in this area, who have heard the stories is vast – I mean, thousands. They do dozens, hundreds of shows in schools. They’re marvelous. They love it. I mean, you know, you’re not going to get every kid loving every performance, and each of the seniors has a different story to tell. But there are some classes that want them back, and there are some classes that have a kind of grandparent – they pair up the school kids with the seniors; that’s another idea. They’ve done many shows with kids, where they rehearse together and they perform together. Isabelle did that and she absolutely loved it, especially that her picture got in the local paper.

MB: So this led to a number of ongoing relationships between the seniors and the school children.

AG: Exactly, exactly.

MB: Wow.

AG: Yeah, and sometimes year after year.

MB: One of the people you studied was a storyteller, which people don’t usually think of as the arts. Can you tell us about storytelling?

AG: There are many professional storytellers, and there are these great storytelling conventions. You get marvelous storytellers. Remember, of course, Native Americans – we have a long tradition of storytelling and oral history being passed down. And many of the storytellers I have met over the years are very sad about the loss of that oral tradition. So one of their goals is to reinvigorate it. And you can imagine – just picture sitting in the library, even on, you know, Halloween, when you get the scary stories, and the kids are just mesmerized. And it’s starting out with library story time when you have librarians, and then this tradition has grown and blossomed. You have some really amazing storytellers who are actors truly or they’re – you know, which comes first, the actor or the storyteller? And often music is involved. You can have an accompanist with a drum, very quietly, or a flute – I’ve heard that, too. I just happened to meet a storyteller who used to run a local radio program, and she used to read stories to the kids and tell the stories, as well. And she had the kids on the radio – it was absolutely marvelous. And she died at 90, but up until the day she died, she was going to the schools, telling stories.

MB: Wow.

AG: She was not a performance artist. There are many storytellers who are truly performance artists, and they’re marvelous – if you ever have a chance to see one or if something comes to your neck of the woods. There are two storytellers in the book, out of the twelve women. And the other storyteller, she does go to festivals. And she’s a real character, eccentric person who talks to people in the street and tells them stories – short stories – from her stack of wise stories.

MB: You know, there was some fascinating research where they had listeners here – young adults telling stories and seniors telling stories, and they couldn’t tell which was which, but they rated the seniors as better storytellers because they had more emotion, more passion, they told more interesting stories. And I think that comes at a time in life where you step up to being the patriarch or the matriarch of the family to pass on the family stories and traditions.

AG: That’s right. That’s very well said. I think that goes along with telling your own life story and the life of you, which is such an important part of living and such an opportunity we all have to go through our life review. And so you integrate different parts of your life psychologically – it’s so healthy, and why I think it’s encouraged now, certainly in assisted living and nursing homes. We can do that before – we don’t have to wait until we’re 80 or 90 or 100.

MB: Well, it should be a lifelong process.

AG: Exactly. That’s true, too. That’s right. We certainly start in school, writing the stories about me – you know, when you’re three or six years old, “My Story,” and then we lose that somehow as we get into upper grades in college, it’s not so much personal-

MB: We lose it when we start calling it a resume.

AG: There you go.

MB: Tell me about some of the other women that you worked with?

AG: Faith Patrick is a folk singer. She’s still jetsetting at 92 now. She’s going across the country. She sings at folk festivals. She’s the only person I communicate with by email. The others don’t do email. But Faith writes a column every two weeks, I believe, for one of the national folk song magazines, Sing Out. And she’s very well-known within the folk community, and she’s a wonderful character. She lives in a great old San Francisco Victorian house. Currently her granddaughter is living with her, but otherwise she’s been living there alone, and they still meet on Friday nights and sing – the whole community sings, plays instruments. Oh, many marriages have come out of that house, apparently – people meeting each other at the folks sings.

MB: See, she should’ve been a minister, too, and could’ve earned some extra money that way.

AG: Yeah, well, that’s true. That’s an idea. Maybe she’ll start that now, Michael.

MB: There you go. Does she have a special role in the community?

AG: Oh, she has. Oh, yes. She certainly does in her folk singing community. She started a San Francisco folk club. And oh, you know, there are just hundreds of people who have gone through that, because this is many decades back. And importantly, Faith – as many of the people I wrote about – did not start until retirement. That’s an important message that I’d like to get across: It’s never too late. She started singing and touring really after she retired. Frances Catlett started painting after she retired; Frances will be 100 this July. In fact, you’ll see a photo, if you get AARP Magazine, in the March-April issue, page 75.

MB: Okay.

AG: And it mentions the Still Kicking film.

MB: Oh, wonderful.

AG: So there’s a photo of Frances.

MB: Well, that’s only going to publicize it to, what, about 20 million people? Or is it a lot more than that?

AG: Oh, it’s tiny, you know, it’s an inch square, whatever. But there’s a big retrospective of her paintings now in the city and they’re going to have a big gala, 100, for her. And I guess that’s why AARP – but it isn’t because she’s going to be 100. And she bowls twice a week. She drives to her bowling. So she also fits in with the remarkable centenarians, except – well, she’s one of the 6% of the centenarians who have had cancer. She survived cancer 20 years ago – stomach cancer, I believe.

MB: Oh, wow. Who else did you interview?

AG: Did we talk enough about Lily? Lily, who broke both legs at 88 as a skier. Lily was the 106-year-old pianist.

MB: Oh, geez.

AG: But Lily was – well, she was a mountaineer. She was the first woman, with her sister, to wear pants like the men. All the women then were wearing skirts when she skied. She’s Austrian. She escaped when the Germans came in, in 1938. She was very fortunate to escape. Lily was a Viennese Jew, when she came in 1938, and spent the rest of her time in this country. And well, really, a marvelous skier, mountaineer, hiker. But when she broke both her legs at 88, she turned to hiking because she could no longer ski. She broke them in a car accident. But she played – until three weeks before she died, she played the piano. She was a remarkable role model. Dorothy Toy I mentioned earlier, had a fabulous career as a tap dancer. She was born Japanese, and because of the war, passed as Chinese with the Toy. As she says, it was shorter and fit on the marquee. But she and her Chinese partner toured the world, and during the war had to stay away from California because of the Japanese internment. So she had quite a history. And she is still teaching dance, ballet – mostly ballet and modern. And she teaches the Chinese – she’s had two Chinese husbands, which is very unusual. And she did speak Japanese – her mother lived with her for a while. And she’s just a small person, beautiful, trim, a pleasure to be with.

MB: Does she still dance herself?

AG: She doesn’t perform. She choreographs for groups. She does fundraisers for local community groups, for the church, or for some local groups supporting seniors, who are helping seniors. And they do fundraisers and she choreographs their shows. That’s how she likes to spend her time.

MB: So she’s up on her feet showing a dance step and-

AG: Yeah, oh definitely, because she’s got these students coming to her house, both adults and young adults.

MB: Why did you choose to focus just on women?

AG: Oh, Michael, I suppose I was looking for role models. That’s the truth. I can’t tell you how many men asked me to write a book like this about men. I was speaking recently and this very poignant moment – most of the audience was female but there were a handful of men. And one of them really said, “You know, women have an easier time talking about aging. You’ve got to do this for men. Men have got to talk about this.” And another man said, at another presentation, afterwards said, you know, he was so moved by the movie and the talk, he said, “I’ll never look at an old woman the same way again. You never know what’s behind that face!”

MB: So you’re creating more romance again.

AG: Yeah, that’s true. A lot of close-ups in the film, so you see the women up close. We don’t get a lot of positive images of aging.

MB: Right.

AG: You know, the old adage, women are invisible after they’re at 55 or so.

MB: Well, they used to be. They’re not standing for it anymore.

AG: You’re absolutely right. Well, the Boomers are speaking out and giving the older folks a little bit of space, a little bit of show, like they don’t see too many really older people in the movies or on TV, except when we look at disease, we look at the downside of aging. And it’s real – I don’t want to deny it. It’s very real.

MB: There have been a number of movies – Driving Miss Daisy and Cocoon and the Art Carney movie and so we’re starting to see more of them with the seniors taking a role that has some meat to it and some message to it.

AG: Yes, and notice that we can count them on one hand or maybe two, so we can remember them because they’re outstanding and we notice that, “Oh, here’s one with older people,” and it’s so unusual. I agree, it is happening more and more.

MB: Now, if I wanted to see Still Kicking, where would I find it?

AG: You can find it on Amazon. You can find it on – Greg Young is the filmmaker and his website is GoldenBearCasting.com, GoldenBearCasting.com.

MB: And how did you get hooked up with a movie?

AG: Oh, that’s a great story. Orunamamu, which is the Nigerian name for Mary Beth Washington – I was interviewing her and she invited me to a screening of the film – Greg Young had just completed a film of her. He followed her around for two years, watching her every move and trying to clear out her house, which is overcrowded, shall we say, overstuffed, and she wanted to make it into a storytelling museum. Anyway, she invited me to the screening along with Frances Kandl, the composer, and there was Greg. He was ready for his next project. And he asked me if he could be the fly on the wall and come to my interviews. So I said, “Sure.” We didn’t know it was going to be a film at the time. We didn’t know it was going to be a book. But Greg got excited about filming the women that I was interviewing. Frances Kandl was completely inspired after meeting Lily, the pianist, and went home and wrote a song about her life. And then she wrote songs about many of the women. And there’s a CD in the back of my book, “Seven Songs of Women’s Lives.” The songs are stories about the lives. And the purpose is simply to celebrate our elders. It’s been a wonderful project. See, her music is also part of the film, and we had many concerts – you will see some of that in the film – honoring the women and singing their songs, singing their lives in song. So it’s been a lot of fun.

MB: Sounds like it.

AG: Yeah. And Frances – oh, I guess she was about 70 when she wrote the music so she has another, what, 30 or 40 years to go.

MB: Great.

AG: A lot more music.

MB: We’re talking with Amy Gorman, author of the award-winning book, Aging Artfully, and subject of the documentary film Still Kicking. Her website is – not surprisingly – http://www.agingartfully.com/. It has pictures and excerpts from the book and more about Amy in the film. Amy lives in Berkeley, California, and speaks and gives presentations on her work. If you’re interested in anti-aging psychology, sign up for my free Defy Aging Newsletter at NotAging.com. If your company or association would like to cure grumpy old men syndrome in the workplace and have more optimistic, upbeat, youthful employees who are more productive and need less sick leave and less health insurance benefits. Information on that is at Anti-Aging-Speaker.com. Amy, for all the Boomers and seniors who say, “Oh, this is great stuff but I don’t have any talent, so it doesn’t really apply to me,” what would you say?

AG: The good news, Michael, is that as age, we seem to lose the negative piece in our life, the negative emotions, and the little voice that says, “You can’t do it.” That seems to disappear, and the positive emotion remains. There is a lot of research now that Roberto Cabeso, I believe, at Duke University, has been doing research that talks about the two sides of the brain. We think about the intuitive right side and the literal left side, the analytical left side. But as we age, they come together and they work together. So it actually makes creativity easier as we age, which is a fascinating concept. When you’ve got the intuitive and the analytic working together, they don’t have to struggle or fight each other so much. It’s more natural. And that, coupled with the fact that we maintain our positive emotions more easily as we age and the negative ones seem to disappear, you can try anything, because it becomes easier. You’re not so hard on yourself. I think that’s really what a lot of people have said, apart from the neurological research. So I would say, “Try it. You never know what’s going to happen.” And the classes are increasing, because there’s research coming out now indicating that people are truly healthier when they’re involved in creative activities. They visit doctors less frequently, they take less medications – it’s not surprising.

MB: So one of the easiest ways to get started is to just take a class.

AG: Yes, take a class, socialize with other people, go to the senior center. I mean, this is for seniors. There are other ways to do it when you’re younger. But when you’re a senior and you’re looking for things to do, the best resources usually are the senior centers or the recreation centers in your community. Often the libraries have a lot of good ideas. I love libraries. Depending on your community – you know, there may be an art center. Or dance – dance is wonderful when you’re older. You’ve got to do the movements as well as using your brain and you get exercise. There are all kinds of wonderful dance programs. Guess which one, Michael – guess which form of dance is supposed to be the best for your health?

MB: I have no idea.

AG: Well, there’s even research on that, and it’s the tango.

MB: Oh!

AG: Yeah, because it requires a lot of thought, a lot of movement, and involves different parts of your being. Not everybody’s going to start to tango, but it’s something fun to think about.

MB: And for the men, if they’re willing to dance, they’ve got the choice of the women.

AG: There you go, there you go, right. In any form of dance, isn’t that true?

MB: With your art background, if somebody, say, 65 years old, said, “Well, I’ve retired. I want to try this art thing.” How do I decide whether to take a class, maybe at the university or a community program or to go to the senior center? Are there certain personalities or styles that would fit better with different programs?

AG: Try one and see if you like it. Usually when people think about what it is they want to do, they say, “Oh, I don’t want to do that, don’t want to do that, but maybe I’ll try that.” You know, maybe you’re interested in photography, maybe you want to get your hands in clay, maybe you want to learn a new instrument. Many people, if they have played an instrument in the past, they may pick it up again in retirement and join a local community orchestra. There are wonderful extended learning programs now in almost every community, where – some people like to work alone, let’s not forget that, or with a group of friends at home. I mean, look at the old quilting bees.

MB: It’s probably a matter of what are you most comfortable with and who do you most enjoy being with, and how large of a group do you enjoy being with?

AG: I think those are good questions. Cost often enters into it, as well, and scheduling – if you like to work in the morning or if you prefer going out in the evening – all of those factor into it. I like to look at community bulletins and see really what’s available when I’m ready to do something. And I hope that your listeners take this to heart and nudge each other to get out there and try something new. So much of the research these days indicates that challenging yourself to do something new is one of the secrets to good health and longevity. It’s got to be new. The old stuff is not going to challenge us enough.

MB: You’ve organized a lot of things. Any tips for people who want to get something going in their community, not sure where to start?

AG: They certainly can email me and I’ll try to help.

MB: Oh, how nice.

AG: Yeah. See, I love to help people do that. But there’s a wonderful organization, the National Center for Creative Aging, NCCA.org, if you use a computer. National Center for Creative Aging just moved to Washington, DC from New York. They have satellite groups around the country and they are expanding. That’s one place to start if you want information about where there may be programs, art programs.

MB: So if their community has one of these satellite programs, what would happen if they went to a meeting?

AG: That would depend on what the program is. It may be bringing dance to dementia patients. It may be working in a senior center with a painting class. They really vary across the country in the different programs. It depends on the teacher, it depends on the personnel in that city.

MB: You brought up dementia. Have you seen art help people with dementia?

AG: Definitely, definitely. People have done amazing things with dementia and art, with dementia and music, and with dementia and dance. There are people around the country who are creating these programs. As soon as we get more research really pulling together the value of creativity and arts activities with health, more and more programs can be funded. That’s the goal of many professionals working in the arts and aging area, trying to get more and more programs funded because they see that people are healthier when they are engaged in these activities. So starting when you’re healthy, before you hit dementia – you know, it’s amazing how many people do have dementia over 85, it’s about half – that’s a big statistic. But many won’t. And even with dementia, the art programs have brought amazing results. First of all, it makes people happier doing the art, whether they have dementia or not. That increases morale, generally, and overall health.

MB: I have to admit a bias. I’m so turned off by things like Bingo. And I love the idea of art, really using your mind rather than babysitting people.

AG: Uh-huh, uh-huh. Well, you know, Bingo does use the mind in ways – I mean, you have to think about the numbers. But there are so many other things to introduce. And of course, it’s a job training professionals to teach these programs. You know, you have to be willing to bring in professionals who can bring these programs to people in the senior centers as well as in places where dementia patients are located, or adult daycare centers. Senior centers and recreation programs – many, many communities have programs that are just wonderful. So definitely I would encourage people – and write to me, check my website and write to me at AgingArtfully.com. I’ll see if I can help if you need some help.

MB: That’s wonderful of you. Thank you. I’m also interested in the storytelling. I think that’s such a wonderful art form. How do you get started in that?

AG: Again, some people, some professionals are teaching oral history methods. They’re gathering people in groups. And I think finding the resources is not as easy as for visual arts. I don’t think there are storytellers in every community as there are visual artists. But of course, one has to just try and be ingenious with resources. If somebody wants to work on their own, they can just start reading books out loud and develop their own style of storytelling. Now that we have recorders easily accessible and easily usable, that’s good practice. I would also say, encourage anybody to go to the library and ask the librarian.

MB: Yeah, they’re usually very up on it. It would make your librarian very happy.

AG: That’s true. The librarian might want to start a group if there’s enough interest. Lots of librarians love to do storytelling.

MB: I’m also a big Toastmasters fan, and Toastmasters usually focuses on giving speeches, but there’s no reason that people can’t use it for storytelling.

AG: That’s true. Yeah, that’s something – you can join a Toastmasters Club and say you want to do storytelling and everybody bring in a story next week or next month.

MB: Anything else you’d like to share with us?

AG: I think we’ve covered the gamut. I’d like to encourage people to take care of themselves, get involved in some art form, do something new. Look at my website, look at the book, and get inspired.

MB: Amy, I think you’re doing just wonderful, wonderful work. I thank you so much for being with us.

AG: Thank you very much.

MB: We’ve been talking with Amy Gorman, author of the award-winning book, Aging Artfully. The women she interviewed were also subjects of a documentary film, Still Kicking, which is at many film festivals. Amy lives in Berkeley, California, and speaks and gives presentations on her work. She also does personal oral histories. If you’re interested in anti-aging psychology, sign up for my free Defy Aging Newsletter at NotAging.com. I also love working with companies and associations to cure grumpy old men syndrome, working with workshops and consulting to help employees feel more youthful and upbeat, more productive, and the employers love it because they need less sick leave and use fewer health insurance benefits. We’ve been talking with Amy Gorman, author of Aging Artfully, which profiles women artists in their nineties and hundreds. It’s also the subject of a film, Still Kicking, which is available on DVD on her website, http://www.agingartfully.com/. If you’d like for your fellow employees to overcome grumpy old men syndrome, I can help. I love giving keynotes, workshops, and doing consulting with businesses on how to help employees think, feel, look, and be more youthful. When that happens, they’re more productive, turnover rates drop, and the employers are delighted to see less need for sick leave and less utilization of healthcare insurance benefits. Information on my speaking services is at Anti-Aging-Speaker.com. If you’d like information on anti-aging psychology, subscribe to my free email newsletter, the Defy Aging Newsletter, at NotAging.com. I’d like to leave listeners with a baby step for how to live longer, healthier, and happier. Amy has shared with us role models for how people in their nineties and hundreds are nourished by art and how it helps them. She shared how it’s never too late to get started, and how to get started. When we were kids, we had heroes – Superman, cowboys, and sports heroes and Nancy Drew. As adults, we need heroes just as much as children. What I’d like you to do as a baby step is, whether you are very involved in arts or not involved in arts at all, is to think about a way that you could become a little more involved. What aspect of art could you become more involved in? Visual arts? Would it be music? Storytelling? Maybe even studying architecture, getting involved in the theater. Would it be directly producing the arts or maybe behind the scenes? Would it be taking a course in art appreciation or music appreciation, or maybe trying opera for the first time? Whatever it is, see yourself doing that some time in the future and notice what you see yourself doing, what you hear, and especially notice how that makes you feel, how that lifts your spirits, how that gives you energy, how that adds to your sense of purpose and fulfillment. See yourself at 100 years old, a snap in your step, a glint in your eye, still involved in the arts, and how it lifts your spirits and how it gives you more of a sense of purpose. Perhaps you’ll want to take a step that direction today or tomorrow, or perhaps you’ll want to have it as a dream, waiting for the opportunity to present itself.

This is Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyles Radio on Webtalkradio.net.  I’d love to get your feedback and comments. Just sent them to radio@drbrickey.com. Information on anti-aging psychology and the Defy Aging Newsletter, which is free, is at DrBrickey.com. Thank you for listening on our quest to live longer, healthier, happier lives. 

 

 

Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael BrickeyDr. Christiane Northrup

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Host: Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey

Expert Guest: Dr. Christiane Northrup

Broadcast: 3-1-08 on webtalkradio.net where the latest shows are broadcast and posted as podcasts

Dr. Christiane Northrup is one of America’s most trusted medical advisors. She sees menopause as a life affirming –if a woman listens to her body and the wisdom it offers. She is an OBGYN physician who takes a holistic, mind-body-spirit approach to menopause, PMS, and women’s health. Dr. Northrup founded the trailblazing Women to Women health care center. She is author of The Wisdom of Menopause and Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. She has appeared on Oprah, The View, Good Morning America, Rachel Ray, and hosted six PBS specials. Her website is http://www.drnorthrup.com/

TRANSCRIPT ©Michael Brickey–excerpts permitted with attribution

MB: This is Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, cutting-edge thinking for being youthful at every age. On each program I interview experts on what it takes to live longer, healthier, and happier. Our program takes a holistic approach in addressing anti-aging psychology, medicine, alternative medicine, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Our emphasis is on innovative thinking and practices that have solid data and results.

First a caveat: Men, if you think today’s show is only for women, think again. The more you understand about menopause and women’s health, the better your relationships will be with the women in your life. And women, you might want to encourage your husbands or boyfriends to listen to the program, as well, because our guest today, Dr. Christiane Northrup, is one of America’s most trusted medical advisors. She has a very unique take on menopause as life-affirming, that is, if a woman listens to her body and the wisdom it offers. She is an OB/GYN physician who takes a holistic, mind-body-spirit approach to menopause, PMS, and women’s health.

Dr. Northrup founded the trailblazing Women to Women Health Care Center. She is the author of two books, The Wisdom of Menopause and Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. She’s appeared on Oprah, The View, Good Morning America, Rachael Ray, and hosted six PBS specials. In the first part of the program I want to emphasize Dr. Northrup’s unique holistic approach to menopause, and then in the second we’ll look at more specific things about problems such as PMS symptoms and health problems. Dr. Northrup, when I started reading your book, The Wisdom of Menopause, I was expecting a rather dry tome or manual, and I was delighted and just got sucked into the gripping drama of “What happens to her next?” and “What happens to this patient?” Have you always been so tuned in to listening to your body and intuition, or was this a revelation in your life?

CN: No, I started out that way. My Dad was what we would call today a holistic dentist, and he used to say that the mouth was the center of the personality, and that’s why people didn’t want you messing around in there, and also why dentists had the second highest suicide rate, second to psychiatrists.

MB: Oh my goodness.

CN: So there was a bit of mind-body integration going on in my childhood. And then when I got to medical school, I was completely enthralled with everything that modern medicine could do. And it wasn’t really until I got finished with my residency and met my cousin at a macrobiotic restaurant and she told me she was healing her fibroid tumors with a macrobiotic diet. Now, I had just finished a four-year surgical residency and my approach was surgery, so-

MB: Two different worlds.

CN: I began to meet with Michio Kushi of the macrobiotic community – he brought that to the United States back in the ‘50s – and I sat with him as he went over the diet and also the lifestyle of patients who had been given up on by standard medicine. And sitting there for months, looking at the medical records of people and seeing that they’d already been through everything I was trained to offer was a revelation, as I found many of them get better. And after that, I realized there was also a limitation to diet. And ultimately, when people understood the unity of their mind, their body, their emotions, particularly the influence of the subconscious, what they don’t know that they know, then you’ve got the keys to the ignition, your own ignition, and you can get somewhere. Otherwise, you’re at the whim of the culture which really believes that people are meant to disintegrate at the age of 50, that it’s all downhill from there, that your sex life goes away – all kinds of things that are simply beliefs and not grounded in fact or science at all.

MB: So you see menopause as a wake-up call. Can you tell us what you mean by that?

CN: Yes. It’s as though everything in your life converges to get your attention so that you will do what it takes to get healthy in the second half of your life, or you know, maybe – a friend of mine the other day, Gay Hendricks, said, “Why don’t we call it the second third of your life? Because maybe we can live to 150.” But what happens in a woman’s brain – and I know that this is happening in a man’s brain, as well, to some extent, is that as your ovaries are changing and not producing an egg every single month, you actually get an excess of estrogen relative to progesterone. Now, progesterone is a very calming hormone. It also increases heat and it’s very high during pregnancy, so women feel, usually, very calm during their pregnancies and unflappable. But when you don’t have as much progesterone and you have estrogen, that begins to work on certain areas of your brain, the amygdala and the basal forebrain, which is where old memories from childhood and so on are stored, and unfinished business from the past comes up. It’s as though the hormonal change uncovers things that have always been there. So in my experience, women at perimenopause, which is a six to thirteen year process, remember – menopause just means the final menstrual period – so perimenopause is when all the drama and the action takes place. You haven’t actually stopped your periods; you’ve just started the brain and body changes. So during that time, a woman may remember childhood abuse. She may have no tolerance for the kind of injustice that she’s put up with at her job or perhaps in her family. It may be as simple as saying, “I’m sick of being the one who always starts dinner. I’m surrounded by a houseful of teenagers, all of whom can boil water. I’ve had it!” And what that is, is it’s labor pains of birthing your true self. And the thing that’s so wonderful about midlife is you’ve been out in the workforce usually, you know how to drive a car, you know how to run a bank account, you have enough ego strength, you have enough skills finally to have created a container where your true self can finally thrive. You’re not proving to the world that you can do it. It’s not like being in school – although many women go back to school at this time and enjoy it more than they ever did. So I call it break down to break through. There is no question that the incidence of chronic degenerative diseases increases in the second half of life. This is not inevitable. It has to do with lifestyle choices. And what I believe happens is that, at this turning point, the body will not let you get away with the stuff you’ve been doing for the past 50 years that wasn’t a good idea in the first place.

MB: Before we elaborate on that, it’s only in the last couple of years I’ve heard much about estrogen dominance. How did we end up with this impression that everything was just a lack of estrogen?

CN: No kidding! Yeah, how did we? Well, you know, we could do a brief romp through the history of Premarin. Premarin was the first oral estrogen that was available and made from the urine of pregnant horses, back in 1949, 1950. Before that, estrogen was available only as an injectible. Now, when you have your ovaries removed with a hysterectomy, then you have the rug pulled out from under you in terms of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. And so clearly, we have needed a supplement to replace a woman’s missing hormones. And so we thought of the menopause actually, culturally, as a deficiency disease, you see – doctors were thinking about it as you were lacking something. And the truth is that you’re not lacking anything when the body is healthy, when the adrenals are healthy and the ovaries are healthy. But remember, one in three women has a hysterectomy in this country, and so she’s changed the blood supply to her ovaries. And in those women, clearly estrogen, which is considered the most important hormone, but progesterone is left out in the cold and testosterone has gotten short shrift, as well. So it’s all such an interesting thing because science takes place within the context of a culture, and so we look for what we expect to find. If we’re looking at menopause as a deficiency disease and if we have managed to create a pill from the urine of pregnant horses, then if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

MB: And we got to pregnant horses so that we could have a patentable medicine that would profitable, as opposed to a generic that wouldn’t earn much money.

CN: Exactly. That’s the whole thing about the term “bioidentical” hormones. Bioidentical simply means hormones that match exactly what your body produces, and those can be made from wild Mexican yams or soybeans, and that gives you the basic hormonal moiety, and then you make changes in the lab, but you end up with a hormone that matches the molecular structure of your own hormones. And if you know the way hormones work in the body, it’s a lock and key, but it’s more than that, because the charges around the molecule of a hormone, the positive and negative charges, cause it to fold in a unique three-dimensional structure that your body recognizes because it has evolved over millions of years to recognize, for instance, 17-beta estradiol. It hasn’t evolved over millions of years to recognize the urine of a pregnant horse. But as you say-

MB: See, as you said, our bodies are smart.

CN: Yeah, and those things are not patentable. The delivery system, however, can be patentable, and that’s why we have some very good choices with the patches, the transdermal patches, Climara, Estraderm. Those are bioidentical hormones that match what is in your body. But it is the delivery system that the pharmaceutical company was able to patent, and therefore they can make money on them.

MB: You see menopause as a gift and a metaphor. What do you mean by that?

CN: The gift of menopause is that you are now your own person and you must source your life from your own spirit, your own higher power, who you really are uniquely. So I often say to women, “Remember what you liked at 11, when you were 11, before your hormones started in.” And the gift is you live from the inside out, instead of the outside in. What happens is women then, because they are operating from who they really are, not from who the world expects them to be, they often find themselves doing the best art they’ve ever done, having the best sex of their lives, being healthier than they’ve ever been, being happier than they’ve ever been. This is the big secret, that life gets better in your 50s and 60s. And this is a secret because our culture believes just the opposite. We are such a youth-focused culture that people who hit 30 suddenly begin to think something is wrong. Can you imagine anything that’s more death-affirming than that, that at 30 it’s all over? This is simply insane. And it creates a great deal of pain and suffering that is needless, because the truth is you’re really at your best starting at about 50. And I think that maybe 65 is when we hit our stride in a big way.

MB: And there’s wonderful research that shows as we get older, a higher and higher proportion of Americans say they’re very happy, and it goes from 28% in your 20s all the way up to 38% in your 70s.

CN: Isn’t that wonderful?

MB: You talk a lot about women being in a subservient role. Do you think there’s something about puberty that brings that on, at a hormonal level?

CN: I do. I absolutely do. I believe that what it is, is that females are the bodies in which new life is formed. And in order to nurture new life successfully, you need support. And therefore you will do whatever it takes to get that support. We are mammals, after all. And so I believe that the women’s movement had to happen, where women said, “Wait a minute. I’m not going to be subservient anymore. I can do this on my own.” So then what we’ve had, what the Baby Boomers have been the pioneers in, is women going out and having sperm donors, or just deciding to have a baby on their own. As you know, in the ‘50s, you would’ve been so ostracized. You couldn’t have done that and stayed healthy, given that we all need community and we need support and social support to stay healthy. So we’ve changed all the rules. The Baby Boom generation has changed all the rules. Now we’re at a point where we can have true partnerships with men, because when you understand your own strengths and you understand yourself as a woman, as the source of life itself, when you see how important that is to the planet and you begin to own your own gifts, you also understand – and this is really new information for me and my daughters in about the past three years, in a way that we live it – you understand that it is this life force that you know how to support, that you actually support men with. Men don’t do well without the support of either their inner feminine or a woman in their life. We know that from psychology studies. The men who are the happiest and healthiest are the ones who have women in their lives. And when you know this as a woman and you don’t see him as more than, you see yourself as equals, but you have specific gifts, and when you can uplift a man and reflect to him his heroic status, when it’s warranted, then you can improve all of life on earth. It has taken me so long to get it that men are much simpler than women. They don’t get complicated like women do. Haven’t you found this? I mean-

MB: Yes.

CN: Yeah.

MB: Very much so.

CN: You have no idea where women go in their minds. I mean, it is like some kind of a maze in there where we make things so complicated. We hold on to old baggage. A man will have forgotten that, whatever you’re bringing up – you know, the fact that he left you standing at the street corner and didn’t know you were going to be there. You’ll be hanging on to that ten years later and you’ll haul it out of your purse and land it on him when something like that happens again, and a guy is kind of defenseless because he doesn’t even remember. Men are in the moment, and when a woman understands that her mind is multi-modal and she can remember forward and backward in time, and she can remember the birthdays and the needs of her whole family, that’s a tremendous gift that we cannot expect men to share that gift with us. They have different gifts and talents. So the anger that comes up at midlife needs to be addressed, but then it needs to be released or you will have a very unhappy second half of your life if you continue with your anger at men in particular.

MB: As my wife says, “Well, it’s all connected!”

CN: Right. And you know, this is why, in medical school, on my boards and all the multiple choice tests, I could figure out a way in which every choice was correct at least once. That’s a woman’s brain. A guys says, “It’s obvious what the answer is.” To a woman, it is not obvious because it’s all connected.

MB: You describe women as wired for intuition. Are they more wired than men are?

CN: I believe that they are wired differently than men are. Men call it a hunch, and the way you see the intuition playing out in men – if I may be stereotypical – would be on the sports field, where they sort of intuitively know where the ball is going to be tossed. Or the great hockey player Wayne Gretzky was able to tell what someone was doing behind his back – and if that isn’t intuition, I don’t know what is, because the definition of intuition is knowing something with insufficient data. I believe that all of us are intuitive, but we are taught to shut that down as children. The energy medicine teacher, Donna Eden, points out that when you say to children – when you acknowledge an energy field around people and places and plants and so on and you acknowledge that it’s there, the child will not lose his or her ability to see energy around things. And in fact, she has many young people that she trained in Ashland, Oregon, who have always been able to see auras, for instance. And that’s part of intuition. Clearly when you walk into a room, your gut knows who’s safe and who isn’t, and we train that out of kids by saying things like, “Don’t talk to strangers.” That’s really a wrong thing to teach anybody, you know; “Just don’t talk to people who seem strange” would be better.

MB: You pointed out that women are more prone to depression until menopause, and then after menopause their rates of depression are equal to rates for men. Does menopause cause women to become more like men?

CN: You know, I think that it does, actually. There’s a role reversal that happens at midlife, sort of kicks in their vocational arousal, as it were. So they want to go out in the world and get it. Many want to start new businesses, and so on. And in fact, the inner part of the ovaries, the stroma, does get bigger, so many women produce more testosterone around the menopausal transition, physically. But metaphorically, there is this huge drive to go out and get something done. Many men have already been out there fighting in the workplace for years, and so many come to the home and want to get more into cooking or gardening. And what works beautifully in a relationship is when they can trade off a bit and start doing what the other has been doing. I believe that women develop their more masculine side and men develop their more feminine side. So for the first half of life, men lead with the low heart and women lead with the high heart – and the low heart, I mean the genitals and so on. But at midlife these things switch around because we really need to come to balance so that it isn’t one or the other. And depression is interesting because it’s often been called anger turned inward. And what happens with many midlife women – it certainly happened with me – is that the anger comes out and gets expressed and you find that it’s simply energy, it’s just jet fuel. Anger means that you have been shortchanged in some way or you feel that you have been, or things haven’t turned out the way you wanted them to. And so it’s your job to address how to change the circumstances of your life. And I’d much rather deal with a woman who is angry than a woman who is depressed, but there isn’t a question – the female brain is more prone to depression, and I think it’s related to the fact that we have the ability to remember every thing bad that ever happened to us.

MB: You talk a lot about accepting responsibility as opposed to being a victim. What do you mean by that?

CN: Yes, this is the most bracing message I have, and that is that you must be responsible for your life, which simply means the ability to respond. It doesn’t mean that you are to blame for what happened. It doesn’t mean that if you were raped as a child or beaten in a marriage or passed over in a job that that is right or just. It simply means you are responsible for your response. So I was recently at the Books For a Better Life Award, and a woman who wrote a book called The 51% Minority – she was a lawyer who was working in a law firm and had been there a long time, was a senior litigator, I believe. And she found that someone who was ten years her junior, who didn’t have half the workload, was earning more money than she was. So she took it to the authorities in the business, and I believe that her boss said, “I will match your salary with his, as long as you don’t tell anyone” – like, don’t let this get out. And she was so outraged by that, that she wrote a book simply to help women stand up for themselves in a way that is reasonable. I believe that there are ways in which you can use your energy that is life-affirming, and then there are ways that you can just run around screaming that, “It ain’t fair and ain’t it awful?” It doesn’t take any time at all to find injustices in the world when it comes to women. I like to say I have footnoted women’s pain; I understand it very, very well from the bone marrow on out. But we’re now at a time when, if anything is going to change, we need to step out of the victim role, because whenever you’re in the victim role – you know that classic triangle, I think it’s called the Rossberg triangle – there’s the victim and then there’s the rescuer and then there’s the persecutor. And usually what happens is the victim becomes the persecutor to someone else, and then someone else has to come in and rescue. And there’s no health in any of those roles, if you’re in those roles chronically. The only health is when you step above all of that and see that you have different choices. You can leave a workplace that is chronically wrong for you. That’s one of the beauties of midlife is you actually get to the point where physiologically you can’t put up with it anymore. You’ve compromised and you’ve compromised and you’ve changed yourself and you’ve done everything in your power to fit in, and it just isn’t working anymore. And finally you say, “Hey, maybe it’s time to do something else.”

MB: So it’s a question of doing something about the anger, doing something about the wrongs in your life. Are there other things involved in listening to your body?

CN: Yes, resting when you’re tired is kind of huge. The average woman is not getting even eight hours of sleep a night, and sleep is the best way to metabolize stress hormones that we know of. It will gobble up excess cortisol and epinephrine. And by the way, excess cortisol and epinephrine are the things that create cellular inflammation, and cellular inflammation is at the root cause of all chronic degenerative diseases – diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease. So getting enough sleep is important, resting when you’re tired. The other thing you must do is you must tune in to know what you’re really, really feeling, and that means slowing down. And when I say slowing down, I mean in the moment you pay attention to your body. You make sure you’re breathing fully all the way down to the bottom of your lungs. You have to exercise. And all of these things – you begin to know that your body responds also to choices that are empowering, thoughts that are happy and uplifting, and so little by little you monitor your thoughts. You start your day, let’s say, with a meditation or simply with some breathing, and you see the difference it makes when you change a thought, and you see the difference it makes in your body. But I will say this about the body. If you have a condition that is bothering you, you must understand it did not leap out of the closet to torture you. It’s related to your life. And that’s one of the things I share throughout the book, The Wisdom of Menopause. My own story of a fibroid, a big fibroid in my uterus, creativity that hasn’t been birthed yet, or creative energy being shoved into a dead-end job or relationship. In my case, it was a marriage that wasn’t working. You won’t know what the message was, usually, until after the thing is over. But I would say to everybody, you could so benefit by understanding that everything that happens to your body is a metaphor for something that’s going on in your life. And then you will not feel like a victim of your body. If you want to use standard conventional medicine as an approach, go right ahead. But understand that simply cutting an organ out or taking a pill to squash symptoms is not going to get you to the promised land. Only taking full responsibility for what this might be and working consciously with your body, mind, and spirit – that’s what works.

MB: So we have dealing with the anger, we have taking care of yourself, and really just realigning with “What’s my sense of purpose?” and “What do I need to do with my life?” Let me take a break here. You’re listening to Ageless Lifestyles Radio on Webtalkradio.net. We’re talking with Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of two books, The Wisdom of Menopause, and Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. Her website, http://www.drnorthrup.com/ has information about women’s health, her books, her newsletter, and speaking engagements, many of which are open to the public. Information on anti-aging psychology and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at DrBrickey.com. Dr. Northrup, I’d like to shift to some of the practical things that women can do. I hear a lot about eating more soy. Is that helpful or not helpful?

CN: It depends on the woman. Soy has sort of gone – the pendulum has swung, I think, too far with soy, so that women are eating only soy protein. I believe that soy is an important part of the diet, and particularly in those women who are not on hormone replacement or who are having problems with hot flashes, vaginal dryness, anything of that nature, then trying soy is very, very effective in many, and I’ve certainly had – I’ve had women come up to me in airports to say thank you so much, you know, for recommending certain soy products. But there are other women who find that they don’t do well on it. So what I would do is I would try some soy nuts, some soy milk. There’s a product called Revival Soy that is particularly potent for menopausal symptoms, and give it a try. I would also say it’s important to take enough Omega-3 fats. These are what’s found in fish oil. And in an analysis of 70 studies, it was found that fish oil decreases all cause mortality, and is more effective at keeping cholesterol and heart disease at bay than all of the statin drugs. So fish oil is very, very important. If you’re a vegetarian, then you can bet Omega-3 fat in flaxseed or also in algae. So there’s no excuse, is what I’m saying here. You also need to take enough Vitamin D. We find that those women who are most at risk for hip fracture or spinal fracture from osteoporosis are the ones who have the lowest serum levels of Vitamin D. This is the one blood test I believe that every woman should have – not only a lipid profile, you should find out what your total cholesterol is, what the good cholesterol is, the LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol, triglyceride level. Don’t let someone put you on statins simply because your cholesterol is above 200, if it’s in the 200-250, 230 range. If your HDL cholesterol is good and high, like 60 or so, then you do not need statin drugs. Statin drugs decrease coenzyme Q10 in the blood. This is an absolutely essential nutrient for energy production in the cell. And where you need energy production in the cell is in your heart, and the statins are being prescribed far too much. Vitamin D levels should be 50 or above. You can have your healthcare practitioner draw that level. And then you should be taking at least 1000 IUs of Vitamin D every day, or going to a tanning booth – I would recommend the stand-up booths with sunscreen on your face and your hands, and about six minutes will boost up Vitamin D very nicely. It also boosts your mood because it increases serotonin in the brain. Light is a nutrient. So those two things are important. Enough calcium and magnesium. We hear all about calcium; we never hear enough about magnesium. Magnesium and calcium have to balance each other. Women who are depressed often have low magnesium levels. Magnesium is what’s necessary for sparking the nerve – from nerve cell to nerve cell requires magnesium to make that connection, and it’s also very relaxing. A very good way to get magnesium is with an Epsom salt bath. One half to one cup of Epsom salt in the bath, soak in there for 30 minutes, read a good novel – that’s a good prescription for a good night’s sleep.

MB: Are these the same things that would help with hot flashes, or are there additional things that would help?

CN: Actually, those could help. Soy will definitely help with hot flashes in many women, not all. The gold standard for hot flashes is estrogen replacement – although if a woman has estrogen dominance, then progesterone is what will help with hot flashes. And you can use as little as one-quarter teaspoon of transdermal progesterone on your skin – and this is available over the counter at health food stores. One of the good brands is Progest or Emerita. And many women have been helped by that. Also, that can help with premenstrual migraines, because those are triggered by too much estrogen. Now, the other things you can do for hot flashes, you can change your diet and get rid of the white foods. So that would be white flour products, mashed potatoes, white sugar products; also wine and coffee can trigger hot flashes, but not in everybody. So what you do is you say, “Okay, let me give myself a one-week period of time where I stay away from these foods, particularly the wine, and see what happens.” And if you notice that your hot flashes are far less, then you know what triggers them. Then you can decide whether you’re going to have the wine and get a little hot or not. You know, it’s at your fingertips. The other thing that helps hot flashes, believe it or not, is meditation. And Herbert Benson at Harvard did studies showing a 90% reduction in hot flashes with two 20-minute periods of meditation per day, using what he called his relaxation response, which is where you simply sit and repeat a word in your mind like “peace” or “rose.” There are various mantras that you can do. And the reason that this works is that it decreases stress hormones. And stress hormones in the body actually change the way hormones are metabolized. So it all goes back to what we call stress. And my definition of stress is anything in your life that you don’t like the way it’s turning out, and so therefore you’re railing against it. That’s emotional stress. Of course, there’s physical stress of being too cold or too hot or too hungry, that sort of thing. But it goes back to a balanced lifestyle.

MB: One of women’s biggest concerns, and men’s biggest concerns, is about the effect on the sex life. What can a woman do to maintain a good sex life during menopause and after menopause?

CN: Well, this is about my favorite topic. I just written my fourth book on that and it’ll be out in October, called The Secret Pleasures of Menopause. It’s interesting that you can have pleasure or you can have anger, but you can’t have them at the same time. And I’ll tell you why this is so – it’s really key. Stress hormones like norepinephrine, adrenaline shut down not only blood supply, but they also shunt your nervous system in the direction of fight or flight, so you’re preparing for battle. Entirely different from what’s necessary to shunt the blood flow to the clitoris and to the genitals and to the breast and to the erogenous areas of the bodies. For that, you must be very relaxed and receptive to receiving pleasure. So what happens during the midlife transition is all of the stuff in a relationship that’s been shoved under the rug comes up and hits women between the eyes, and the first thing that goes is their sex life. Now, data from the OB/GYN literature shows that the number one predictor of a great sex life during the menopausal transition and beyond is a new partner.

MB: Uh-oh.

CN: Now, the reason I say that is not because I want women to dump their partners, I want them to become that new partner. This is really important. Many times men don’t know what’s going on, and it is the woman’s job to find out, maybe for the first time in her life, what pleases her, what does she really, really want? And I would say for your listeners, write down five to ten things that you really, really want, and then ask for them. Ask your mate to provide them. But you must do it in a way that is very fun and very flirtatious. Now, that’s what you do in a relationship. But many women, for a while there, for a year or two, feel the need to go into a cocoon and reinvent themselves. So I feel as though the sex juice, as it were, the libido, goes underground like the sap in a tree route in the winter. It doesn’t mean it’s gone. It will come back. It will rise again. But a woman sometimes needs a little time alone in a cave as a she reinvents herself. So that’s very important for a woman to know. Then let’s say that she has her time alone or she goes away to a spa or she somehow changes her job or does something. Then it is her job to learn what turns her on. And you actually can learn this and do it with self-pleasuring or what the Daoist masters call self-cultivation. Another word for that, which I don’t like, is masturbation. Women need to learn what their wiring diagram is, and this is work that you do with yourself, for yourself, because you cannot tell another person what you like if you don’t know yourself. And this is the other thing. At midlife, many women develop thyroid problems. Thyroid is in the fifth chakra. It’s about having your say. It’s saying what you need to say. And it’s time that you learned to ask for what you want. This is a huge risk for most women because they’re afraid of being rejected, and many of them are so surprised and delighted to find out that their mate has been waiting for instructions. See, this is what women think. Women are brought up to believe that if a man is a good guy, he will know – he should know what to do to please them. He will know what to get them for Valentine’s Day. He will know what to get them for their birthday. He should do this big romantic thing like you see in the movies. Well, men want to be romantic. They don’t know how to do it. It is a woman’s job to decide what she wants her mate to do for her, and then set the stage to help him meet her expectations. This goes back to women as the bodies that create life. She can help him do that for her. But if she simply clams up and is angry without saying what would please her, then it’s a stalemate. And if you’ve got 25 years of that going on in a relationship, it is little wonder that sex drive goes away.

MB: So the biggest key on sex life is really getting to know your body and your needs and effectively communicating that?

CN: That’s right. And also understanding that menopause per se does not decrease libido, ease of reaching orgasm, or desire for sex. It doesn’t. And I believe that that is a big cultural myth that many women are up against, because they believe this is the end, when in fact it’s just the beginning. You have the ability, through your attention and focus, and to rewire your body for more pleasure. But to do that, you need to work through your resistance to pleasure. And we all have a ceiling on our pleasure that we’ve usually learned in our families of origin. But I’m here to tell you that the way the body was designed, sex gets better. And that is in fact the latest research: The women having the best sex of their lives are in their 60s and 70s.

MB: And also contributing to that is you’re not worrying about the children knocking at the door or interrupting, or so exhausted from childrearing, and you have more time and less worry about pregnancy.

CN: That’s exactly right. Now, for many women, there is the lack of a partner. So I want to cover that for a moment. And for many – let’s say that they’ve gone through a divorce like myself, or are widowed, or simply don’t have a man, of if they’re a lesbian, a woman in their life. Your job, ladies, is to begin to become the person that you yourself would fall in love with. You can use this time to reinvent yourself and become the person that you yourself can fall in love with. I did that for seven years. I’m now with a wonderful man. But I had to go through all of the stuff that all women go through, thinking it’s over, they’re too old. All of that is simply cultural baggage. I also read a book that I would like to recommend to all of you called Mama Gena’s Owner’s and Operator’s Guide to Men. Let me repeat that: Mama Gena’s Owner’s and Operator’s Guide to Men. It’s by Regena Thomashauer. And she runs Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts in New York City. I read the book to see if she was crazy or not, and she turned out to be not crazy at all, and in fact helped hundreds of women reinvent themselves and also find far more happiness with themselves and with the men in their lives.

MB: Sounds like a fascinating book. One more question. You talk about how women, or probably men as well, attract the unhealed parts of ourselves, and that brings on a lot of chronic disease. Can you explain that?

CN: Well, I believe that in childhood we make certain decisions about ourselves – I’m too fat, I’m not good enough, I’m whatever. And then the parent that we had the most conflict with, we tend to marry or they become our boss or whatever. And I believe it’s because we’re trying to bring love to an area where we have not experienced love. And then we stay in that relationship until more love needs to be called in than that particular container will hold. And if you fail to leave that relationship or you can’t be in a state of love in that relationship, then you get sick. And-

MB: It’s that simple.

CN: It is that simple. I wish it were more complicated. And I’m not blaming anyone. But let’s look at heart disease. It’s the number one killer of women – and men, for that matter. And it outpaces breast cancer by, you know, about 40 to 1. I mean, it’s the one that – if you’re going to be worried about something, be worried about this, and then do something about it, because heart disease is reversible. But anything that your heart isn’t in will begin to take its toll on your heart. Any time you can’t have your say because whoever you’re with won’t hear it, your thyroid could be adversely affected. Any time you’re not nurturing yourself fully, your breasts will take a hit. It’s that simple.

MB: Dr. Northrup, it’s just so refreshing talking with you and getting this holistic view of menopause and women’s health. I really appreciate you being on the program.

CN: It’s been my pleasure.

MB: I like to wrap up shows with some baby steps to hopefully help you live longer, healthier, and happier. In one of my favorite jokes, a reporter asked a 104-year-old woman, “What’s the best thing about being 104?” And she said, “No peer pressure.” As we get older, this is one of the perks, that we become less and less concerned about peer pressure. And indeed, people in their 80s and 90s says, “I don’t have time for that nonsense!” I think Dr. Northrup was teaching us that if you have problems with peer pressure during menopause, you’ve got one big wakeup call saying it needs to be dealt with now, instead of when you’re 80 or 90. The second baby step principle I’d suggest is what I call the rule of thirds, that unless you’re extremely charismatic or a horrible, horrible curmudgeon, most people have a third of people liking them, a third of the people not liking them or not liking their style, and then a third of people not really caring one way or another. And the moral is to be the person that you really want to be, the person that you really are, so that the third of the people who like you, like you for the real you. You’re listening to Ageless Lifestyles Radio on Webtalkradio.net. We’re talking with Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of The Wisdom of Menopause, and Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. Her website, http://www.drnorthrup.com/ has information about women’s health, her books, her newsletter and speaking engagements. Information on anti-aging psychology and the Defy Aging Newsletter, which is free, is at DrBrickey.com. This is Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyles Radio on Webtalkradio.net. Thank you for listening on our quest to live longer, healthier, happier lives.
 

 

 

Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael BrickeyDr. Nicole Flora

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Host: Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey

Expert Guest: Dr. Nicole Flora, Anti-Aging Physician

Broadcast: 2-24-08 on webtalkradio.net where the latest shows are broadcast and posted as podcasts

Medicine has focused on treating diseases. What we call healthcare has mostly been disease care. Anti-aging medicine emerged in the last ten years or so to ask what can doctors do to be proactive in preventing aging and diseases. As a new discipline, it has attracted both very dedicated physicians and frankly a few hucksters. Today’s expert is clearly one of the best anti-aging physicians, Dr. Nicole Flora. Dr. Flora was Board Certified in family medicine, obtained a Master’s degree in Public Health, and later specialized in age management and anti-aging medicine. She has been active in research and is on several policy boards. In the first part of the program, we will focus on what anti-aging medicine is and what it has to offer. In the second part of the program, we look at the pros and cons of different anti-aging treatments. Her websites are www.CincinnatiAgeManagement.com and www.Cenegenics-DrFlora.com

TRANSCRIPT ©Michael Brickey–excerpts permitted with attribution

MB: This is Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, cutting-edge thinking for being youthful at every age. On each program I interview experts on what it takes to live longer, healthier, and happier. Our program takes a holistic approach in addressing anti-aging psychology, medicine, alternative medicine, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Our emphasis is on innovative thinking and practices that have solid data and results.
Medicine has focused on treating diseases. What we call healthcare has been mostly disease care. Anti-aging medicine has emerged in the last ten years or so to ask, what can doctors do to practice preventing aging and preventing diseases? As a new discipline, it’s attracted both dedicated physicians and, frankly, a few hucksters. Today’s expert is clearly one of the best anti-aging physicians, Dr. Nicole Flora. Dr. Flora was board-certified in family medicine, obtained a masters degree in public health, and later specialized in age management and weight management. She’s been active in research and on several policy boards. In the first part of the program, we’ll focus on what anti-aging medicine is and what it has to offer. In the second part of the program, we’ll look at the pros and cons of different anti-aging treatments. Dr. Flora, after years in medical school, what prompted you to get a masters degree in public health?NF: It was part of the career path that I had chosen. After I came out of medical school and residency, I joined a group that was providing indigent care in the southern part of the state, southern Ohio. And we really took care of about 57,000 patients that had no insurance and had no access to good healthcare. And so as part of that path, they pursued the public health arena and then took over a lot of the quality assurance and some of the government programs to help people that couldn’t get good care.MB: So working with indigent patients got you interested in chunking up to a higher level of, “How can we solve some of these problems on a policy level and get a better system?”

NF: Absolutely. We saw some of the epidemics of disease and some of the cultural ills that affected these people, and it really – while I wanted to certainly impact people’s lives on an individual basis, I felt like there needed to be a broader approach.

MB: And then what got you into age management and weight management?

NF: It was kind of an extension of that. You know, after seeing – unfortunately, in the poorer populations, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, poor nutrition and poor lifestyle choices are rampant. And that really was what I wanted to tackle. And in age management, that’s exactly what we approach are all of those things, and how do we prevent those things, and how do we get people to think proactively about their health and about their lives.

MB: So you were working with the other end of the extreme, people who are aging very fast?

NF: That’s right. I would have young people in their 30s – you know, the most extreme examples were the 10 or 11-year-olds that came in and they were already obese and had diabetes. I probably diagnosed 50 preteens with Type 2 diabetes because of poor lifestyle choices. And those kids were not going to live very long.

MB: Was there something specific that got you to go from public health to the age management, weight management?

NF: It had a little bit to do with the system. Unfortunately now, the way healthcare is structured, in order for it to be financially feasible, you have to see a huge number of patients. And I was averaging, on a lot of days, 40 patients a day. And it really became an ethical dilemma to me. I knew I could treat them well. I was treating them at the standard of care, but I knew they needed something better than that, and I wanted to be able to provide more than that. The system as it’s structured now just doesn’t allow for that. So it really kind of became an ethical dilemma – do I give them another pill and I expect to see them in about three months when they come in for the side effects from the pill I gave them last month. I just wanted to have greater contact with my patients and hopefully have a great impact long-term.

MB: So now are you working with kind of a cross-section of social classes and lifestyles?

NF: Well, unfortunately I’m not. Age management medicine, because it is relatively new and because insurances don’t cover it in most cases, right now my experience is relegated to those people that can afford to pay out of pocket, and that’s certainly fine for them but it does leave out a huge portion of the population right now.

MB: Personally, I don’t have any problem with that because it blazes the trail, and what’s the ideal standard of care now becomes the standard of care maybe ten years from now.

NF: Well, that’s absolutely right. And that’s certainly my hope, is that as we get better and better at this and as we hopefully do get rid of, as you said, some of the hucksters in the arena, that it will become standard of care and will be more acceptable to people. And that’s certainly my hope for the long term, and some of the things I do with the physician advisory board and things are to promote those type of things.

MB: And in the long run, it’s going to be cost effective by preventing a lot of health problems, and a lot of medications.

NF: Absolutely, certainly.

MB: If a 50, 60-year-old person comes into your practice, what do you do that’s different than if you were a mainstream family practitioner?

NF: First thing is that I get to know them. Instead of spending 15 minutes, and two or three of that is looking at their chart and seeing what the nurse wrote and having a brief conversation about what’s ailing them today, they’re in my office for their first visit usually between six and seven hours – between meeting with the nutritionist and meeting with any additional people in the office, and they’re usually face-to-face with me for two to three hours. And most people have never had that type of experience with a doctor. And you get to know what’s affecting them, what pressures they’re under, how they eat, how they exercise, what are their support systems, certainly what are their medical issues in the past, what really do we need to fix now and what are going to be hurdles in the future to keep them healthy. So it really is that close connection that is the biggest difference to start with. In the long run, it really is the fact that we work together so closely, maintain a very close relationship. I work with their other physicians, if they have specialists that they work with. It really is that quarterback mentality that I think primary care was originally supposed to tackle, and it ended up just being a paperwork job where you just do referrals for everybody. But it really is keeping the patients educated on everything that’s going on in their lives from a health standpoint.

MB: So right from the start it’s holistic and it’s about a relationship.

NF: Absolutely. And that’s what makes it most rewarding.

MB: I suspect some of your patients are shocked to have so much one-to-one time with the physician.

NF: Oh, that’s the first thing. They’re like, “Really? Are you serious? You need six hours of my time?”

MB: We’ve all spent six hours of our time going from one test to another, but to spend a couple of hours face-to-face with a physician is a real treat.

NF: That’s right. And instead of wasting your time, at least we’re getting educated and getting to know each other.

MB: So we’ve had this first session – then what?

NF: Well, certainly after that it varies, depending on the person and what their individual needs are, what their goals are, what we’re trying to fix and kind of what the short-term issues are, as well as long-term. But certainly, just a general overview is we want to get them eating better, we want to get them moving, we want to – if they need medications, and whatever they need. If they need specialists, if they need therapists, we’ll facilitate it.

MB: I gather that it’s not everybody needs to be at this level of hormones and this level of exercise and, you know, get with the program, but extremely individualized.

NF: Absolutely. And that’s one of the problems we’ve had with mainstream medicine is that we have over-generalized. And a lot of the things that you will see come down the pike as problems are because we took some research point that sounded good and tried to apply it across the entire population, and we abdicated the thought process, I think, in some cases. And so everybody’s very individualized. I do certainly have people on hormones. I certainly have people on blood pressure medicine. I have the whole gamut. But it really is very individualized to each person and their needs and their health and what’s the best combination for them.

MB: How many of your patients come to you and say, “Dr. Flora, can you get me some of that HGH? You know, is it legal? Is it going to make me a he-man?”

NF: Well, I have a small percentage that actually come and say that. I probably have a bigger percentage that think that in the back of their mind. Honestly, about 7 or 8% of my patients are on HGH, but a lot of people, that’s what they hear about and so that’s what they think it’s all about. And certainly HGH is a wonderful medication when used appropriately in appropriate patients with the right expectations. But unfortunately, there is a ton of misinformation regarding it. It is not the cure-all for everything. It won’t make you live forever. It won’t make you beautiful if you’re not beautiful to start with. But it has its place. And it’s a very safe medication and it is certainly appropriate in some people.

MB: So who are the 7% that benefit from it?

NF: The people I specifically prescribe it to are people who have developed a deficiency, so they have stopped producing it naturally – they have no levels. And those people are usually experiencing things like a lot of muscle loss, weakness, tiredness, and a lot of quality of life issues. Growth hormone really affects your ability to kind of appreciate life and mood. And those are the people that really end up benefiting from it the most, are the ones that have that combination. The other thing with human growth hormone is it rarely is a problem by itself. When I see human growth hormone has declined, it’s usually declined in combination with other hormones. And so a lot of times when we balance the other hormones, it will help you produce human growth hormone, and a lot of people will improve their human growth hormone that way, as well.

MB: So you rarely recommend using human growth hormone to enhance; you’re usually using it for people who have deficiencies?

NF: That’s right, yes. I do not.

MB: What about testosterone? I see all these charts about how men’s level of testosterone declines with age dramatically. Is that something that should be enhanced? Or again, are you just concerned about deficiencies relative to a person’s age?

NF: It does decline dramatically. And not only does it decline dramatically, if we look at population studies from as little as about 20 years ago, the average testosterone level of men in our society now is 17% less at any given age, and we’re not quite sure why that has occurred either.

MB: All these metro males, huh?

NF: Yeah, certainly I do recommend we replace it, and I do take men to an optimal level, not for their age.

MB: My understanding, one of the problems with replacing testosterone is that it often gets bound and can actually turn into estrogen and have the reverse effect. How do you control for that?

NF: That’s why if you’re going to deal with hormones, you need somebody that’s very well-educated on how to do it. I’ll see a lot of people come in and they’ve gotten testosterone from one source or another and it’s not being managed well. You have to – before you start that medication – you have to measure all of those things. It’ll give you a pretty good picture of how an individual man or woman will metabolize the hormone. It doesn’t always give you the whole picture, but it’ll give you a good starting point. And then you monitor those as your start therapy and continuously throughout. If men start putting out too much estrogen, then certainly we can sometimes change the route of administration of the testosterone, you can sometimes use prescription medications that block the conversion, and you can sometimes use herbal preparations to stop the conversion, as well.

MB: With women, they practically stop producing testosterone after menopause. Are you doing any testosterone supplements with them?

NF: I do. And honestly, my experience with women is I will see women drop their testosterone usually in their 30s. We always think that the hormone production stops at menopause, but truly, I will generally see women who drop their progesterone, drop their testosterone in the early 30s, up to 10 to 15 years before they actually stop producing enough estrogen to stop having cycles. I will even replace it in some women before menopause if we see that it has declined beyond a normal range.

MB: Top of your head – what percentage of women in our country would probably benefit from hormone replacement after age, say, 40?

NF: After 40? Well, if we say after menopause, I would certainly say a majority, but not – you know, it’s not 100%. There are still other risks to be considered. After 40, though, it really depends on where they’re at in the perimenopausal cycle. But I do see a lot of women in their 40s have a lot of PMS type symptoms, have a lot of weight gain around the middle, develop more fatigue, those type of things. And so – and those are the women that usually seek me out. So of the people coming through my door, it’s a huge percentage. It’s probably 90%. In the general population, I would probably guess at age 40 that it’s probably about half of the women.

MB: So is weight gain a red flag that something’s probably going wrong?

NF: Something is wrong when you start gaining weight. Unless you’re someone that walks through my door and tells me that, “I eat McDonald’s three times a day and I never exercise,” that’s generally not the case. Those people – certainly it’s a lifestyle issue, and everybody has lifestyle issues. But when we start seeing the kind of weight creep, I like to call it, where it’s just every year you’re adding a little bit and you’re adding a little bit, and then all the sudden you’ll see it, about 20 pounds in a year – that tells me that there is a metabolic issue going on. And the fact that we tell women, “You know, just eat less and exercise” – certainly that is good advice, but it is missing a whole component of the picture of what’s going on, and it really is a little patronizing to people that have had weight issues. I’ve dealt with weight issues, and until I personally fixed the metabolic issues, the hormonal issues, it was impossible. I craved food, my appetite was much higher than it is now, and I had no energy to exercise, and it became very mentally daunting when you went to the doctor and they said, “Well, just exercise.” And once all of those thing were fixed, weight for me in the last seven, eight, nine years really hasn’t been an issue.

MB: So for you personally, the weight management became a lot easier?

NF: Oh, absolutely. I wasn’t, you know, five pounds overweight. I lost about 65 pounds when we fixed the hormones. And you know, I still go out to – I ate at an Italian restaurant last night and I enjoy myself. So I’m not depriving myself, but it just became much, much easier.

MB: I keep seeing the term “estrogen dominance” in the press. Is that a useful term, and are you seeing a lot of it?

NF: I do see a lot of it, and I think it’s under-diagnosed, and especially in a 40-year-old that you asked about, estrogen dominance is a big thing. I’ll see it in men, as well, but in the younger women, in the 40-year-old women, what has happened is the ovaries have slowed down so that the progesterone and the testosterone are declining; the estrogen production is still relatively high. And therefore that’s where they end up with some of those more PMS type symptoms. They’re more moody, irritable, the weight creeps up, they tend to retain fluids – all of those type of things. With the men, they gain weight, they put weight on in the middle, they can’t maintain the muscle mass that they had. They get moody and irritable, as well.

MB: For women who are going through menopause, how many of them do you recommend some kind of hormone replacement?

NF: For the people that come to my office, it’s about 90%, because that’s kind of why they’re coming to see me. And they usually – the people that I’m seeing are well-educated, they’ve done their research in this arena, so most of the people that come to see me, I do recommend it. People that I specifically don’t recommend it for – and we can’t lump all of hormonal therapy in one bushel, either – there’s very few people that, given blood work results, that I would say, “You just aren’t somebody that I would give hormonal replacement to.” Certainly if all the blood work is normal, they don’t need hormonal replacement. Most women or men that come to see me will have one abnormality or another. Places that it is a very complicated decision for me are women with a history of breast cancer or endometrial cancer or certain ovarian cancer; women that have a very high risk, so they’ve got two people in their family that have had breast cancer; men with a history of prostate cancer or certain other melanomas and things like that are also big flags for me that, you know, we really need to proceed very, very cautiously. The breast cancer issue is the one that almost invariably comes up in women. They come to me and they say, “I’ve got all these symptoms, my quality of life has declined, but I’m afraid if I take hormones, I’m going to get breast cancer.” The fact of the matter is, at this point – there is a lot of research, and at this point it is not conclusive that hormonal therapy caused breast cancer. It actually is pretty evenly split that it’s very safe, it can lower your risk, versus it increases your risk. And the relative risk increase on the studies that have said that is extremely small. But that is related to estrogen. What women forget is they still have progesterone, they still have thyroid hormones, they still have testosterone, all of these other hormones. So we can’t lump them all in together. So if women are concerned, they’re worried about estrogen, sometimes we’ll use some of the other therapies first, see how we get them feeling – base it on their risk, base it on their blood work, and then maybe add that down the road, once we feel more comfortable and they feel more comfortable about it.

MB: For women who are having that creeping weight gain, how often is thyroid a factor in that?

NF: More often than what we’re led to believe. I’m the perfect example. I was tired, my weight was up. I went to my primary doctor, went to my OB/GYN, went to an endocrinologist – they all said, “Your thyroid is fine.” And that was all based on a screening test. Back in the 1970s, this new screening test came out. It’s called the TSH. The insurance companies pay for it; that’s the only thing that they recommend if you want to look at thyroid. And that’s what all of us doctors that went through medical school since the ‘70s had been trained on, and so that’s all we look at. But thyroid is a very complicated gland. There are multiple hormones involved. There are absorption issues that a lot of doctors just fail to look at. And we like to treat it as a disease, too, like to wait until it’s really bad before we treat it. So I don’t know. So in my case and in patients that I see, probably about 30 to 35% of women will have a thyroid issue that, when corrected, it helps them tremendously. Whereas if you look at the statistics nationally, they say between 2 and 4% of people with weight issues are thyroid-related. And we really have, again, given the whole clinical responsibility – and we like to look at that number on the paper and say, “Oh, the number on the paper is fine,” and we forget about physical examinations, our skin texture and fluid retention and basal body temperatures and examination of the thyroid. All of those things go into the diagnosis, as well.

MB: If a woman’s having weight gain and suspecting thyroid might be a problem, what kind of tests should she ask her physician to do, to make sure that he or she catches it?

NF: It’s a tough thing. Most physicians are going to order the TSH, again because that’s what the insurance companies – and they were told to do. There are multiple other tests that you can do. You can do what’s called a T3 or a T4. The thyroid gland that’s in your throat is controlled by a hormone that comes from your brain and tells it to make thyroid hormone, and that’s called TSH and that’s what the screening test is for. The thyroid gland then puts out a hormone called T4 which floats around in the bloodstream and eventually gets broken down into T3. The T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone and that’s what actually goes into the cells and makes your cells metabolize energy. There’s also, in your bloodstream, there can be antibodies, things that block that T3 or that T4 from working. So you need to look at all of those things. Additionally, you can have issues of absorption of the T3 through the cells, which we don’t really have a good test for. So the biggest thing I tell people, if they’re concerned about thyroid, is to find a doctor that knows what they’re doing with the thyroid. Honestly, most doctors don’t. There’s a couple of very good books on thyroid that I will oftentimes refer patients to, to get educated on it and allow them to help themselves a little better.

MB: And what are those books?

NF: There’s a Dr. David Brownstein who is wonderful – he’s in Michigan. And he has a book called Overcoming Thyroid. And it talks about things from a physical exam standpoint, things that you can do at home to see if thyroid is potentially an issue, see if iodine absorption, which is what makes thyroid hormone active, is an issue. And plus, it gives you symptoms to look at that might tell you if it’s an issue, as well as here’s the test that should be done. So it’s a good quick read that gets you well-educated. And in a lot of cases, my patients will read that and go to their primary doctor and they’ll know a lot more about it than their primary doctor. We can point them in the right direction if they need to.

MB: Other than anti-aging specialists, are there physicians who, because of their specialty, would be knowledgeable about thyroid?

NF: Endocrinologists are the hormonal experts in the medical field. And they are very well-educated and very well-meaning, but unfortunately they treat diseases. Their philosophy right now with thyroid and the way they’re educated and their policies that are put out by the Endocrinologic Society is for thyroid, if the screening test – the TSH test – is elevated to 10 – TSH is an inverse number, so the higher the number, the less thyroid function you have. So with over 10, you treat thyroid. But when you’re going to treat it, you’re going to treat it down to a 2. Where I see a lot of people falling into thyroid issues are between that 2 and that 10, which the Endocrine Society says, “You don’t treat those people. It’s obvious that they have a problem, but we’ll wait until the problem gets worse before we treat it.” And that’s where philosophically I differ from them. I think if you know you have a problem and you have symptoms – you’re gaining weight, you’re tired, all of those things – then we need to treat it more aggressively. If you come in to me and you have abnormal blood tests and it seems elevated but your weight’s perfect, your energy is good, you’re not losing hair, you don’t have any symptoms, then I agree, we should watch it. But our goal in age management is to be more proactive and not wait until you’re in a disease state to fix things.

MB: It sounds like medicine as a whole – and I hope anti-aging medicine takes the leadership in this – needs to define new standards of what’s healthy instead of just what’s unhealthy and disease.

NF: And that’s right. That’s where medicine has been focused for decades now is illness, and nobody knows what it means to be healthy.

MB: Are there boards that are working on that issue?

NF: Oh, absolutely. There are a lot of people that are approaching Congress, approaching like the AMA to try and push things into this direction.

MB: Good.

NF: Certainly there is resistance. Doctors are the slowest people to change their mindset on anything, of any group I’ve ever seen – which is good and bad. But so there is certainly resistance within the system to that. There are also some inherent problems with things like research. Research funding is usually focused on, you know, how do we cure a disease, or it’s coming from pharmaceutical companies which are trying to sell us patentable products. And so there are some problems with getting funding for good research from that standpoint, as well. As well as, you know, there are certain biases, especially in the nutrition field. There are certain – we’ve gone from “Fat will kill you,” to “Carbs will kill you,” and back and forth for decades. And you know, a lot of that is there have been a lot of political shenanigans that have gone into those positions, unfortunately. And it’s probably going to persist for some time, just because – and part of the reason for that is that there’s not one universal answer. We want an answer that says, “Here is what everybody in the world should eat and you will be healthy.” The fact of the matter is not that straightforward. Again, back to where we like to generalize everybody. We are individuals. We are genetically different. We are metabolically different. There is not going to be a right answer for everybody.

MB: Everything you’re talking about is talking about how it’s not easy and it’s very individualized.

NF: That’s right.

MB: Let me take a break here. You’re listening to Ageless Lifestyles Radio on Webtalkradio.net and we’re talking with anti-aging physician, Dr. Nicole Flora. She practices anti-aging medicine and age management, weight management in Cincinnati, Ohio, and she’s associated with Cenegenics Medical Institute in Las Vegas, with affiliated physicians around the country. Her website is http://www.cincinnatiagemanagement.com/, and the Cenegenics Institute site is http://www.cenegenics.com/. For information on anti-aging psychology and my books, Defy Aging and 52 Baby Steps to Grow Young and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at http://www.drbrickey.com/  or you can just to http://www.notaging.com/  and it’ll take you to http://www.drbrickey.com/ . Dr. Flora, how much does it cost to get a good workup in anti-aging medicine?

NF: Certainly individual doctors charge different amounts. I don’t think there is a set fee. It really depends on what you’re dealing with.

MB: So for a typical person that says, “I’m feeling rundown and want you to work it up and put me on a program of nutrition and exercise and hormone replacement, if that’s needed,” are we talking a few thousand dollars, several thousand dollars?

NF: We’re talking in general, to start with, all-inclusive – between a good blood work panel, which unfortunately is the majority of the cost – probably a couple of thousand dollars. I mean, blood work – we do exercise testing, fitness testing, bone density, body fat, all of those things, plus consultations with a nutritionist – all of those types of things are included.

MB: I’m surprised that it’s not a lot more than that. Sounds like a bargain to me. I mean-

NF: Honestly, if you compare what you would go and pay if went to the hospital and got those things, you’re right. It absolutely is a good bargain.

MB: Considering what we spend on cars and stereos and plasma TVs – well, it’s the cost of a fancy television set – which is more important?

NF: Absolutely. It is an investment. It’s how much do you know about your body, which is – you know, a car is going to last you, on the outside nowadays, 10-12 years. You have to live with this body for a very long time.

MB: You’re engaged in some research. Can you tell us about that?

NF: Through the Cenegenics Foundations, we work with two medical schools, the University of Miami and the University of Nevada, and we do multiple research programs yearly. And the latest one involves weight and particularly hormone replace, specifically growth hormone and testosterone. And that came out through Cenegenics in November. It’s being submitted for publication in March.

MB: Are you allowed to share with us the gist of it, or is it under wraps?

NF: It’s been presented at the national meeting, so I’m assuming I can tell you a little bit. But that we did see, particularly in women, we saw a significant weight loss when hormones were balanced. With men, the weight loss was less significant, but the body fat content came down significantly. So they gained more muscle mass and lost more fat, where women kept their muscle mass consistent and lost fat. So their actual number on the scale, which we women like to focus on a lot unfortunately, changed more so with the women than with the men. But it was statistically significant weight loss.

MB: Well, speaking for men, we’d be happy to have it translated to muscle instead of fat. That’s okay.

NF: Exactly, exactly. So it made people happy on both fronts.

MB: Well, wonderful. I gather your approach to anti-aging medicine is fairly Western as opposed to someone who emphasizes Ayurvedic medicine, colonics and fasting and that kind of thing?

NF: That is true. You know, I am a traditional doctor. I went to traditional medical school and I trained to look at the scientific evidence. So I am more comfortable in that realm. I certainly am open to my patients using other approaches, but I won’t certainly present myself as an expert in those realms. I get, particularly with chiropractic and acupuncture, I get patients that have tremendous response. But certainly I will work with other practitioners if that’s their choice. But again, I just don’t present myself as an expert in those fields because that’s not where my training lies.

MB: It seems to me like there’s three schools: what you’re doing, which is very Western integrative; there’s the more Eastern approach; and there people who are just emphasizing the hormones and the shots and the cosmetics but not asking people to do the exercise, to take a look at their eating, and that kind of thing.

NF: I think you’re correct in that assumption. My personal opinion is that really to have the best outcomes you need a combination of all those things. People like to go to the doctor and be given pills and shots and creams or what have you because that’s what they’ve been taught to kind of expect. But it really – we cannot under-emphasize the other components. You know, the psychological components – and you’re the perfect expert to talk about that. There’s a huge impact on, you know, the diet and the nutrition. If you are going to put – if you want to know what the side effects to this pill that you’re putting into your body are, you certainly ought to think about the side effects of what the food you’re putting in your body are and how we change those. I mean, that – you eat three meals a day. You may take one pill a day. What is going to have the bigger impact on your life long-term? And people like to forget about that component. Eating is unconscious in a lot of cases. Our activity level is unconscious and it takes a lot more work. It’s easier to take a pill or a cream or a shot and not have to do that component. So my opinion is certainly it needs to be a comprehensive program. It has to address all of those things. It is hard as a practitioner to put all of that together, but that’s where the challenge lies.

MB: What do you think is going to happen in anti-aging medicine the next 10, 20, 30 years?

NF: I think we’re going to get better at it, and I think we’re going to get better at doing research at it, I think we’re going to get better politically getting people to support our position that we want to promote health and avoid disease, as opposed to just treating disease. I don’t know in the next ten years where the traditional medical community or the insurance communities are going to be on that front. In 20 years, I think they will be onboard, but it’s going to be a rocky road between now and then, unfortunately.

MB: Do you see huge changes from, say, genetic engineering and tissue engineering that’s going to get integrated into the anti-aging medicine at the practitioner level?

NF: Absolutely. Right now, genetics are – there are a lot of problems with the genetic component, from a decision-making point. But the genetics I think will be the next big mover. However, we have to remember that probably 45 to 50% of what happens to you, you are predisposed to, from your genes. The remainder is lifestyle. So we can’t expect genes to come in and cure everything. We still are responsible for our health and our environment and our psychological wellbeing. So it will never come in – and a lot of people are waiting for it – “Hey, if I get the genes right, I won’t get heart disease and I won’t get this, that, or the other.” But it’s never going to be that simple.

MB: “And I can go to the restaurant and eat everything.”

NF: Right! “And if I’ve got the right genes, my jeans get on fine.” And I actually had a gentleman that called yesterday and said, “Hey, I heard about this genetic testing. Can I get it done to find out, you know, do I need to do this?” And you know, my take to him was that right now, at least, it can sometimes give you a false sense of security. If you have a genetic test that tells you you’re at low risk for heart disease or you’re at low risk for diabetes, does that mean that you don’t need to know what is best to prevent those things? And my position is no, I’m going to treat everyone like they’re at high risk for heart disease and diabetes, because still, the vast majority of heart disease cases and probably 85% of new diabetes cases, Type 2 diabetes, occur in people with no genetic risks. So we can’t rely on a blood test to tell us we’re safe.

MB: One of my pet peeves is statins. I think they have so many nasty side effects; I hate to see so many people taking them. What kind of alternatives do you tend to get into with patients to see if they can get off the statins?

NF: I have a problem with the statins, as well. I feel the same way. Cholesterol – certainly diet is important, but diet – if we’re honest with ourselves and we look back at the medical literature for the last 30 years, diet – and I hate to say this because it will tell people they can go every fried food they see – diet has a very small impact on cholesterol levels, maybe 10% if you’re very good – which is important. Diet has other impacts, though. It affects inflammation, which the statins also decrease. So we can’t just look at the cholesterol number. But diet is important. Exercise is important. Looking at hormonal levels – I never, never treat someone’s cholesterol number unless their thyroid is optimal. Thyroids will impact your cholesterol readings, as will testosterone levels, as will estrogen levels. And so a lot of people, when we get the hormones balanced, we get them eating right, we get them exercising, they don’t need the statins. The statins, I think, are so over-prescribed. If you actually follow the American Heart Association’s recommendations now for cholesterol levels, in my personal practice, my primary care practice – if I followed that, 75% of the patients that I saw on a daily basis would be on a statin. And honestly, that is – in my mind was a big turning point. Common sense has to come into play. There’s either something wrong with our society, with our lifestyle, with how we’re eating – that didn’t come about – you know, that isn’t a genetic issue that all of the sudden 75% of people need a pharmaceutical. It’s either our position as doctors and as researchers is wrong, or there’s something going on culturally with our diet. Something has changed that has made that occur. And that’s why I think, as a doctor, you really, really have to step back and step outside of the box and not just read the recommendations, but go back and look at the individual research that has been done to date.

MB: I’m hearing that public health perspective there.

NF: Absolutely, sure.

MB: How does a person tell whether somebody is a well-qualified, competent anti-aging physician?

NF: It’s tricky. There are a lot of people out there that are dabbling, that are not well-educated on the subject, that have gone to classes that may not have been the best classes, that have gone to seminars or have been pitched products that are not well-supported by research. And so honestly, it is a tough position as a consumer. My biggest thing is that you need to find a physician that you can talk to, that you’re comfortable with on a personal level, that can give you supporting evidence to their opinion, and who is willing to have that conversation, and also who doesn’t treat you – not a cattle call at their office, and they’re not going to treat you – everybody that comes through the door gets this treatment or that treatment. That is, for me, the biggest thing. You want certainly someone who has some experience in the field. You probably need someone who has been doing it – and I hate to, you know, give time cut-offs, but multiple years, five years or more. And you need somebody that, in my opinion, does this as their primary focus. The guys that are doing it one day a week out of their office unfortunately can’t keep up with the amount of medical and other sources of information at this point. You can’t keep up with your regular practice, let alone a whole other field. You wouldn’t go to a gynecologist that did gynecology one day a week and had some other job on the side. You really need somebody that this is their primary focus.

MB: Are there any board certifications yet that would tell you that you had this kind of doctor you’re talking about? Or are we not there yet?

NF: Some doctors will promote a board certification and there is a program out there that they can go take classes and get a board certification. To date, though, that board certification has not been recognized by the AMA. So the AMA has looked at the protocols and they have not given their stamp of approval yet. They may in the future – I’m sure they are continuing to work on that. So right now, board certification is – while it does indicate that they have taken a significant amount of education, at this point we don’t know specifically what that entails.

MB: What’s the patient to do, other than interview the doctor and find out whether they’re full-time in the business?

NF: I wish I could answer that. You know, the other thing that I will tell patients to do that aren’t local to me, is I will tell them to go to a local compounding pharmacist – if they’re women. Men a lot of times will use FDA-approved medications that you get through a regular pharmacy. But honestly, the pharmacists in the area know the good doctors. They really do. If you are an age management doctor and you’re doing hormones, you have to be working closely with a good qualified compounding pharmacist, almost on a daily basis. And I have a lot of patients come to me from a local pharmacist because that’s where they’re asking questions, and I think they’re a good resource.

MB: Oh, I love that strategy. That’s cool. The Cenegenics Medical Institute that you’re associated with, are they certifying people who have comparable credentials to yourself?

NF: Well, we do – at Cenegenics they train physicians and they are actually AMA-accredited to do training. They don’t offer a board certification but they do offer a certification through Cenegenics. They train – they have to be MDs or DOs and they have to go through – they have to see patients with the doctors there and their clinical knowledge is assessed. Certainly they do testing, they do home studies, they do ongoing monthly educational seminars to maintain that certification.

MB: Do they teach the kind of individual time-intensive holistic approach that you do? Or is that more a personal choice?

NF: They do. And that’s where I got my original training. I’ve done training from multiple different sources. But absolutely, they advocate the approach that, you know, you have to spend – to get a good idea of what’s going on with a patient, you have to spend minimally two to three hours with them on the first visit, and then close follow-up is really the key to success.

MB: Is there anything else that you would like us to know about, or some hints or advice that you’d like to share with us?

NF: I think the biggest thing, for people in general, is to not stand by and expect health as a given. You do have to, in our culture today, with the dietary stresses, with the environmental stresses that our body is under, and with the epidemic of disease that is out there, you do have to be proactive and you need to take some responsibility to get well-educated on it. It will make a huge impact in your life and your family’s life and your kids’ life. You’ll be around longer and you will enjoy life more. The biggest thing that my patients want to avoid is living to be 90 and spending the last 20-25 years being sick. And we know, with good medical evidence – this is not new things that we have made up or that there’s some new product – we know, looking at good medical research, that we can prevent probably 65 to 70% of disability that you see in the elderly population, if we start early and if we’re proactive and if each individual takes responsibility for their health, for eating well, for exercising. They don’t need to end up in the nursing home like their parents did. They don’t need to end up living with their kids because they can’t live independently.

MB: My role model is the Energizer Bunny on alkaline batteries. You know, with regular batteries, they just kind of wear out gradually, but the alkalines, you get the steady energy level and then when they die, they just die.

NF: Right, they just fall over.

MB: So it just keeps going and going and going. There’s a gentleman in the news, Mr. Rabinowitz, who recently, at 104, broke his 100-yard dash record at about 30 seconds, which is pretty good for 104!

NF: Oh, my goodness.

MB: And then I noticed he had a stroke a couple of months later. To me, that’s a good role model.

NF: Absolutely. You know, we don’t need to cure a lot of these diseases. We just need to delay them coming on. If I get cancer when I’m 94 and die from it, great, you know. But if I’m healthy until that point – you’ve got to die of something. My thing is that I just don’t want to be sick and tired and accept this unfortunate situation that we see so many seniors in now. And I don’t want us as a population to think that’s how it has to be, because it doesn’t. But you do have to work hard and you can’t wait until you’re 80 to do it. When you’re 80, we can still have good impact, but you’re going to do much, much better if you start when you’re 30 or you’re 20 or you’re working on your kids to get them to eat right and to get them outside and get them moving, and ingrain that as part of their lifestyle. You’re going to have much better outcomes. They’re going to have a better life.

MB: Dr. Flora, I just wish we could clone you.

NF: Well, thank you.

MB: Thank you so much for being on the show. I really appreciate it and appreciate all the information you shared with us.

NF: Well, you are so welcome. It has been a pleasure.

MB: As you’ve probably gathered, I’m a big fan of anti-aging medicine. True, it is having its growing pains and there are people who are emphasizing profits as opposed to the kind of careful planning and individualization and holistic health that Dr. Flora talks about, but I think it is destined to become the family practice medicine of the future. And Dr. Flora is a wonderful example of what an anti-aging physician should be like and what an anti-aging physician can do. I like to wrap up programs with a baby step that hopefully will help you live longer, healthier, and happier. In the business world, we place a lot of emphasis on starting with the end in mind, being very clear about the outcome you want, and then figuring out what it takes to achieve that outcome. In our lives, it’s even more important because it’s our lives! And the outcome we want is to be Energizer Bunnies, at 100, 110, 120, maybe even 150, to still be going strong with a snap in our step and a sparkle in our eye – passion and enthusiasm and a zest for life. The alternative might even be a nursing home. So we need to picture in our mind’s eye vividly ourselves as that Energizer Bunny and just see it so vividly and want it so badly, we’re almost salivating, saying, “I’ve got to have that, whatever it takes. That’s what I want. What do I need to do?” What do you need to do? Well, fortunately I think we got a lot of ideas today from Dr. Flora. You’ve been listening to Ageless Lifestyles Radio on Webtalkradio.net. Our expert guest has been Dr. Nicole Flora, an anti-aging physician who practices in the Cincinnati area. Here Cincinnati office website is http://www.cincinnatiagemanagement.com/. Her Cenegenics Institute website is http://www.cenegenics-drflora.com/. Information on anti-aging psychology and my books Defy Aging and 52 Baby Steps to Grow Young, and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at DrBrickey.com, or you can just go to http://www.notaging.com/  and it’ll take you to DrBrickey.com. This is Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, wishing you a very long, healthy, happy life.

How to Prevent Diabetes

March 8, 2008

Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael BrickeySteve Freed Pharmacist/Diabetes Educator

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Host: Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey

Expert Guest: Steve Freed, Pharmacist and Diabetes Educator

Broadcast: 2-17-08 on webtalkradio.net where the latest shows are broadcast and posted as podcasts

One in three Americans has or will develop diabetes—and in the vast majority of cases, it could have been prevented. Today’s guest expert, Steve Freed is a Registered Pharmacist and Diabetes Educator. His Diabetes in Control newsletter reaches 88,000 medical professionals. His Steps to Health program has been used by a quarter of a million diabetics. He has given thousands of seminars on diabetes, produced numerous training materials, and currently is co-producing a full-length documentary, Conquering Sugar Mountain. The first part of today’s seminar will focus on how you and your loved ones can prevent getting diabetes. Part 2 will focus on new treatment options. His websites are: http://www.diabetesincontrol.com/  http://www.diabetes911.net/  and http://www.a1ctest.com/

TRANSCRIPT ©Michael Brickey–excerpts permitted with attribution

MB: This is Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, cutting-edge thinking for being youthful at every age. On each program I interview experts on what it takes to live longer, healthier, and happier. Our program takes a holistic approach in addressing anti-aging psychology, medicine, alternative medicine, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Our emphasis is on innovative thinking and practices that have solid data and results.One in three Americans has or will develop diabetes. This is absolutely tragic because in the vast majority of cases, it could be prevented. Today’s guest expert, Steve Freed, is a registered pharmacist and certified diabetes educator. His Diabetes in Control Newsletter reaches 88,000 medical professionals and 1,000 more laymen. His Steps to Health Program has been used by a quarter of a million diabetics. He has given thousands of seminars, produced numerous training materials, and currently is co-producing a full-length documentary, “Conquering Sugar Mountain.” The first part of today’s seminar will focus on how you and your loved ones can prevent getting diabetes, and then part two will focus on new treatment options and the controversies. Steve, you are so passionate – I think you eat, sleep, and breathe diabetes education. How did you get so passionate about this?SF: I used to own my own pharmacies for over 25 years, so I had four pharmacies in the Chicago area. And I woke up one morning, put the covers over my head and said, “That’s it, I’m out of here.” I wasn’t doing anything that I’d learned in school to become a pharmacist. I was talking to insurance companies, I was selling Beanie Babies – you know, nothing I was doing was related to the knowledge that I had. And I have a lot of diabetes in my family, Type 2 diabetes, and my grandparents on my father’s side, all my uncles, all my cousins, my sister. I’ve seen the worst and I’ve seen the best. So I always was concerned that I was going to get diabetes, so I started to educate myself. And the more I got educated, the more I wanted to share that information with patients. I saw that there was a program to become a certified diabetes educator and I worked towards that, took the exam, and became a certified diabetes educator in 1995 and started working with patients, and realized that there’s about 25 million people with diabetes, that I could probably personally help 24 millions, but I needed help with the last million. So we started a newsletter, myself and my partner, who’s also a pharmacist and a diabetes educator, to educate the medical profession about diabetes, because there it is completely lacking.

MB: What is it that our family doctors are missing with diabetes?

SF: Well, it’s not the doctor’s responsibility, per se, to educate the patient. 95% of the care of the patient has to come from the patient. You know, they have to know what foods they can eat, they have to be able to count carbs, they have to be able to read a food label, they have to understand the numbers when they get their blood sugar results back or when they test their fingers. So 95-98% of the care of a patient with diabetes has to come from the patient, because the doctor is not with them when they’re eating the wrong foods or when they’re not being physically active or not checking their blood sugars. So in order for a patient to control their diabetes, they have to become educated. If they’re not educated, they will fail 100% of the time. The doctors get five to fifteen minutes. It’s not their responsibility. They can’t get reimbursed for it. That’s not their responsibility. Their responsibility is to get the patient educated. That is their responsibility. And that’s where they fall down. They think they can write a prescription, give it to the patient, tell them to come back in 90 days, and it doesn’t work. It fails. And we know for a fact that it fails because the average blood sugar in the United States is close to almost 300, 250 to 300 mg per deciliter, which is completely out of control. And those people will all get the complications of diabetes, but it’s 100% preventable. That’s why I have a passion, because with a little bit of education, when I sit down with a patient for an hour or two, I can change their lives. I will prevent them from losing their eyesight, their kidneys and their limbs, and prevent strokes and heart attacks, Alzheimer’s, cancer, every disease known to man I can prevent, because we all know that diabetes is related to elevated blood sugars. We all know that Alzheimer’s is related to blood sugars. We all know that dementia is related to blood sugars. Our quality of life is directly related to our blood sugars. And they just did a study that they published and they said that if you get diabetes by the time you’re 50, you ‘re going to die 12 years early and you’re going to be miserable for the last 15 years of your life. And that comes from the CDC. So I can prevent all that, just with educating my patients and getting them motivated to make lifestyle changes.

MB: Not everybody can sit down with you. To whom should the doctors be handing off the education piece to?

SF: Well, first of all, there’s a lot of information out there. The problem is there’s a lot of misinformation out there. I see it all the time. People – there’s so much different information out that people get confused. You know, the best thing, though, that people can do is to find out where their education programs are in their area. Usually they’re hospital-based, and you can call the local hospitals and see if they have a diabetes education program. You can certainly get a book and read or you can get CDs and listen. But if you don’t do that, you are doomed for a miserable life.

MB: Where is the bad information?

SF: Well, I hate to say this, but the bad information – and I know that I’ll get in trouble for saying this, but the bad information comes from the American Diabetes Association.

MB: What are they saying that’s off?

SF: Well, what they’re saying is that you should have 60% of your nutrition should come from carbohydrates. All carbohydrates turn to sugar – good, bad, complex, simple – it all turns to sugar. Anybody realizes you don’t give people with diabetes who have sugar problems 60% of their diet being sugar – does that make any sense? Why do you think that the most, 90% of the people out there, or certainly at least 75% of the people out there, are out of control? Because they’re eating too many carbohydrates. They don’t understand it. And if they really understand diabetes, they really understand it, they’re going to know that you can’t eat any many carbs as they would like.

MB: What about people who don’t appear to have diabetes. Is the 60% carb also a bad idea for them?

SF: Well, if you’re not susceptible to diabetes, okay, and you’re eating 60% carbohydrates in your diet, you’re going to get fat – unless you’re running five miles a day, you’re going to get fat. And you know that we have an obesity epidemic in this country. You know, we said, “Don’t eat fat, don’t eat fat. Go on a low fat diet; it’s healthy for you.” Well, we did that for the last fifteen years and now everybody’s fatter, so obviously that didn’t work. You know, it’s the carbs – the carbs turn to sugar, sugar turns to fat, and we get fatter. It’s that simple. And people just don’t see it. And it’s a crime, too. And ADA just two weeks ago came out with a statement that low carb diets are okay. Before that, they were adamantly against it, but the studies are showing that people that are on low carb diets can control their diabetes much more effectively than eating high carb diets. It just makes so much sense.

MB: So if people are on the low carb diets, what do you want them eating instead?

SF: Well, I want them to stay away from some of the carbohydrates – the rices, the pastas, the breads, you know, all of those things that basically turn into sugar. I have a question that I ask my patients, and I say, you know, your grandmother calls you up and she says she wants to invite you over for dinner and she’s making this fantastic dessert. She wants you to stop at the grocery store and pick up some sugar wafers – and they both have diabetes. So you go into the store and you see two packages of sugar wafers. One package says “sugar wafers” and that has 20 grams of sugar per serving. The other one says “sugar free sugar wafers.” That has 0 grams of sugar per serving. You know, it’s not a trick question. Which one would you buy for your grandparents that have diabetes? Would you buy the one with the 20 grams per serving or the one with 0 grams per serving? Which one would you think you might buy?

MB: Well, the sugar free one.

SF: And you’d be wrong. And why would you be wrong? Because you’re only looking at the sugar! If you’d turn the package over and just read the label, you will see that the sugar free has more carbs than the one with sugar. So not only are you killing your grandparents, you’re paying three times as much to kill them. That’s where the education comes in. I get people to read food labels. You go to the store, you pick up two bottles of salad dressing. One is Caesar salad dressing, has 0 grams of carbs per serving, the other one is thousand island. And you look and it says there’s 5 grams of carbs per teaspoon. Well, how many people eat one teaspoon of dressing on their salad? Most people have 3 tablespoons, so you have to multiply it by 15 times 5. So one’s got 75 grams per serving and the other has 0. Well, if you just take the one that has fewer carbs, you’re going to lower your blood sugars – just by doing that, just by reading a food label. You can make a difference in your life just by reading it, because you’re going to make intelligent decisions, if you understand.

MB: Are there other big mistakes people are making?

SF: Well, certainly. You know, there’s one thing – and we developed a whole program around it. We all know that physical activity is good for you. Every person on this planet knows physical activity prevents every disease known to man, and it keeps you healthy, it gives you energy, it improves your memory, it gives you a better sex life, it grows hair, it gets wrinkles out of your skin. Okay, it prevents colds and flus and yeast infections – everything you could thing of, you know, by increasing physical activity – we all know this. Everybody on the planet knows it but nobody does it. Figure that one out. When you go to the hospital, okay, right in front, all the front parking spaces, it says “Reserved for the Chief Surgeon.” You know, your doctors, okay, don’t want to walk, so they park their cars in front. If they were smart, they would put a sign up saying, “All our doctors park in the back of the lot. The front spots are for people that don’t understand.”

MB: Great idea.

SF: So physical activity, along with counting your carbs and understanding of good nutrition, you know, will not only have an impact if you have diabetes, but it’ll have an impact for everybody – not just for people with diabetes. I tell patients, if you want to live healthy, live like a diabetic.

MB: I think you had a statistic that we’ve got millions and millions of Americans who have diabetes and don’t even know it. How do we miss it so often?

SF: Well, 25% of the people that have actual diabetes, okay, are undiagnosed. There’s another 60 million people that have the metabolic syndrome, but now we – you know, diabetes wasn’t bad enough, we had to give it a new name called pre-diabetes. That’s like being a little bit pregnant, okay? There’s no reason for people to have that diagnosis of pre-diabetes. Why not just call it like it is? It’s diabetes. The definition of diabetes used to a fasting blood sugar of 180. Then they reduced it to 140. Then they reduced it to 126. and now, instead of reducing it to 100, we came out with a new disease called pre-diabetes, and the reason we did that was pretty much because if we called it diabetes, those 60 million people, okay, that are self-employed, would lose their insurance all in one day. And if 60 million people lost their insurance in one day, it might cause a little uproar. So we gave it a new terminology called pre-diabetes. But the reason that we miss it is very simple – and I teach this to medical professionals all the time – diabetes starts out as an after-meal elevation of blood sugar. It’s called postprandial. Postprandial is a two-hour blood sugar after you eat. That’s when it’s the highest. So you go to the doctor for a physical, like most people do, and he has you do a fasting so that he can do your triglycerides, because we have to be fasting to get our triglycerides. So you go to the doctor’s office, he does a venous draw, and he sends it out to the laboratory, and it comes back that your fasting blood sugar is 85. Now, if it’s under 100, it’s normal. If it’s 100 to 125, it’s pre-diabetes. Anything over 126, it’s diabetes. It comes back, it’s 85. So you don’t have diabetes. He doesn’t even make a note of it. Okay, that same day, you go out for dinner and you have a big pasta meal with three pieces of garlic bread and a piece of cake and your blood sugars are 350. Well, the definition of diabetes, two hours after you eat, is anything over 200 is diabetes. 140 to 199 is pre-diabetes. So you’ve got a blood sugar of 350 – you have diabetes. Now, who knows that? The doctor didn’t say you have diabetes so you’re not checking your blood sugars. You won’t see that 350. This goes on, time and time again. Next year, you go back to the doctor and your fasting blood sugar is 98. Well, that’s still normal. He’s not going to say that you have diabetes or pre-diabetes. And that same day, you go out for dinner, you have a big pasta meal, and your blood sugar’s 450. Well, you have diabetes but nobody knows it. So we’re not looking at where we should. Now, there is a test called the glucose tolerance test. If you’re overweight, if you have diabetes in your family, they give you 75 grams of glucose in a cola. You drink it in the doctor’s office, you stay there for three hours, and they check your blood sugars every 15 minutes, and you’re putting as much pressure as you can on your pancreas to have it spill over. And that’s how you can tell if you have diabetes, by taking the glucose tolerance test. And then there’s another test called the A1C test-

MB: Okay, but most doctors aren’t going to do that unless you’re at high risk, though, right?

SF: Absolutely. But those people that have diabetes that are not at high risk, because the doctors – you know, they may not be that much overweight, those people are 25% of the 25 million people that are walking around with diabetes and don’t have a clue, because you don’t get the symptoms for years. By the time you go to the doctor and your fasting blood sugar is over the 126, when you’re diagnosed and you have a fasting blood sugar over 126, you’ve already lost 80% of the cells that make insulin in your pancreas. Now you’re running out of time. Now, if we catch it early, we can make small changes in your life and have a huge impact. But when you get it – when you’re diagnosed with a fasting blood sugar over 126, you’re running out of time, and that’s what happens with people with diabetes.

MB: Why aren’t doctors routinely doing the A1C test during annual physicals?

SF: Honestly, it all boils down to dollars and cents. You know, they’re not going to do a test that they don’t feel is going to give them the results they’re looking for. First of all, the A1Cs are not – according to the ADA – are not recommended for diagnosis, and that’ because not all A1Cs are standardized. And what I mean by that is we know that a standardized A1C is 6%, it’s a single digit number which represents your blood sugars every second of the day for the last 90 days. I call it the quality of life test. That test not only determines whether you’re going to live or die, that test actually represents how smart your doctor is. Because if you have an elevated A1C of above 7, certainly for a year or two, then I don’t care who he is, I don’t care what his title is, I don’t care what his education is, okay, you change doctors immediately. Don’t ask questions, just do it. Because in this day and age, with all the knowledge, with all the technology that we have, with all of the medications we have, there is no reason why anyone in the United States today should have an elevated blood sugar of above 6, and certainly I would hope not above 5, 5% A1C.

MB: When a person goes to their family doctor for that annual physical, what should they say to him to have their doctor give them an A1C test and do it correctly?

SF: Well, they should ask the doctor – if they have any diabetes in their family, okay, if they’re a few pounds overweight or their cholesterols are elevated or their blood pressure is elevated, those are all symptoms – okay, tell the doctor you want him to do an A1C test. This is not an expensive test. I mean, I think the labs charge 25 bucks for it or something like that. But pretty much, that will give the doctor a good idea. So if it comes up that it’s somewhere between 5.5 and 6.1, there’s a good chance that you have pre-diabetes. And if it’s over 6.1, there’s a good that you have diabetes. Now he can do a glucose tolerance test to double-check that. But certainly, ask the doctor to do an A1C. They did a study, by the way, called the EPIC-Norfolk Study. It was done about a year and a half ago. And they took, I think it was 15,000 people, and they compared the A1Cs of those people with a 5 and those people with a 6%, so they compared 5% versus 6%, irregardless of whether they had diabetes or not. And what they discovered was those people that had a 6% A1C compared to those that had a 5, had a 28% increase in cardiovascular death. So irregardless of diabetes, it’s a good cardiovascular risk test also, because if you think about it, the higher the percentage of sugar attached to the red blood cell, the stickier it is, and the stickier it is, it increases your risk for stroke and heart attack because it’s clogging your blood vessels. So the A1C is also indicated in cardiovascular risk factors, whether you have diabetes or not. A normal A1C, for someone who does not have diabetes, who is in good health, who is not overweight, is 4.3 to 4.5. According to the ADA, if you have diabetes, your A1C should be below 7. According to the Endocrinology Association, it needs to be below 6.5. But to me, I tell my patients, do you want it at 6.5 or do you want it at normal?

MB: It’s like, how overweight do you have to be to decide it’s too much?

SF: You know, so that’s another misinformation. They never talk about the normal A1Cs. The ADA says it needs to be below 7. Well – and then I ask doctors all the time, and they say, “You know, I can’t even get my patients below 7. You’re talking about 5, 4.5. I mean, that’s crazy. I can’t do that.” Well, of course they can’t, because their patients are not educated.

MB: Did I see where you go into businesses and have the businesses do A1C testing?

SF: We have an A1C test that we help distribute. It’s an instant test. It takes five – one finger sticker in five minutes, and you get the result. So we go into offices and we do A1C testing, and we do diabetes days in pharmacies, where we’ll do A1C testing and let people know. And I did a program for 150 pharmacists, oh, about a year ago. And when I got up there, I said to them, “You know, by the time tonight’s over, I’m going to find two people in this room with diabetes and I’m going to find ten people that have pre-diabetes that don’t know it. And what we did is we checked their blood sugars before they ate, and then I did my program, which was two hours, and we checked their blood sugars two hours afterwards, and then we checked their A1Cs. And lo and behold, we found that none of the pharmacists that were there had diabetes with an A1C, and they said, “Steve, I guess you were wrong. But we did find ten people with pre-diabetes.” And I said, “No, you’re not wrong. I said we were going to check everybody in this room.” There were about ten Hispanic waiters, so we checked the waiters. And we found two waiters that did not know they had diabetes. Because I can pick them out – they’re overweight, you know. So it’s a great test to see what your risk factors are. And 75% of the people out there and the people that are listening to this, 75% of them do not know what an A1C is. And it’s in their doctor’s records. They have to do it if you have pre-diabetes or if you have diabetes – it’s in the records. And you need to ask for, okay, because that is a life and death number. We know our driver’s license, we know our license plates and our Social Security Number, which have nothing to do with our health. But the A1C number, you know, you get the result, you post on the refrigerator door, and then maybe you won’t open the refrigerator as much.

MB: You mentioned Hispanics. Which ethnic groups are particularly prone to diabetes?

SF: Well, what we’ve discovered is Hispanics, Native Indians, Pacific Islanders, Mexican-Americans – all those people, you know, one in two will have diabetes. Any child born that’s any ethnic background – African-American, all those different backgrounds – anybody who has that, one in two will have diabetes. Not one in three, one in two. And that’s because we have a gene called the thrifty gene. And I’ve discovered that most people in those geographical regions where they lived on hot climates in the Mediterranean – we’re going back 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 years ago – where they lived in warm climates. They developed darker skin to protect themselves. Those people that had light skin died out and the genes didn’t pass on. So the people with darker skins were able to protect themselves from the ultraviolet rays, so they survived. But one of the other things that happened to them, they would go through periods of famine and feasting. You know, they’d kill an elephant and they’d have enough for a month, and then they wouldn’t have any food for maybe two weeks at a time or a week at a time. So we developed a gene called the thrifty gene. And what that is, is that when we have food, it turns it into fat. So when we’re eating all this food, it turns it into fat. And then when we go through periods of famine, that fat turns back into sugar, which gives us energy. So we developed that gene to protect ourselves so we could live and become part of the human race. What happened is that we don’t go through any periods of famine anymore. I can walk out my door, walk about two blocks, and walk into a grocery store. I can go into a 7-Eleven. I mean, how far are you away from food? So obviously our bodies are not meant for it, so obviously we get fatter. And because we get fatter, we become more insulin resistant. And then when we’re – insulin is a fat storage enzyme, so insulin takes our food and stores it as fat. So the fatter we get, the more insulin we have to have. So our bodies make more insulin. And the more insulin we have, the fatter we get. And that continues until something breaks. In order to stop that, you’ve got to break the cycle. How do you break the cycle? You don’t eat as many carbohydrates.

MB: Let me take a break here. This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, your source for cutting-edge thinking in being youthful at every age. Today’s expert guest is diabetes educator Steve Freed. His website is http://www.diabetesincontrol.com/. It’s packed with information for lay people and medical professionals, including information, educational materials, and the latest news and developments and controversies. And that’s the source for your newsletter. You also have a website, http://www.diabetes911.net/ . What is that for?

SF: I work with a number of physicians, very well-known physicians that basically have the same philosophy that I do. And when I find physicians that have the same philosophy, I kind of promote who they are, and if they’ve written any books. And the philosophy that I kind of lean towards is that there’s no reason why anyone should have an elevated blood sugar above normal. And if a doctor can agree with that, then we promote his works. And I work with Dr. Richard Bernstein, who is the father of blood glucose monitoring, the first person to ever use a blood glucose monitor in the United States. And he’s written a couple of bestselling books, The Diabetes Solution. He’s in New York, very unique story. Here is a guy that was an electrical engineer, had Type 1 diabetes and was out of control. This was before blood glucose monitors. And he found one in a magazine because he was an engineer in Germany from the Ames Company. And he wrote away, spent 750 bucks – this was back in the ‘60s, so this machine that – you wore it in a backpack – it was huge. It had two lead acid batteries. And he would check his blood sugars 10-15 times a day. He would measure his food, figure out how many carbs there were, how much insulin he would need, and all his complications went away. And he wrote a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine and the AMA and the ADA, and he said, “You have to let people know about this machine called the blood glucose monitor. It saved my life.” And they sent him back letters – and I have copies of these letters – they said that was “the most ridiculous thing that we’ve ever heard, that people would check their blood sugars two or three times a day and adjust their own medication. On top of that, we’re not going to print your letter because you’re an electrical engineer, and we don’t print letters from engineers, carpenters, and plumbers. We only print letters from doctors.” So in order to get his paper published, he went back to medical school at the age of 47 and become an endocrinologist, and has written two bestselling books. That’s why we promote his philosophy. Anybody who reads his book will drop their A1Cs a full point, and if they read it three times, they’ll drop their A1C two points.

MB: Wonderful. So that’s http://www.diabetes911.net/ ?

SF: Right. And we also developed a set of six hours of educational CDs with Dr. Bernstein and we’ve produced and put those out for Type 1s and for Type 2s. And you can listen to the information while you’re in your car. And we guarantee that if you don’t learn something new and improve your life, you’ve got 50 years to return them, no questions asked. I’ve never had anybody return them.

MB: Steve, let me back up a little bit. Could you give us a good metaphor for what diabetes is and how it works?

SF: Yeah, sure. First you have to distinguish – there’s really two kinds – actually three, but we’ll talk about two. There’s Type 1 diabetes, which is completely different than Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. We usually get that at an early age where our bodies – our T-cells in our bodies attack the cells in the pancreas that make insulin and destroy them. And before 1920, before the invention of insulin, people would just die of starvation, because all of the food that they ate could not be turned into energy. Therefore, they basically – their muscles deteriorated, their organs deteriorated, and they actually died of starvation. And along comes insulin, and those people now can have normal lives, if they have their blood sugars normalized. So that’s an autoimmune disease and that’s really genetic – we think it is. It’s partially genetic; it could be partially environmental. Type 2 diabetes – now, it used to be called adult onset because you had to be an adult to get it, but we changed the name about eight years ago to Type 2 diabetes, because kids are getting Type 2 diabetes because of obesity. Type 2 diabetes is really a lifestyle-driven disease. You know, we’ll have a cure for Type 1 diabetes in a very short period of time. There’s billions and billions of dollars going into it. I see all the research – we’re so close, really so close. We know exactly what we’re doing, we know what we’ve got to find, we know what we have to do, so it’s just a matter of time.

MB: With the Type 1, then, is that likely to be a genetic engineering or medication, or what do you think the cure will be?

SF: Well, the cure is going to be – we know what we have to do, and what that is, that the beta cells are dying off when you have Type 1 because the T-cells, the killer cells, are killing those beta cells. So if we find a way to turn off those specific T-cells that are killing the beta cells, we now believe that those cells will regenerate themselves if they’re not destroyed. So – and we also found that there’s precursor cells in the liver duct that we can turn into beta cells. So there’s a lot of exciting stuff going on. I mean, really exciting stuff, but that’s for Type 1s, and that’s great, but only 10% of the population has Type 1. 90% are the Type 2s. Now, we already have a cure for Type 2. Nobody knows it, and please don’t repeat this to anyone because we’re going to patent it, and it’s called duct tape.

MB: Okay.

SF: Okay, you put it over your mouth so you don’t eat. Okay, so Type 2 diabetes is really lifestyle-driven, which means that it has to do with your lifestyle, your physical activity, and your eating. That’s pretty much what you – and you have to have it in your genes. A lot of people have it in their genes. And when you overeat and you become fat around the waist, your risk for diabetes keeps going up and up until eventually your body just can’t handle all the carbs that you’re eating and eventually you become diabetic. So we know if you have pre-diabetes or you have diabetes in your family, we can prevent you from ever getting it, by 99%.

MB: I was just reading in Life Extension Magazine that if we come up with a pill that raises everybody’s metabolism so they can eat more without getting as heavy, that actually would be kind of a disserve because we would have these high levels of fat and be converting more and more sugar, and would just aggravate diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

SF: Yeah, there’s no question about that. And let’s be realistic. Any pill that does that is going to have some tremendous side effects. You know, right now we know the best therapy for diabetes is nutrition and physical activity. And insulin – that’s the number one best therapy, because it’s a natural hormone. Our bodies make it, so it’s not something that is foreign to our bodies. But every drug that we – almost every drug that we have in the marketplace are foreign bodies. You know, they’re carbon molecules that our bodies were not meant for. There’s side effects and contraindications and all kinds of problems with every medication because, you know, our bodies don’t produce it. It’s not natural to our bodies. So you know, people have to understand, with Type 2 diabetes, you just can’t go to the doctor and get a prescription and expect that’s going to take care of it, because it won’t. It’s a progressive disease, no matter what you do, as we get older, our bodies slow down and your diabetes will always get worse if you don’t stay on top of it.

MB: So when somebody has a certain level of diabetes, even if they take ideal care of themselves, is there any hope of reversing some of the damage?

SF: Absolutely. If you can get your blood sugars normalized, you can reduce the neuropathy, your eyes improve. If you have protein in your kidneys, which is a sign of kidney failure, that’ll go away. It improves your memory, it improves your skin, it improves your sex life. Yeah, if you control your blood sugars in the normal ranges, what we’re discovering is that the beta cells that make the insulin cannot live in an environment of high glucose. We call that glucose toxicity. And they can’t survive, and they die. When we change the environment in your body to normal levels of glucose, they can come back and regenerate, is what we’re discovering. So you can actually reverse diabetes. You’ll always be at risk for it, but you can actually reverse it, provided, you know – as I tell people, you know, if you lose your eyesight and go blind and they come out with a cure a week later, what good is it to you? You know, so yes, absolutely, by controlling your blood sugars and being educated – because you’re the one that has to do it, not the doctor – you can actually reverse most of the complications from diabetes.

MB: I know it sounds a little silly, but you know, the sticking yourself with a needle several times a day is one of the things that really makes people reluctant to monitor diabetes. Are there tests that people can do on a daily basis other than finger pricks?

SF: You know, there has been billions of dollars spent trying to find a noninvasive way to check your blood sugars, okay? And if you realize that the first blood glucose monitor, the one that Dr. Bernstein was using, used 50 microliters of blood, 50 microliters of blood to check your blood sugars. Today we use 0.3 microliters – 50 microliters to 0.3. There’s no pain, if you know how to do it. You can do it on your arm, you can do it on your palm. There’s absolutely very little, if any, kind of pain. The old monitors that used 50 microliters of blood, you needed a box cutter to get the amount of blood that you needed, instead of a little prick. But here’s a device that can actually tell you if you’ve eaten too much, if you’ve eaten the wrong foods. There’s no way to control your blood sugars on a daily basis without testing. And they’ve had devices, infrared devices that you stick your arm in and they tell you what your blood sugars are. They had a device once called Sugar Track where a thing on your ear, and it shines a light through the skin and it can see the color of the blood. You know, none of these things have come out pretty much. We do now – we have continuous blood glucose monitors. Those are very unique for people that are very proactive, that need to know. They have a monitor that checks your blood sugar just about every three minutes and it’s wireless. You know, so technology changes about every three to six months when it comes to this. So there’s really no pain involved if you know what you’re doing. But you know, monitoring your blood sugars without knowing what to do when you see a reading, what good is it? You know, the average person checks their blood sugars in this country 0.6 times a day. That’s less than once a day, you know – what do you expect to learn from monitoring less than once a day? You’re not going to learn anything. Why even bother? You know, you need to know when you need to check and that’s where the education comes in again. You know, when do I check and what do I do with that information? How can I get my blood sugars down? It all comes from the education, not from your doctor.

MB: For a person who doesn’t appear to have diabetes but wants to make sure they don’t get it, what kind of education do they need? What would you recommend they do, besides the A1C test, to make sure they don’t get it?

SF: Well, I would suggest that they get a book on diabetes, a good book like the one Dr. Bernstein writes, on our website, that tells them about how to control your diabetes. If you read the book and you understand it, you can prevent from ever getting it, because you’re going to live like a diabetic. You’re going to be healthier. Isn’t that the goal as we get older? I have my first grandchild – she’s two years old today. Today I took her to ballet school. I had a ball! That’s what life is all about. And if you have diabetes, that life is not going to be available to you. One of the things I do with my patients, I give them a blindfold, a sleeping blindfold, the kind they give you on the airlines. And I say, “I want to wear this tonight when you go to sleep, and when you get up, I want you to keep it on. Do not take it off. I want you to keep it on for 20 minutes. And I want you to shave, I want you to shower, I want you to cook, I want you to go the bathroom, even if you wet the floor. I want you to wear this thing, okay, and then I want you to take it off and I want you to call me.” And the reason I do that is not to scare people. I want them to realize what they have to lose and what they have to gain by changing their nutrition. When you woke up this morning, did you look out the window and say, “Oh my God, I can see! Look at the sun, the snow, the sky. This is fantastic. I’m going to have a great day!” Or did you get up and put your shirt and pants on and go to work? So we don’t appreciate what we have until we don’t have it. I want people to have that image in their mind so that when they go to the refrigerator or they go out – okay, I want them to tell me that that piece of pie is worth losing that eyesight. Name me one food that you’re willing to give up your eyesight for. Can you do that for me?

MB: No, not even carrot cake.

SF: Right, but that’s what they’re doing! I just want people to realize what they have to gain and what they have to lose, the quality of life as we get older. You know, there’s people walking around in nursing homes, most of them walk around in walkers. Why do they walk around in walkers? Not because they have arthritis. They walk in walkers because they lost their muscle mass and they don’t have the energy. Well, you know, physical activity can prevent that. You don’t have to be in a walker or a wheelchair. These people that get the battery-operated carts they advertise on TV – okay, for sure they’re going to deteriorate, if they won’t even get out of the go-carts to go around the house – they won’t even walk. And Medicare pays for it. You know, we don’t pay for prevention. We would rather treat diseases, give people new hearts and kidneys and limbs. You know, that’s the way our medicine is practiced. We don’t pay for prevention. And eventually we’ll have to because right now diabetes accounts for 33% of the Medicare budget. That’s with about 7% of the population. What happens when that’s 40% of the population? What percent of the Medicare budget will be diabetes? Well, there won’t be any Medicare budget because there’s no way they can pay for all those kidney dialysis machines. If you want to invest in a company, find you a company that makes these home dialysis machines, because dialysis right now is the number one payout for Medicare and it’s going to explode.

MB: With your pharmacy background, are there medications that are contributing to diabetes?

SF: No, there’s not medications – well, I shouldn’t say that, you know. We have a pill-fixing culture. You know, if there’s something wrong, there’s a pill for it and we go to the doctor. When it comes to the quality of life issues and diabetes, you know, that’s really not the issue. The issue is education and understanding your nutrition and physical activity. There are certain medications out there that are very beneficial for people with diabetes. You know, we’ve come a long way, from 1950 to ’95, 50 years, we only had oral drug for diabetes. It was called the sulfonylurea. The first one was called Orinase. Now it’s called Glucotrol or Micronase or Amaryl. And what that drug does is it forces your pancreas to produce more insulin. And that was the drug we had for 50 years. Well, what do you think happens to your pancreas when you keep forcing it to make more and more and more and more?

MB: Goes on strike?

SF: Yeah, it burns out. And you become a Type 1. All Type 2s eventually, if they live long enough and they’re not in control, all Type 2s will turn into Type 1, because they will lose the cells that make the insulin. And it’s 100% preventable. So yes, there’s good medications out there. And the combination with good medications, knowing which medications are the best for you – and I educate my patients, they know about all the medications. They go to the doctor and they tell the doctor what medicine to prescribe. They don’t wait for the doctor to tell them, because the doctors see them for ten, fifteen minutes. These people know which ones, according to their lifestyle, work best. And they tell the doctor pretty much what drug they should be on.

MB: Steve, I’m also fascinated with the documentary you’re doing, “Conquering Sugar Mountain.”

SF: Yeah, I’m working with a director and a filmmaker up in Canada. And basically he’s done all the filming. He’s looking for some support, financial support, and it’s going to be called “Conquering Sugar Mountain.” It should be out some time this spring. And basically, it’s a full-length two-hour feature document – a regular film with a story, but he built in educational components into it. He talks about A1C, he talks about Dr. Bernstein, my partner is on the film talking about diabetes. So he’s put educational components in it, and he hopes basically that it’ll be on public broadcasting TV on a series or something like that. And we helped him – put him in touch with Dr. Bernstein, and we gave him some ideas on getting more information out there, rather than just making it a film. It’s about ten kids with Type 1 diabetes that can climb Mount Kilimanjaro. And they filmed the whole sequence. And it’s a great film. You know, I’ve seen some of the cuts. There’s a lot of good information in it. And like I said, people can watch for it. It should be out some time this spring. It’s called “Conquering Sugar Mountain.”

MB: Sounds great. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us?

SF: Well, certainly people should be aware. One of the things, when I talk about physical activity, we developed this program called “Know Your Healthy Steps.” It’s been used with 150-300,000 people in four languages, it’s so successful. And what we did is we came up with this idea that because physical activity – you know, every time you move a muscle, you basically burn sugar and you burn excess sugar if you have diabetes. So we really need to come up with a treatment that builds in physical activity. So we came up with this idea of how to teach people how to use a pedometer. A pedometer is a little device – you can buy them in any store – they cost 10, 15, maybe 20 bucks – and it monitors your physical activity because it tells you how many steps you get every day. And we’ve discovered that people monitor their blood pressure, they monitor their cholesterol, but how do we monitor our physical activity so we can document it and see? So I can correlate your steps directly to your blood sugars. So when someone sits down with me, they talk about, “Let’s get a baseline. Let’s find out what your average daily total is.” And then from that, we increase it gradually. And my patients are responsible for reporting back to me their daily steps every single week. And I can directly see that their blood sugars go down the more steps they take, and it goes up the less steps they take. So it’s a way to monitor to see exactly what we’re doing. So I teach people, during a football game, a three-hour football game – we know a football game takes one hour, four quarters, 15 minutes. What if you just got up during those other two hours, walked around in circles in front of the TV, not miss anything except the commercials on how to lose weight. You can walk five miles during a football game rather than sitting on the sofa, eating potato chips. So that’s what we teach people, you know. And when you go to the store, park your car in the back of the lot. That may be 100 steps. Well, both ways it’s 200 steps. Well, if you did that five days a week for ten years, that’s probably over 15,000 miles. Do you think you’re going to burn any calories if you walk 15,000 miles? Well, of course you will. Does it have to be in one day? No. 20 here, 30 here, 10 here, 5 here. You know, take your pajamas and bring them to your neighbor’s house so you’ve got to walk over to your neighbor’s house to get your pajamas – whatever it takes. It’s a way to monitor – it’s been very successful. Have you ever owned a pedometer?

MB: No.

SF: Send me your email address, I’ll send you one. I like to give pedometers away because I will personally add ten years of quality of life on to your life if you read the manual which I send with it, along with the pedometer. And it’s nice to be able to improve somebody’s quality of life for ten years, rather than give them a business card.

MB: Wonderful. When you were talking about physical activity, if we do have a weak moment and have that big pasta dinner, should we get physical right afterwards? Would that help?

SF: Well, it doesn’t really make any difference when you get physical. The point is you need to do something on a daily basis. You know, the Surgeon General says you need to be active 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and that’s baloney. You know what I tell people? If you eat on any particular day, you need to be physically active and get your steps. If you don’t eat, if you starve yourself for the whole day, you can sit on your butt and not do a darned thing. But if you’re going to eat, you’ve got to be physically active. So that’s seven days a week you need to be active – not five, not six, but seven days. It doesn’t mean you have to walk 50 miles. It could mean that you’ll only go out and walk for two miles, maybe ten minutes here, five minutes there, 30 minutes there. That’s why the pedometer is so effective, because people will wear it, they’ll look at it, and they’ll see, “I need to get a few more steps.” So when you go to your dentist and he’s on the 10th floor, take the elevator to the fifth and walk five floors, okay? If you’re on a bus, get off two stops early and walk. There’s ways that we can find things that we don’t have to change our lives to increase our physical activity. Instead of sending somebody an email that’s in the office next to you, you know, print the darned thing and walk over – you’ll surprise the heck out of them. You know, “Why didn’t you email it to me?” “Well, I need to get my steps in.” You know, little things like that. Yes, you can overcome. If you’re going to cheat, if you’re going to eat that piece of chocolate cake that you know you shouldn’t, go ahead for it, eat it, but know that that piece of chocolate cake is going to cause you to have to walk four miles. Now did that piece of chocolate cake taste that good that you’re willing to walk four miles? If it does, go for it. If it doesn’t, don’t eat it.

MB: So it’s like putting a price tag on each of the foods we eat.

SF: Yeah, think about the foods – the bad foods that you want to eat, and say to yourself, “You want to have those french fries? Go for it, but you’re going to have to walk an extra 15 minutes.” Okay, I’m willing to do that, so I eat it – because if not, it’s going to be turned into fat around your waist, which increases your risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

MB: Steve, you’re a wealth of information. Let me wrap things up here. This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey, with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, your source for cutting-edge thinking on being youthful at every age. We’ve been talking with diabetes educator Steve Freed. His website is http://www.diabetesincontrol.com/  where you can get the free newsletter. And he also has http://www.diabetes911.net/ which has lots of information about books and resources. And what’s the website for the test?

SF: And if they’re interested in doing their own A1C test at home, they can do it with a very unique monitor and it’s very inexpensive. It’s about $12 or $13 per test. And that is http://www.a1ctest.com/ . And it gives you all the information on how to do your own A1C test at home. So if you have diabetes or your family members are susceptible to it, you know, have everybody in your family do an A1C test. Find out what it is. Make it a contest. Give out a prize to whoever has the highest number. Make it fun.

MB: And the test kit’s only about $10 or something?

SF: Well, it comes in ten tests – you have to get a ten test. And you can do it about every month, because 50% of the result comes from the last 30 days, even though it’s a 90-day average. And the way that works is the blood attaches to the – the glucose attaches to the red blood cell. The red blood cell lives for about 90 days, so we measure the amount of glucose attached to the red blood cell. So that’s how we do that. And a 6% is equal to about 135 mg per deciliter on your blood glucose monitor, and it goes up and down about 35 points per the single digit of the A1C, so you can compare it to your blood glucose monitor. And again, that’s at A1Ctest.com.

MB: Okay. And information on Anti-Aging Psychology and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at http://www.drbrickey.com/  or you can just go to http://www.notaging.com/  and it’ll take you there. I’d love to get your feedback and comments. You can send them to radio@drbrickey.com.

 

 

Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael BrickeyDr Richard G. Petty

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Host: Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey

Expert Guest: Integrative Health Physician Dr. Richard G. Petty

Broadcast: 2-3-08 on webtalkradio.net where the latest shows are broadcast and posted as podcasts

Are you sometimes baffled by so many schools of thought and contradictory advice about health? Today’s guest expert, Dr. Richard G Petty, has traveled the world meeting with top researchers and gurus to sort out what works and develop an integrated approach to health. Dr. Petty received his medical training in England and since then has obtained three Ph.D.s  He put his knowledge and wisdom together in his book, Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He also is a popular speaker who has lectured in 44 countries. In the first part of today’s show, we’ll look at how Dr. Petty views health and dealing with health challenges. In the second part we’ll look at what he has found to be the most exciting cutting edge developments in health. His website is http//www.RichardGPettyMD.com

TRANSCRIPT ©Michael Brickey–excerpts permitted with attribution

MB: This is Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, cutting-edge thinking for being youthful at every age. On each program I interview experts on what it takes to live longer, healthier, and happier. Our program takes a holistic approach in addressing anti-aging psychology, medicine, alternative medicine, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Our emphasis is on innovative thinking and practices that have solid data and results. Are you sometimes baffled by so many schools of thought with contradictory advice about health? Today’s guest expert, Dr. Richard G. Petty, has traveled the world meeting with top researchers and gurus to sort out what works and to develop an integrated approach to health. Dr. Petty received his medical training in England, and since then has obtained three PhDs. He put his knowledge and wisdom together in his book, Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He also is a popular speaker who has lectured in 44 countries. In the first part of today’s show, we’ll look at how Dr. Petty views health and dealing with health challenges. In the second part, we’ll look at what he has found to be the most exciting cutting-edge developments in health. Dr. Petty, is the title of your book, Healing, Meaning, and Purpose, meant to suggest that integrative health starts with purpose?

RP: Absolutely. And you’ve actually just hit the nail on the head. We spent a long time trying to come up with a title, and somebody had just said to me, “Set down, what is the most important thing?” And I said, number one, have a purpose in life. Find your purpose, because everyone has one. Number two is find meaning in your experiences. And number three, from that, health, healing – it all just flows down from there. And so it really is essential. And I’d like to just pick up on something you said there about some integrative approaches. One of the things that we’ve done – and you’re right, I’ve been a globetrotter over the years – is to create integrated medicine, which is very slightly different, and it’s a slightly different idea, but I wonder if I could just share a little bit of that, because I think it’s going to kind of give a context for the rest of what we talk about. So may I say a little bit about that first, perhaps?

MB: Certainly. Go ahead.

RP: Okay. The reason we came up with this term, and I had the privilege of spending several years – eight years, actually – working with Prince Charles on setting up a new system of healthcare, which we call integrated, the idea being not just to cobble together a few different modalities, but the fundamental idea is that health and wellness and, for that matter, longevity, is really a function of integrating all the different parts of you, yourself, your mind, your spirit, your body, your relationships – all of it. And we know full well that if any one of those things is not functioning properly, then you start feeling lousy. And the way that I always look at this is that, for me, symptoms are signals. So if you’re in a dysfunctional relationship, if you have a physical problem, for me those are signals that something somewhere is going wrong and the integration hasn’t worked. So that’s the idea. And whenever we look at people, one of the cardinal ideas is that we look at them from five dimensions: physical, psychological, social, subtle – so for the subtle systems of the body, and spiritual. And not everybody likes all five, and that’s fine. But I approach everything about health and wellness from those five perspectives, and it really does seem to work very well.

MB: If I asked a dozen different gurus, “How do you find your sense of purpose?” I’d probably get a dozen different answers. How do you put that together and integrate it?

RP: Okay, yes, you’re absolutely right. You do always find a ton of different answers to just about everything. And what you also said at the beginning I liked very much – the whole field of health and wellness is so confused and confusing for everybody. So for me, purpose is, number one, it’s very much a personal thing. It’s a matter of what your core constructs are, what really matters to you. And I always, always recommend to anybody, if they’re going to do anything in life, just sit down and find out what really matters to you. And as far as you possibly can, live your life with those, instead of just trying to do what other folks say. The other day I was talking to somebody and he is a very creative individual and he wanted some advice on how to get more organized and time management and all this. And I said, “Steve, wait a minute, wait a minute. You are very creative. Your purpose is actually to generate ideas and you do this fantastically and people pay you a king’s ransom for doing that sort of thing. Why are you trying to teach your cat to quack?” And he said, “What?” And I said, “You’re teaching your cat to quack. Your purpose in life is to be creative and you bring that to everything you do. And so say that you now want to go in a different direction and organize yourself differently doesn’t make much sense.” So I think it’s very individual, it’s very personal, but everybody does have and can find a purpose in life. And some folk even say, you know, you have more than one. You have a higher purpose, you have a spiritual purpose. But I spend a lot of time always getting people to sit down and really look at what are the things that are your hot-button issues, what are the things that matter to you? And if you’re not doing those things, chances are things will not go well for you. I was recently advising somebody who’s a doctor, and he said, “I never really wanted to be a doctor.” And I said, “Why not? Why are you doing it?” He said, “Well, my parents pushed me into it. They’re both doctors. They went to medical school.” And I said, “Well, what do you really want to do?” He said, “I want to play the trombone.” And in fact – I said, “Well, don’t you go and do that?” And in fact, what eventually happened, he put his financial affairs in order and, you know, plays music professionally. He’s found his purpose. And I think it’s always such a mistake, isn’t it, because you and I both know, and everybody listening, there’s so many people who’ve lived their lives through somebody else’s lens – they’ve actually done what other people have said. And it’s very hard to do that and find satisfaction. And eventually what happens, the wheels come off and you start getting sick and something happens. So this is why I think it’s very personal and yes, you’ll get 100 different answers for what is your purpose. It’s individual. Find it for yourself. Don’t rely on anybody else to tell you.

MB: So sometimes the most brilliant things in life are just figuring out how to get it really simple. And for someone who’s trying to find their purpose, it’s just asking themselves, “What really matters to me?” And that makes a purpose very similar to meaning.

RP: Absolutely. And I really do believe that purpose and meaning are very closely interlinked. And if you just sit down briefly and look at the interrelationship of those and what really matters in your life, you will find very quickly that not only will you find your purpose, but everything you do starts to be imbued with more meaning. So I always say to try not to wait until your body, your relationship, something trips you up, telling you it’s time to look for the answers. Because most people go through sort of phases of life when the big questions come up, the “Who am I? What’s the meaning of life? What should I be doing with my life?” We normally get those at crisis time. What I suggest is look right now, today. Start looking at those things and you will find very, very quickly, just asking very simple questions, that you can come up with the answer for yourself very rapidly. So this does not need to be something which takes you half a lifetime. You can find it quickly. And I do a ton of very, very practical things to just find out where people are at, what their center of gravity is, and from that we can work out a purpose, and from that flows meaning.

MB: So, rather analogous to physical health – be proactive when you’re healthy rather than waiting for the symptoms to give you a wake-up call that you have to do something at a time when you’re feeling pretty unresourceful to begin with?

RP Oh, totally. And how many of us, though, don’t start digging our well until we’re thirsty? And it’s such a terrible mistake. You know, there’s a statistic that I think is really very sobering. It was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine a couple of years back, that only 3% of Americans are following the minimum healthy lifestyle, 3%. 97% are not. And that doesn’t even take into consideration things like having meaning, having purpose, looking after your mental health. It’s just the physical stuff – 3% are doing the minimum. Shocking, isn’t it?

MB: So if we’re not even looking at purpose, what is it that the 3% are doing right?

RP: Well, when they look at statistics like that, the 3%, it just means that they’re eating, exercising, and sleeping. And that pretty much is it. And we all know that a healthy life does not need to be complicated. One of the biggest issues that I run into all the time – and it took me, as you said, a lot of qualifications, a lot of experience to get this – that the answers are actually terribly, terribly simple. And you can do things quickly and it doesn’t need to be something that you have to change everything about life. You can do things quickly and easily, and that must be one of the take-home messages: Quick and easy is the answer.

MB: You write about how, if you have your purpose and meaning aligned, you’re going to have far more energy. And again, if I asked our twelve gurus what energy is and what it means, I’d get twelve different answers. How do you translate or integrate all these theories?

RP: Well, I agree with that wholeheartedly, that you will always get a ton of different answers. And interestingly, we’ve just put together a new program on how to boost your energy. And although you can look it in many different ways, they actually – all roads lead to Rome – they all come down to the same kind of thing. There’s obviously physical energy and that’s metabolism, blood flow, and all of those good things. There’s also the relationship with oxygenation and breathing. Then, of course, there is psychological energy – how much you want to apply. And again, if you find your purpose, that’s where you passion comes from, that’s where your energy comes from. And we know successful people are the people invariably who don’t do a lot of extra work, but when they’re working, they focus all of their energy, all of their attention on one problem at a time, get rid of it, on to the next one. So there certainly is a psychological component of energy. I, in recent years, have also become very persuaded that there is another form of energy, these subtle systems of the body, what in China they call Chi and very similar idea in India of Prana. In the West, the Greeks used to call this *12:32 – rather the Romans and the Greeks called it the same thing, Pneuma. And this idea that there is another form of energy in the body, I think there’s more and more evidence for what we now call – I mean, the technical term is the biofield, but there really does seem to be something else. We can manipulate it with acupuncture. We can certainly build it with certain exercises that seem to do something more than just physical jerks, physical exercise breathing – it’s something else. It took me a long time to be persuaded of the existence of these subtle systems; now I’m quite sure that they’re there. And there’s actually some fairly decent evidence beginning to emerge that they’re there. And if those subtle systems aren’t working properly – again, lack of energy, you just get drained extremely quickly. So for me, it’s several separate pieces. But what’s so intriguing, and why I say all roads lead to Rome ultimately, is that if you work on developing, say, we’ll just use the example of doing some physical exercise, breathing exercise, and sleeping better, the Chinese would say, “Well, actually you are building your Chi.” And so in addition to doing the physical stuff and stuff that is easily measurable, you are also doing something else, which is extremely interesting. And I also think that one of the key things about energy is that there are so many very loose ways that people have talked about it. Years ago, we started having a working party in the UK on the whole idea of energy, energy healing, energy medicine, and so on. And one of the people who attended that – it was a small closed meeting – was Brian Josephson, the Nobel laureate, and a good friend and a nice guy. And he remonstrated with everybody and said, “For heaven’s sake, don’t use this term ‘energy’ so loosely.” He said, “These are systems.” And he said, “They’re fields, and you can’t just have energy, you have to have a field as well.” And that’s why we call them subtle systems, so we get over this kind of rather loose talk about energy this and energy that.

MB: So what I infer from what you said, is part of it is just do the things that you know you should do – exercise and breathing and stress reduction – and don’t worry so much about the school. But when it comes to these subtle forms of energy and the systems, are there things that we need to know about that, or should we be studying, since most of us don’t have much of an understanding of it?

RP: Yes. Number one is yes, the common sense things that we all know and love will build all of that. But there’s a whole system of very simple exercises, primarily based in Qi Gong, which is a Chinese system that anybody can learn very easily and guaranteed to boost energy, and very simple stuff that you can do. There are even some points on the body which you can just do a very simple little bit of 30-second massaging of in morning, evening, whenever you need it. And just by doing that and doing a little bit of breathing, it’s remarkable. I can show anybody how quickly you can boost energy. Just the other day I had – let’s think of one of the most skeptical types of people that you could ever have – I had a representative from a pharmaceutical company, drug rep, sales person – very, very nice, but hard-nosed business person and scientist. She told me that she was pretty tired and I said, “Okay, I’ve just done this program, I’ve just dictated all of this. So take your shoes and socks off for a moment and this is what we’re going to do.” I showed her a couple of points – and again, I can share these exactly with the listeners. And she said, “That’s amazing! How did you do that?” And I said, “You did it. You just stimulated these couple of points, did a couple of breaths.” And she said, “I feel like I just woke up and I’m full of energy again.” Very quick, easy things, but things that are very difficult to explain just on a biomechanical model of the body.

MB: Is that something that you could talk us through now how to do? Or…?

RP: Oh, absolutely I could. And we could do this as a little practice for anybody that’s in a good spot right now where they can do this.

MB: In other words, you don’t want somebody to do it while they’re driving.

RP: I’d prefer not, because if you do it while you’re driving, it would not be a good idea, and number two, it would be a little bit difficult because I’m going to make you touch your foot, and I’d really rather you didn’t do that right now because I like people and I don’t want anybody to harm themselves. Very simple, I can show you this, and something that I can do for you, as well, Mike, if it would be helpful, because I’ve just created a little schematic of this. I don’t know if it’s possible for you to do this, but you might actually want to put it up on your website so people could actually have a little look at that after the show, if that would be convenient.

MB: I’d be happy to, yes.

RP: I’ll offer that to you and to your listeners. But it’s very, very simple. One caveat, apart from don’t do it while driving, is *17:57. Just above your ankle bone, the ankle that’s on the inside, if you go about three inches above your ankle, just a little spot there, right in the middle. And it’s very forgiving – it doesn’t matter if you don’t find exactly the right place. And if you just put some gentle massage on there, just gentle pressure for about 30 seconds, that’s number one – you do that for 30 seconds. Then second – and it doesn’t matter if you do it on the left or the right, it’s quite all right – second is right in the very, very middle of the sole of your foot. You just give that a little bit of a massage. And again, it doesn’t need to be exactly the right place. You’ll find it. And again, you do that for about 30 seconds. Then plant your feet on the floor, sit up, back straight, and all I’d like you to do with your feet flat on the floor, is do 30 seconds of abdominal breathing – deep, slow – done, one and a half to two minutes. Try it. I’d like anybody, if they’re in a good spot to do it, just try it. You’ll be amazed and astonished, because just about everybody says, “Wow! How come that happened?” And it’s that simple. That point above your inner ankle, middle of the foot, and breathe – very simple technique. And if anybody can explain to me on using normal, physiological, biochemical models how that works, please tell me. Because one of my doctorates is in biochemistry and I cannot explain this – and I’m also a neurologist – I cannot explain it, but it works every time. So it’s very remarkable. So this is a little free gift for you. And as I say, if it would be helpful to you, Mike, I’ll email you a copy of the little picture that I made.

MB: Great, thank you.

RP: That’ll be a little gift for your listeners and for you, of course.

MB: And thank you for taking us through the exercise. If we wanted to learn more about these systems and other exercises like this, what would be the best source?

RP: In fact, what I’ve done is that my own website, which is RichardGPettyMD.com – and I should’ve called it something terribly creative like DancingDragons or something, but I’m not very creative so I just used my name – RichardGPettyMD.com. I have, as a real labor of love, created lists of all kinds of places – it’s one of the most comprehensive lists of where you can find out more about Qigong, homeopathy, flower essences – I’ve listed pretty much every integrated medicine program in the States that I know of, and many in Europe, as well as providing access to about 200 medical journals. So it’s all there, and I just did it because I thought people would find it helpful. So my website’s a pretty good place to start, simply because I took the time to check out every single one of my listings. When you and I first started talking, I had a look at your material because you don’t get on my list unless I’ve checked you, and you are going to be on my list – in fact, you’re going to be very high on my list at the end of today – because I always check everything myself. And then I go back and recheck periodically, just to make sure that people haven’t sort of gone wild and wooly. So it’s a good place to start. And it’s lists and has links to most of the major organizations that I’ve been able to check out, so you can find more information. I also have lists of books – I’ve put a load of lists of books and book reviews up on Amazon and then I linked to those through my website, as well. So if you’re interested in boosting your energy and that kind of thing, I provide *21:45 potted summaries of the books, so it gives you a good place to start.

MB: So it’s probably the most carefully thought-out list that’s out there anywhere.

RP: I hope so. As I say, I just did it because so many people kept saying the same thing – where should somebody go to get reliable information? Because I was seeing person after person after person who had oftentimes spent vast sums of money on all kinds of tests and investigations and treatments, some of which made absolutely no sense at all. And I’ve always been somebody who’s looked very, very hard at data. I’ve always been data-driven. One of the things that you may not yet know is that I had the privilege, for many years, of serving on the Research Council for Complementary Medicine in the UK and then actually chaired the whole organization – that’s how I ended up working with Prince Charles. The whole idea was to just find out what’s real and what isn’t, because there’s so much confusion. And once I discovered that there just was – there’s nothing out there. People were being misled all over the place, because most people, with the greatest respect, have never been taught how to read a research paper – I mean, why should they? And so people were just getting into such a mess. And I said, “Okay, I can read research papers. It’s what I do for a living. I’ve trained thousands of healthcare providers around the world on how to do this.” So I said, “Well, okay.” So I rolled up my sleeves and started doing this. And it took a while, but people obviously find it it’s a pretty useful site. I think as far as I’m aware, it is one of the most comprehensive, carefully scrutinized lists available. And I also try to update with new stuff, because, you know, what you said in your introduction is absolutely right. There’s not just confusion about medical things, but even in fact psychology. I talk a lot about the way that we are now in the fourth wave of personal development. You know, we went through all these different phases of what I’d call psychobabble and these different ideas, and now finally the whole personal development area is being data-driven. So your material is all about, “Well, what can you actually do? Show me the stuff.” And that’s so important, isn’t it?

MB: Yes. Let me take a break here.

RP: Sure.

MB: This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, one of those places for you to go to get the kind of information that Dr. Petty’s talking about. Today’s expert guest is integrative health physician, Dr. Richard G. Petty. His website is www.RichardGPettyMD.com. And his book that puts it all together is Healing, Meaning and Purpose. Information on Anti-Aging Psychology and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at www.DrBricky.com, or you can just go to NotAging.com and it’ll take you to www.DrBrickey.com. Dr. Petty, one of the things you have a lot of expertise on is resilience. Can you tell us what you mean by that?

RP: Oh, yes. This is something that is very, very close to my own heart. Resilience is the ability to bounce back, and it is one of the things that we have had the most trouble with, because various things have been happening in society and we as a people have been getting worse and worse and worse, to be honest, at being resilient, being able to bounce back. I think it was General Patton once said that, “I’m not interested in how far somebody falls; I’m interested in how far they bounce after they’ve fallen.” And that really does summarize what resilience is all about, why we’re so interested in it, because there are some very novel ways in which you can build your own resilience and feel much better very quickly. And it’s – I look at everything in the world, if I wished for one thing for everybody, it would be let me teach you how to build resilience. The trouble that has happened in recent years is that because everything has been so very easy – you know, if in doubt, you can just take a pill. That’s the solution to everything, and it’s created real difficulties. People do not any longer have the kind of endurance that our ancestors had. And it’s not a matter of being tough; it’s just a matter of knowing how you can put yourself back together again. There’s some very, very good data recently that even things like how do people handle rejection? People that are very good at handling rejection – and heavens, we’ve all been rejected at some time in our life – are the ones who are resilient. And it’s very important in terms not just of your physical health, but also in terms of your longevity. There is evidence now growing that one of the things that determines how long we live for is our ability to deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, to be able to bounce back when things hit us – which they inevitably will. It’s part of life’s rich tapestry, isn’t it?

MB: Now, I know you’ve been at the University of Pennsylvania and worked with Dr. Martin Seligman, who is the guru of learned optimism and authentic happiness. How do those relate to resilience?

RP: Oh, very much so. And in fact, the folk there – that was one of the reasons that when Marty started that work, it was driven not just be the ideas of “Let’s all be happy and sing Kumbaya.” It was very much a matter of why is it that some kids and some adults have such problems, and is there something that we can do to build that? And the answer is, absolutely, you can. And when Marty started doing that work, and why it was so desperately important, was that nobody had really been looking at the positive side of life, had they? And it was – at the time, it was just so-

MB: Just like the medical model.

RP: Well, yes. And it’s remarkable that over all of those years, that people really hadn’t looked at it. And so you’re right, it was just all about, “Let’s look at sickness.” And so resilience, to me, is the process of being able to adapt and thrive in the face of any kind of adversity or stress, trauma, tragedy, threat, because when we think about it, our lives never go according to plan. The most important things in our lives are the things that come out of left field unexpected, and they happen all the time. And if you can’t handle those, you’re going to have a real big problem. Now resilience, as I said, the ability to bounce back and being able to adapt and thrive – that doesn’t mean that we all have to just sort of become unemotional creatures like Mr. Spock in Star Trek. It means that you just begin to take control of your life. And I have a few very simple steps that I recommend, and anybody can do these literally in a few minutes a day. And it’s not something that you need to uproot your life, change everything. And there’s some very simple things in terms of – I wonder if we could perhaps talk about one or two-

MB: I was going to ask if you didn’t offer.

RP: Well, number one that I always start with is – and all the evidence on this is self regulation, the ability to be able to monitor your internal states, your moods, your emotions, your reactions, and to be able to watch them and modulate. A very simple way to start with that is I recommend a 60-second exercise. In fact, you can do it in less than 60 seconds. Every morning of just spending 60 seconds before you start your day, just observing your thoughts and emotions. It’s a very, very old Zen technique and it’s very simple. You don’t need to do it for hours. It’s not – if you want to reach Nirvana I guess you would have to. But all I’d like you to do is just spend a minute watching your emotions. The reason why this seems to work so well and has actually now become the basis of an entire new school of therapies, as you know, is that if you get into the habit of basically developing witnessed consciousness, being able to watch yourself, it’s remarkable how quickly you can actually start noticing that you’re not your emotions and you are not your thoughts. And instead of being buffeted by everything that comes through, you are able to quickly take control of the situation. You can de-stress this way. You can watch it happen, and you just begin to detach from the idea that “I am my emotions.” And so I really very strongly recommend to everybody – just try the 60-second thing of watching. You’ll find it’s amazing. Chances are you’ll get hooked and want to do it for more than a minute afterwards. So that’s number one. Number two is to – the key to resilience is coherence, and that’s how we come full circle back to my purpose and meaning. If your world doesn’t feel like it’s manageable and meaningful and comprehensible, it’s extremely difficult to cope. And there’s a ton of very good data on this, that if you feel that your life is unmanageable, things don’t make sense to you, it’s extremely difficult to bounce back. And that was why we started with the purpose and the meaning piece. So coherence, that everything has some sense to it, that you’re not stuck in some dreadful Kafka novel, that you actually are a participant. Because one of the things that is interesting – and I noticed on your website that you’d picked up on this very important data about health, longevity, wellness, that a key to it is to actually be participating, that you not isolate, and that you actually feel empowered and that you can make a difference in your world. Absolutely key – it’s not just about healthcare; it’s empowerment and feeling that you are involved. So this is absolutely a key piece to this. And I don’t know if you saw some very fascinating new data from UCLA about when people are lonely and isolated, the inflammatory mediators surge in the blood, and people that feel better – and in fact, when people start making social connections, the inflammation starts coming down again. Very remarkable, that you can measure it.

MB: And it’s starting to look like inflammation is a real big key to all of our health problems.

RP: Oh, it is, without question. Inflammation is involved in places that most people have absolutely no idea. And I’ll tell you, when I first started looking at this, about 20 years ago when I was writing one of those doctorates, I put in a long section about historical data on inflammation and vascular. And at the time that I was being examined for it, they didn’t know whether they were going to fail me for being too out in left field or give me the gold medal. And it was – now, of course, everybody’s realizing even things like heart failure, arterial sclerosis – they’re all inflammatory. So any kind of social engagement, making friends, it will help you.

MB: So let’s get back to our third step in resilience.

RP: Third is perspective – you must be able to see things from a positive position. And that’s – you see how all these link together. If you have the self-regulation piece, you’ve been watching, you’ve also got this ability to make sense and have purpose. So perspective is absolutely key. Fourth is earned rewards. That’s very interesting, because, you know, for years people used to talk all about self-esteem and all of that. The self-esteem literature is actually a lot weaker than most people realize. And the most important thing about all of that is self-esteem that happens because you’ve succeeded – that’s great. Just telling somebody they’re wonderful, looking the mirror every morning and telling yourself how great you are doesn’t cut it. So it’s having earned rewards. Number five is purposeful physical activity, so actually doing things that are meaningful – I just dug a ditch, it’s great. And the last two that, again, bring us back to where we started are hope – there’s an enormous amount of very good evidence now on the association of hope and recovery from all kinds of illnesses and actually keeping well. And last is faith – and it doesn’t necessarily mean religious faith, if that’s – but having faith in yourself and in something, so to the greater good. And again, that’s that participation thing. So those are my main steps: Self regulation, adherence, perspective, earned rewards, purposeful activity, hope and faith. Together they can change your life in the most fantastic way.

MB: I think one of the most remarkable things that has happened in psychology in the last 20 years is we would look at concepts like resilience or optimism or happiness and everyone would say, “Yeah, we should have that, we want it,” but would be pretty clueless about how to achieve it. And now we have systems that people can use to achieve those.

RP: And I think it’s remarkable, isn’t it, the way in which we had to get other cultures that provided with some of the clues for how to do this. When you think about it, people like the Tibetans – I mean, they were stuck in those high mountain places for a thousand years, they were left alone, and all they did was think about how to control their minds. So probably worth listening to after a thousand years’ experience. And then, of course, the science starting looking – and you mentioned Marty Seligman – and others have done all of this work. And now we realize that there’s a huge amount that you can do for yourself and your family and the people around you very quickly. And it’s amazing how many years. When I was training, and maybe you as well – we didn’t talk about it.

MB: Um-hmm, because there wasn’t any data on it.

RP: No, but now there’s a lot of extremely good stuff. This is not something that’s just cozy or feel-good stuff. It’s absolutely rock solid data. And the other thing – and one of the reasons I became so involved with it, is building resilience, using those very simple steps, is also one of the keys to avoiding burnout. And I once suffered burnout. I missed it completely in myself. I was a meditation teacher and I missed it. So now I’m evangelical about showing people how not to burn out.

MB: How do you see depression fitting into integrated health?

RP: That’s a very big question in this sense. There are multiple contributors to depression. And again, I like to use my little model – physical, psychological, social, subtle, and spiritual. And the reason I do that is because undoubtedly there are some people who have a biochemical – a measurable biochemical disturbance which causes depression. And that may be the predominant feature in that. And those souls oftentimes need pharmacological help. There’s not a whole lot else that works on its own. But pharmacological help is not the only thing. You can also certainly have things in your life which may cause depression because you’re not that resilient or because something really terrible has happened. And there’s also the social component. There’s a very interesting new idea that I’d like to share because it helps people greatly. There’s a fundamental difference in the way that men and women tend to communicate and relate to each other. I’m not taking about something soft – you know, the men are from mars thing; I’m talking about some very interesting empirical data. From early puberty – and this is trans-cultural, not just learned behavior – we know that men tend to be very transactional; women tend to be far more relational. So men – it’s far more about the deal, you know, what’s the answer? Women tend to spend more time on the social aspects, relationships. One of the problems that arises is that during adolescence, girls tend to have much deeper relationships, and when they break, as they do all the time – because there’s so many emotional variance in that – when they break, they get disappointed. And it’s now believed that’s one of the things that may actually set up women to getting depression later in life. And that’s partly the explanation for why depression is more common in women. Useful to know that, because it helps explain lots of very odd data from the 60s and 70s about the causes of depression. And why I use my whole model, I also regularly see people who are depressed because they feel a spiritual hole in their lives. There was a study that recently suggested that 30 million Americans regard themselves as spiritual seekers, people that feel they have a spiritual hole, and that in itself can be a very potent cause of depression. That’s why I’d like to sort of approach it from all of these different angles. And I find that is often a far more satisfactory way of giving people what they need.

MB: I think that makes a lot of sense that it’s different people have different gaps that are causing the problem, and you need to concentrate on what’s causing their problem or what their needs are, rather than one size fits all.

RP: Absolutely correct. And there’s been a great deal of discussion recently because we’re currently in the process of establishing a new diagnostic manual which is due out in 2011, and one of the problems that’s been coming up again and again is the way that people are trying to include normal human variation and make it pathology – which means you have to give it a drug. And you know, it’s okay sometimes to be shy. It doesn’t mean you have social phobia and have to take a drug for it. It’s okay to be depressed because your wife’s died – you know, that’s okay. It really is. And it’s very important to contextualize and just to see exactly, you know, when is it a sickness, when is it a physical thing, when is it psychological, when is it okay – and all of those questions, because we are all different. And the one size fits all does not work, and it ain’t going to help to give everybody in the world Prozac. Somebody tried doing that – there was an entire town where everybody was given Prozac. And believe it or not, some people got very, very, very sick.

MB: Sooner or later we all have friends that develop cancer and maybe we develop it ourselves. What do you say to a person who’s just received a diagnosis of cancer, say colon cancer, and they’re just feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start and don’t know whom to turn to?

RP: I’m very happy to reveal that I went through this problem myself several years ago, so I’m a survivor. And I think there’s never one single way to talk to anybody about this, when they’ve had a problem. That’s why I’m always interested to know where is a person’s center of gravity, what’s important to them? Because for one person, talking to a psychologist would be a good thing; for another, a priest; for another, they just really want the kindness and comfort of family members. Because we’re all different. Some people like sympathy; others thing that sympathy is the worst thing in the world and “Go away and don’t bother me with it!” So it’s – we’re all very different in exactly what we like, how we respond, and what will work best for us. So I think the key point is it’s individualized. Know where a person’s center of gravity is. And again, if I had one wish in the world, if I had my magic wand, I would like everybody in America, in childhood, to learn resilience, to learn the art of what’s important for you, how to bounce back. And then it makes it much easier for the people around you to help you as well. So it’s always – I think it has to be individualized, because I know that when I was facing this kind of a problem, my approach was very proactive and I wasn’t about to sit around and feel sorry for myself; I was going to get over this. And five years later, I have. And so how we actually approach that and how we always approach it is, again, from all the different perspectives. And it’s just a slightly different way of thinking and a slightly different way of acting, and it really makes a huge difference.

MB: So your approach is to start with questions about meaning and then also take a look at resilience.

RP: Absolutely, absolutely, because – and I’ll give a very practical example about this and a couple that I’ve dealt with very recently, and somebody else in another part of the world that I used to see, is that whenever anybody has bad news of any sort, anything like this that is happening, is that you really need to find what is important to them. Is it that they’re frightened? Is it that they don’t want to leave their kids? Because when you actually find the area that is important to them as individuals, deep down inside – not the superficial – “Well, I just don’t like being ill” – the real core features, it’s amazing, because then you can very quickly give them advice that fits. So if there’s – in my case, I had work to do. I had a message to bring out and I realized it was time to stop just writing academic papers about it, but actually to take it to the world. And that was – for me, it was very helpful. For somebody else, they would have a different motivator. It would be maybe that they don’t want to leave their kids alone. Whatever it happens to be, individualize it, find where that center of gravity is, find the purpose and meaning, and build that resilience. And if you do those things, you are giving a gift that goes on giving and it’s more valuable than anything else in the world.

MB: That makes perfect sense. What would you say are the most exciting developments in health and integration of health?

RP: Oh, well, there’s so many of them. Mike, you know, this is an amazing statistic – it’s now calculated the sum total of all medical knowledge is doubling every three and a half years. In the area of the brain, it is doubling every two years. I find that just absolutely stunning that if we look at everything that was discovered in the history of the world up until the beginning of 2006, it’s just doubled. And I think that’s just amazing. I think the most interesting things that we have learned recently that are going to impact everybody in a very major way is the brain regenerates throughout life. We know that the richest source of stem cells is actually inside the brain. And the whole stem cell debate that’s been very hard for many of us over the years is probably going to turn out to have been meaningless. The brain is full of the things. And we know that you can continue creating new neurons – not many, but in key areas that are very key throughout life, certainly into your 70s. There are even midwife cells that direct the stem cells. That’s a huge thing. Second is that the brain constantly recruits what it needs. It’s one of the things that is different between us and most other mammalian species. When you’re on a task, what happens – and I always counsel people, “Don’t say this bit of the brain does this and this bit does that.” The brain simply recruits what it requires. That leads us into the other extraordinary thing, the plasticity of the brain. It’s way beyond what most people realize. You’re a psychologist, you know this field very, very, very well. Most people outside our field simply do not know what seismic changes are taking place in psychology and brain right now. And related to all of that is what I love saying, is biology is not destiny. I think one of the most extraordinary things in the field has been the discovery that our genes, certainly the ones in the brain, do not determine our behavior. You know, we were all brought up on things like eye color and sweet peas, and you know, if Mummy and Daddy have blue eyes and little Johnny has brown eyes, Mum has some explaining to do. That simple idea doesn’t work in the brain. There, it turns out, that most of the genes are involved not in determining your behavior, but how you respond to the environment. And this constant interplay is, I think, a very remarkable thing, and it is also informing a lot of this integrated approach, that by doing the right medications, if that’s what’s needed, by doing the psychological material and so on, that all of those things together can have measurable physiological effects in the brain, the spine, in fact probably all over the body. And I think that’s a most incredible discovery. Biology is not destiny. They shape but they do not determine where you’re going.

MB: So if you blink, you just missed more breakthrough research developments, and the developments are becoming more optimistic all the time about our ability to be resilient.

RP: Absolutely. And if we have a real take-home message today – apart from the little thing on how to boost your energy, which is a little gift to everybody – it’s just realize that in the midst of all the bad news that we keep hearing about, there is just this extraordinary maelstrom of new, very positive information. And we’re even reconceptualizing things like how medicines work. I know we’re pretty much out of time today, but it’s a very interesting field. So you mentioned depression a few minutes ago; I’m going to leave you with a parting shot, that it now appears that antidepressants don’t anti-anything. What they do is they help to build resilience. Remarkable new discovery, but that’s something for another day perhaps. But it’s very important for people to know that there’s so much very interesting, new information, rock solid data, that have already had a major impact and is changing all of our lives. It’s wonderful.

MB: I love ending on a positive note, and I love the way you pull so many things together and make it simple and a few steps and common sense, that is not very common. This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyle Radio, one of those places for you to go to get the kind of information that Dr. Petty’s talking about. Today’s expert guest is integrative health physician, Dr. Richard G. Petty. His website is www.RichardGPettyMD.com. And his book that puts it all together is Healing, Meaning, and Purpose. Information on Anti-Aging Psychology and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at www.DrBrickey.com,  or you can just go to NotAging.com and it’ll take you to www.DrBrickey.com.


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Gini MaddocksAnti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Host: Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey

Expert Guest: Movement Guru Gini Maddocks

Broadcast: 2-3-08 on webtalkradio.net where the latest shows are broadcast and posted as podcasts

What if you could get rid of those aches and pains and have more energy–just by tweaking the way you stand, sit, walk, and move? Today’s guest expert is Gini Maddocks. She is a genius at teaching easy exercises and simple changes in what we do with our bodies—tweaks that make a huge difference. She is an award-winning author, educator, columnist, speaker, and licensed medical massage therapist. Her three time award winning book R&R: Rescue and Relief for Computer Users and those at Risk of Repetitive Motion Injury (RMI), is a gem that has step by step illustrations of the exercises she teaches. She also does hands-on therapy and workshops to get people to move and feel better. In the first part of today’s show, we’ll look how to avoid aches and pains from using a computers and from how we stand and walk. Later in the show we’ll look at moving holistically to get more energy, aid digestion and address a number of health problems. Her website is http://www.holisticmatters.net/

TRANSCRIPT ©Michael Brickey–excerpts permitted with attribution

MB: This is Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, cutting-edge thinking for being youthful at every age. On each program I interview experts on what it takes to live longer, healthier, and happier. Our program takes a holistic approach in addressing anti-aging psychology, medicine, alternative medicine, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Our emphasis is on innovative thinking and practices that have solid data and results. What if you could get rid of those aches and pains and have more energy, just by tweaking the way you stand, sit, and walk? Today’s guest expert is Gini Maddocks. She is a genius at teaching easy exercises and simple changes in what we do with our bodies, tweaks that make a huge difference. She’s an award-winning author, educator, columnist, speaker, and licensed medical massage therapist. Her three-time award-winning book,  R&R: Rescue and Relief for Computer Users and Those at Risk of Repetitive Motion Injury, is a gem that has step-by-step illustrations of the exercises she teachers. She also does hands-on therapy and workshops to get people to move and feel better. In the first part of today’s show, we’ll look at how to avoid aches and pains from using computers and from how we stand and walk. Later in the show we’ll look at moving holistically to get more energy, better digestion, and address a number of health problems. Gini, you started as a social worker. How did you get to be a holistic movement expert?

GM: Well, I think actually it probably began before that. It probably is something that came from childhood, because I had some disabilities myself. I was one of those people at the tail-end of the Polio epidemic, and self-care was the biggest way that we approached my wellbeing. So I think I grew into the social work position because, at the time, it was the only way I could think of to try to impact people in large groups – thinking, not really – being a little naïve about what social work was, especially when you’ve got a mere four-year BA. So I had stars in my eyes and I thought this was the way I was – and you know, it was the ‘60s and ‘70s, so if you didn’t know what to do, you thought you were going to do social work and save the world. I kind of sobered up a little bit and realized there might be other ways of approaching that.

MB: But that got you on a holistic frame of mind and kind of set the canvas background?

GM: Yes, I would say that’s true. Plus the era – that era, that was sort of the holistic – that was like the dawning of holistic thinking, as far as – as least as far as I was concerned. You know, there was a push to go back to nature. And I started working at a health food store, which probably opened my eyes to alternative therapies and holism. So you know, I think it’s all part of the fabric you weave as you grow.

MB: Now, a lot of the exercises you developed were to help with your own health problems?

GM: That’s true. But you know, what really brings that home the most is computer work, because I’ve – you know, I’ve grown up, I’m in my 50s – I can’ believe I just admitted that. But you know, you grow up accommodating and adapting and finding ways to move. So I’ve had that in place for many years. But when I got a computer myself, I started feeling what so many of my clients present to me when they come to me as a massage therapist. It work me up to how what I was doing unconsciously all these years was working on what hurt or was uncomfortable in the moment, when I learned early on to address discomfort as soon as possible, because that really is the way to keep it from compounding. So then, when I started doing computer work, I realized, “Oh, my gosh, here’s a whole new set of problems.” Coupled with being a massage therapist, I myself have to watch out for carpal tunnel and all those issues that – I call them tissue issues – that come with that. So it’s something – it’s common sense. It’s common sense, but I started writing common sense down and developed a book out of it.

MB: Well, it’s common sense to you, but I think most people don’t see it.

GM: I’ve been accused of that before.

MB: You probably see somebody at a computer and internally gasp and say, “Oh, my God, the things they’re doing to themselves!” What do people do wrong at computers?

GM: We – and this is part of our society, but computers makes it worse – we are folded forward. In fact, you know, as our listeners are listening to this, they might check in on their bodies, and you and myself also. We probably have our shoulders folded forward, which is an inward rotation, and I’ll bet you that your head is sitting a few inches in front of the midline of your body. And most likely, there’s a belly bulge. And who knows what we’re doing with our legs and feet – I’ll bet they’re not sitting firmly and evenly on the floor. And when we do this position that I’m describing, we are prolapsing our organs together, which includes our lungs, and lungs need room to breath. So we’re inhibiting our very breath, our very life force. We can’t live without breath. And so when we impede that activity, a whole lot of other activities cascade. Hormones are released that we didn’t mean to be released and the body tries to make up for the stress of that poor posture.

MB: What hormones are getting released?

GM: Most people would know them as the stress hormones, the fight and flight hormones, because when our body is stressed, physically or through thought, through reaction to fear or danger, the hormone that’s released is the one that is meant to ready us for some sort of activity, evasion or fight. Well, that’s fine if it’s released when it’s necessary. But if it’s released continually, we deplete that ability and we set up a situation where the body thinks we’re its own enemy.

MB: So just having our shoulders forward like that for long periods of time is setting up the fight and flight response system?

GM: Isn’t that incredible? That’s the very truth. And here’s the thing that might get people even more than that, is that becomes fattening. When that becomes fattening, especially women, we’re going to pay attention to that.

MB: So how does that become fattening?

GM: Because the cortisol hormone – that’s part of what its issue is, is to shut down digestion and to store fat in case you need it. You know, when we were in the caves and we needed that fight and flight hormone probably on a daily basis, that was important. We needed to probably conserve what resources we had in our body at the time. But that’s certainly not true today.

MB: So nothing’s changed – we’ve gone from caves to cubicles.

GM: Ooh, that sounds like the title of a book.

MB: There you go. You know, we’re talking about breaking little habits that people have. How do you break that habit?

GM: This is so incredibly simple – and don’t confuse simple with easy, but you could talk yourself into thinking it’s easy, because repetition creates a habit. Repetition creates a habit. For instance, when you’re driving to work in the morning, let’s say you stop and get a Danish and coffee. Well, that’s fine. But if you stop the next day and get a Danish and coffee, by the third day your brain is telling you, “Oh, my gosh, I think I want some Danish and coffee.” And it’s that simple. So one of my little – I have these pet bottom line phrases that I call zingers, and one of them is: “Don’t confuse a habit for a trait.” When we say, “I always do this” or “I can’t do that” – and when we say that more than once, we start to talk our – we’re telling our brain what we want to be reinforced. So we need to stop and think, “Now, is that really what I want?” And if not, the way to start a new habit is simply do what you’d rather have. Do the desire that you want, repeatedly. Now, the trick is, is that really what you want? Because sometimes we want to cling to our bad habits because we’re getting some sort of reward. So what I say to that is create a new reward. Create a reward for the desired behavior, the one that makes you feel good about yourself.

MB: So at the computer, we want our shoulders back, our feet on the floor. How do you create a reward for that, other than Danish?

GM: This is one that takes trying it to believe it, but actually, when you start feeling better – and energy, to me, is a reward, and I think maybe the older you get the more you understand that the real fuel is not food. Our real fuel is energy, how much energy do we have to do all the things we need to do. And if we’re a little bit hedonistic and we want to get the most bang for our buck, energy becomes a really important commodity. And when you start sitting better and when your attitude reflects that posture – because that’s what’s happened – sometimes, if you can’t conjure up a good positive attitude, simply improving your posture facilitates that – then it becomes self-rewarding because you have more energy and you have a better attitude and it feels better to move when you don’t hurt.

MB: And part of that, too, then is listening to your body more and noticing the difference, otherwise you’ll miss the difference and slip back into the old habit.

GM: You know, I broke this down, just exactly what you’re saying, into four steps. I call it the healthy habit technique. And the first step is: Attend – paying attention. If you don’t even know there’s a problem, if you don’t know, your body will tell you eventually and it’s usually in the form of pain or fatigue, a bad taste in your mouth, and a bad mood. All these things are telling you all is not well in your world, and that’s the point to which you could pay attention, because everything’s vying for our attention. So our body does give us clues. But I believe, in the morning and at night before you go to bed, if you tell yourself, “I want those clues to come to the surface,” I think you start paying more attention to them, and then you can intercept them faster.

MB: I bet the one about bad taste in your mouth is a surprise to a lot of people. Is that back to the fight and flight syndrome?

GM: That, or it can be several things. It can be lack of water – that’s a real big one. We’re dehydrated because there’s so much in our environment that dehydrates us, and that fight and flight has a lot to do with that, too. When our hormones are in gear in that way, we require more water. But here’s the cool thing about drinking water. Not only does it help with that bad taste in your mouth, just on a cellular level, but the digestion of water creates molecules of energy, so it’s another way to fuel ourselves with energy. And then also, the thing about that bad taste, it can tell you that you’ve got a cold coming on and that you’ve got debris in your lungs, so maybe some deep breathing exercises could help clear that, if you’re listening. Or it could even be something intestinal, something to pay attention to and watch for and maybe – however you feel about alternative medicine – gets some herbs, do an intestinal cleanse. It’s hard to know exactly what it’s telling you, but it’s telling you something. So then you start asking for more information and paying attention to what suggestions your body gives you.

MB: So our first step was to attend, and our second step is…?

GM: Intend. The second step is, okay, you know that you’re feeling discomfort. You’re sitting at that computer and every day, let’s say, your eyes get tired. And so you pay attention to that, that you’re bleary-eyed and not breathing deeply. And so then you make an intention, meaning what would you rather have? And usually it’s going to be lack of pain or lack of that bleary feeling every day. It may be that you intend that you want more energy and that you want to feel better. Which would then bring us to the third step, which is the action step. And I call it pretend. Pretend is a play on words, because sometimes you have to make believe until you buy what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Sometimes, like when I work with people with weight issues, for instance – I had one woman say, “I can’t see myself, I can’t visualize myself as what I want to be. I can only visualize myself the way I am.” So you have to make sure that what you’re going to visualize or what you want to desire is something you believe you can accomplish. So you may think – in her case, she started visualizing herself slightly thinner, until she got there, and then she could go slightly thinner again. So when you’re sitting at the computer, you know, a thing you want to pretend is that – and by pretend, again, I mean practice – is that you’re going to do these exercises in my book or you’re going to use some common sense and know that you should look away from that screen for a few minutes, you should close your eyes and give it a rest.

MB: Just like the athlete picturing themselves making that touchdown catch.

GM: Exactly. It’s an interconnectedness that never stops.

MB: So are we at the fourth step now?

GM: The fourth step is – remember the thing about repetition, that a habit starts as repetition. And what research is showing that 21 days of sustained behavior will create a habit. So if you just practice it, then you depend on your new habit. So you’ve got attend, intend, pretend, and depend.

MB: With computer use, should we just focus on the habit of shoulders back, feet on the floor, and breathing well?

GM: I’m going to give you a new zinger-

MB: Okay.

GM: A new bottom-liner to remember, and it applies to posture everywhere, and particularly at computers, because what I’ve described to you is this posture we sit in actually shortens the muscles in the front of the body. So the muscles behind you, on the backside, are being overextended. So the muscles in the front, for the most part, we call flexors, and the muscles in the back we call extenders, and they’re always trying to keep us from falling forward, those muscles in the back. If we’re at a computer or any position longer than 12 minutes, our muscles will shrink to accommodate whatever that position is in, or overextend – whichever their role is in this posture. And then that becomes the habit. So when you stand up, for instance, after sitting at a computer or maybe being in your car, you feel stiff. And that’s because that has happened. All of your tissue has shrunk to fit that size – I mean, that position. The trick is, every time you get up – this is a back saver, this is probably the biggest thing I like to share with people because it can actually keep you from having back issues. Every time you get up, you should arch your back slightly in the opposite direction. And every time – like even if you’re sitting, you can do that with your shoulders by pulling your arms behind you and stretching in that position. So basically, everything that’s bent forward needs to be bent backwards. And you don’t have to do it to a degree that’s going to hurt you – use, again, a common sense about this – just enough to feel better. You’ll know when you try it. But the trick is to do it often, because if our tissue is solidifying in 12 minutes, then giving yourself a stretch in the morning or doing it at night when you get home, is not really enough to make the difference that I’m talking about. So we incorporate that, incorporate that into the way we’re doing things. Every time we get up, arch our back a little bit. While you’re sitting at the computer, do a shoulder shrug. Keep moving, and it doesn’t have to interrupt what you’re doing.

MB: So as long as we take a minute every 12 minutes, we’re going to be in a lot better shape.

GM: Tremendously, I promise it.

MB: I see some people sitting on gym balls. Is that a good thing to do?

GM: That is so interesting. There’s so much more to that than people understand. You know, I even think that there are implications that it would help – I haven’t seen research on this, this is just coming to me – but I think it would help with people who are hoping not to get Alzheimer’s. You know, a lot of us are trying to keep our brains active. Well, what that does is it stimulates the brain and all these balancing bodies called proprioceptors that we have in our bodies. And the proprioceptors are these little organelles – they’re everywhere, we don’t even know, you know, as people – we never pay any attention to them because they’re these little silent workers that are figuring out how to keep us from falling, how to be balanced. So when we sit on a ball like that, those little proprioceptors, they just wake right up and they keep us from falling over. It’s very stimulating to the brain.

MB: So we’re getting a micro-workout by sitting on a ball.

GM: Yes, that’s a good word for it.

MB: Should we be concerned about carpel tunnel syndrome and computers, and is there a wade to avoid it?

GM: Yes and yes. And we should watch it at early ages now, because children are doing so much with gaming. Basically, carpel tunnel is just one of many syndromes that have to do with doing things over and over and over. Repetitive motion injury has to do with a lot more than carpel tunnel, and many of the other syndromes accompany carpel tunnel. For instance, many people who have this issue will have a TMJ problem, because our bodies don’t just use one muscle at a time. They don’t use just one nerve pathway at a time. We are so interconnected that different syndromes are set up by the same repetitious behavior.

MB: And TMJ would be the tight, painful jaw.

GM: Yes, right. And basically, what I – another zinger I have for you is – and this has to do with carpel tunnel and TMJ and all that – is if we could just keep our muscles longer than our bones, we wouldn’t have all this problem. And the reason I say that is that our bones are connected by muscles which have these endings – they’re called tendons – that’s how we move. Now, if we had perfect muscle health and they were stretched out to the lengths that they’re meant to be for their optimum efficiency, we would not have any joint problems. But when, over time and over behaviors and bad postures and so forth, these muscles start to shorten. And that pulls the bones together at the joint, and then all kinds of problems start happening. And that’s basically what’s happening with carpel tunnel is we’re using our hands in such a way that shortening the muscles, which is shortening the tendons, which is compromising the joints and the blood vessels and the nerves and all that good stuff inside. And if we just knew how to warm up the tissue first and stretch it, we could keep our muscles longer than our bones.

MB: And it’s going to fit through that narrow opening better.

GM: Exactly. That’s that piece. But there’s so much you can do about it that, you know, I’m kind of painting a bleak picture, because it sounds like you have to be moving all the time, but it really doesn’t take that much to address it.

MB: What does it take?

GM: Movement. Movement’s a good one and an easy one, because you can move while you’re sitting in your chair. You can move by paying attention. Music helps – I find that music helps, anyway, and rubbing. And unless you’re already having a carpel tunnel syndrome that’s so severe that you can’t use one hand – you’ve got a tool, you know, you’ve got your hands. You can use balls. If you do have a carpel tunnel problem, you can use a tennis ball, you can use a handball, and you just create friction and warmth. That’s the bottom line about that. Yes, there are techniques for massage, and yes, there are better ways to do it. But basically, we have the tool and what we need to do is apply some pressure and some movement with that tool, and hey, you’ve got a self-massage going. And we should rub what hurts. We shouldn’t be afraid of that. So many people are afraid, “Oh, my gosh, if this hurts, rubbing it’s going to hurt it worse.” Well, you are the determiner of that, because when something hurts when you’re rubbing it, you can back off a little bit. If you rub it at that just tender, not so painful that it brings tears to your eyes, you’re actually flushing toxins from that site, and that’s what’s wrong. They need those toxins moved from that site. And it moves through your lymph channels. And moving it with your hands is the best way to do it.

MB: And what’s really nice about this is you can do these exercises while you’re watching TV, you’re at a traffic line, in the line at the post office or something. It doesn’t take any extra time.

GM: Exactly. And I made sure that they could be done in 30 seconds to a minute, even less in some cases. You know, there’s nothing to sitting in traffic and bringing your shoulders up under your ears and letting them drop and learning-

MB: You don’t have to stand on your head to do this, huh?

GM: That’s right, that’s right.

MB: Let’s take a break. This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, your source for cutting-edge thinking on being youthful at every age. Today’s expert guest is holistic movement expert Gini Maddocks. Her website is http://www.holisticmatters.net/. Notice that’s .net rather than .com. Her site has lots of tips and information on her blog and newsletter, and on her fabulous book, priced at only $21.95, with all those illustrations, it’s a steal. And her email address is mailto:Gini@holistichealthmatters.net. Information on Anti-Aging Psychology and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at DrBrickey.com, or you can just go to NotAging.com and it will take you to DrBrickey.com. Gini, what are the common problems people make with posture and walking?

GM: Yeah, and we’re too forwardly folded or inwardly rotated. We use our head to lead us instead of walking in a balanced way. You know, everything seems to be about balance. And even people who are bodybuilders and are really tuned into exercise, they tend to overdevelop their flexor muscles, their lifting muscles, and then the extensor muscles, the muscles that are meant to stabilize, and that’s usually our back muscles, they have to try to keep up, and they don’t have that capability. They’re not that kind of muscle. So balance is where we should be keeping our intention. Learning to – if we just kept the tissue warm, and we could start in the morning with a nice warm shower or basically pumping our arms and legs to get things moving – that really gets the tissue warmed up. The fascia is this interconnective tissue that gets cold, and when it gets cold it gets semisolid, so it makes us stiff. So if we kept ourselves warmed up through movement, through massage, through self-massage, through hot water – those kinds of things, things that common sense tells you makes you warmer – we would be able to move easier. And posture would not be such a sometimes crippling thing, and walking would be something that’s effortless, where we swing our hips and find a gait that’s comfortable. But it just takes a little bit of attention and then practice to make that happen.

MB: So we all should be swinging our hips.

GM: Yes, we should be swinging our hips. Sometimes this sounds crazy, but – and remember, I’m this person who had polio, so walking is not exactly the easiest thing for me. But I have found a gait, and I just – someone gave me this tip. They say, when you’re swinging your arms, pretend that the person in front of you is trying to hand you a coin, and so you’re trying to reach for that coin with your hands. Well, when you do that, you’ll notice that your legs start swinging along with your hands, and it becomes a gait. And there have been times I’ve been trying to walk up a hill, and that has saved me. It was like pulling me up the hill to have that swinging and that momentum going. And also, you just feel like your joints are well-greased. I don’t know how to explain it, but just try it and you’ll see what I mean.

MB: I remember things about imagining a string was pulling up your head. Does that help?

GM: Through the very center of your head. And that particular imagery goes a long way to correcting your entire posture. I encourage everybody to do this right now. Just imagine that there’s a string in the dead center of your head, and someone from above is going to yank your string, so to speak, and it’s going to pull you up so that – and this is important – your chin becomes parallel to the floor. This is really, really important. And the cool thing about that is you’ll notice that your stomach goes in where it belongs at the very same time, and that helps elongate your ribcage, which means your lungs have more room and your hips will be seated evenly on the seat you’re in. Or if you’re standing, you’ll notice that you’ll be standing with both feet with equal amounts of weight. So just that one image is really helpful.

MB: Now, something you said a few minutes ago – I would think that most people who exercise with equipment would be well-advised to really study whether the exercise is balancing the muscles instead of overdeveloping the – was it the flexors?

GM: Right, overdeveloping flexors, yes. I think that’s really true. I think that’s where some education is very important when you’re going to do weight training.

MB: Many people have one leg that’s longer than the other. Does that matter?

GM: It matters a lot. Often the diagnosis is a muscular diagnosis rather than the actual length of the bones. In fact, I think the research says 90% of people who have one leg longer than the other really have the musculature in their hip has contracted on one side more than the other, or it can even be low back. And it hikes and usually torques – which means twist – the pelvis in such a way that functionally one leg is longer than the other. The good news about that situation is it can be changed, it can be affected. But the only way to tell the difference actually is an X-ray.

MB: Who knows how to identify that and how to correct that?

GM: Any doctor that has access to X-rays would be able to do that. A chiropractor would be able to do. A massage therapist would not. But what you would do for both cases, as a massage therapist, would be virtually the same, even if it’s something that’s absolutely the bones are longer on that side of the body, you still would want to soften that tissue on both sides and make it so that the person could be as comfortable as possible. Whereas if it’s just the function of tense muscles in the gluteal part of the body – the buttocks and the hips and the lower back – same thing. You would want to soften that up and do some stretching and some heat, that kind of thing.

MB: And the X-ray you’re talking about is just of the hip area?

GM: No, they would need to do from hip, full length of the leg.

MB: All the way-

GM: Any of those bones could be part of the problem.

MB: All the way down to feet?

GM: Right.

MB: Speaking of feet, what do we need to know about taking care of our feet and how it affects everything else?

GM: Boy, your feet – I remember when I worked all day at the health food store on cement floors, and I had – my husband was kind enough that he would stop in during the middle of the day and we’d find a place somewhere in the back of the store and he would rub my feet. And oh, by gosh, it meant that I could work the rest of the day. It was just incredible. So for one thing, your feet can be an amazing healing tool, whether you believe in reflexology or not. And reflexology is the study of reflex places on the foot. That body of information is that there are places all over the body that can be affected by these places on the foot. On that level, healing goes on. But just in how it makes you feel, how it seems to ease the pain out of the rest of your body is healing in itself, because, remember, every single thing that happens sets off a cascade of hormones. And if you’re feeling something good, that has its own set of hormones just as well as the stress hormones that are released when something dangerous or fearful happens or stressful. So anything you can do to feel better is going to impact your entire body, and your feet is a wonderful place to start. So that also means that if your feet are uncomfortable, your whole body is going to translate that to discomfort. One of the things I suggest for people at work is to take another set of shoes and trade shoes during the day. Change shoes – that helps. And if you could sneak those shoes off and could bear without them, who knows – maybe you could even rub your own food. And I promise you you’re going to like it. It’s not quite as much fun as when someone else does it for you, but it still does the trick.

MB: Yeah, I hadn’t thought that the muscles are getting over-flexed or tight just from walking or standing and that a foot massage might do wonders.

GM: Just wonders. Really, we should have people coming through offices just to do that for people. And I also have this idea that, wouldn’t it be great when you wake up from surgery if someone – when you’re coming out of surgery – if someone were rubbing your feet when you came to?

MB: I think in hospitals and nursing homes they could cut medication by at least a third, just by having some massage therapists there to help out with the muscle pain.

GM: Maybe we could even train like what used to be Candy-Stripers, you know. If we could have muscle therapists going in and training people to do this so everybody got it. Boy, we might really heal people. Actually what it is, it’s facilitating their own healing.

MB: Anything we need to know about shoes?

GM: Shoes, of course – yes. And everybody – you know, I would never tell someone what kind of shoes to get because I know from my own problems that all feet are different, and I know from working on people, all feet are different. A lot of times people will go and get orthotics, which are inserts that help realign the body by the shape that the foot stays in when you’re using these orthotics. The only caution I have about that – I think that’s a good thing – but if you’re doing real therapy to change – say you’ve got one leg longer than the other – well, if you’re working on that and you’re doing therapy maybe with a massage therapist or a physical therapist or whatever, you’re on your own – if you’re going to change the way those tight muscles have been, you’re going to need to get different orthotics. So I would caution people to pay attention to that. If you have orthotics and now you’re really doing things and getting better and better, you might want to make sure that those orthotics are still serving you.

MB: So it’s like losing weight; you have to get a new wardrobe. And if you get healthier, you need new orthotics or maybe no orthotics.

GM: That’s right, that’s right. But yes, shoes are really important, so don’t put up with something that hurts. Don’t put up with something that hurts. Now, I did for many years, and because of the way my foot is shaped – and whoever invented those great soft thick soles on shoes, they changed my life. They really did. I can walk anywhere now. But before that, it was really difficult.

MB: At home, are we better off walking barefoot or wearing some kind of shoes or slippers?

GM: That depends on the person. For instance, being overweight is harder if you’re walking barefooted, because you run the risk of flattening your arch. So probably wearing shoes is a better idea. But then, if you’re thinking about needing to stimulate those reflex places on the bottom of your foot, it’s better to walk barefooted. So again, it’s an individual decision, I think. And probably balance is the best idea, so maybe do a little bit of both.

MB: I see shoes that have little spikes in them-

GM: Right.

MB: And there’s the shoes modeled after Masai warriors. Have you seen any that especially impressed you as helping a lot of people?

GM: Well, I know a lot of people really like Birkenstocks and I know some people like the Earth Shoes – with them you really have a different – oh, they kind of let your heels be lower than the front of your feet. Again, there are so many – how your body is set up and the posture you have depends on the patterns you’ve developed over the years. So what works for one person might not work for the other. Some people love those little nubs that are supposed to stimulate the reflex places; some people, it drives them crazy. So I wish I were more of an expert to say this and this and this would fit this and this and this type, but I think people just have to go try them on and see what works for them. I need the soft, cushy stuff. Some people would need a harder – something that’s more unyielding. It’s too varies to really give any kind of certainty to that.

MB: So you need to experiment and actually try them out for a few hours and see what works for you?

GM: You really do. And I find, you know, if you take them home and walk around in them and don’t get them dirty, more place will take them back than you think.

MB: Let me take a break. This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with the Ageless Lifestyles Radio, your source for cutting-edge thinking on being youthful at every age. Today we’re talking to holistic movement expert Gini Maddocks. Her website is http://www.holisticmatters.net/. Make sure you’ve got .net there. Her site has lots of tips, information on her blog and newsletter, on her videos, and her fabulous book. And her email is mailto:Gini@holistichealthmatters.net. Information on Anti-Aging Psychology and the free Defy Aging Newsletter is at DrBrickey.com, or just go to NotAging.com. Gini, one of the things that you advocate is that walking better and moving better gives a lot more energy. How does that work?

GM: Almost all of our basic needs, I’ve noticed that if they’re done in balance, you get more energy from them. Like eating – you have to eat for energy, but if you eat too much, it takes your energy. And I’ve found that to be true about movement. When I have a workshop, we make a list of what gives us energy and what takes our energy. And movement is always one of the ones that you put in both columns. It gives us energy and it takes our energy if it’s out of balance. Many things are going on physically that metabolism is increased when you move, so they call that actually catabolism because the movement itself causes an energy molecule to be released. I almost – when you think about the chakras, the energy centers up and down the body in the Hindu way of looking at the energy systems of the body – you’re making that energy move from the bottom chakra up to the top when you’re moving, so that distributes energy. If you’re thinking about meridian, like acupuncture in Chinese medicine, the way they look at it, movement makes the energy move along these circuits in a more efficient way. And then if you think about physically the way Western medicine looks at the lymph system – now, the lymph system, you know, are these channels that take toxins and move them to the kidneys through the – and back to the heart, even – and distributes then the white blood cells and the things that are actually delivering nutrition – again, it’s movement and it’s only movement, as far as that’s concerned. The heart doesn’t pump that stuff; only movement does. So you’re not going to get nutrition to the rest of your body unless you move. There you go. There’s at least four different philosophies.

MB: So choose the brand that you like to explain it, but it works.

GM: Right, right.

MB: Rather than plastic surgery, are there exercises a person can do to have a more energetic, youthful face?

GM: That’s a really good question. Actually, this would probably surprise you, but I hang upside down towards that end.

MB: I would love to do that. I can’t figure out a place to hang the hooks on the inversion boots.

GM: Well, instead of the inversion boots, I have – and this is not quite as drastic – it’s a slantboard and it’s a freestanding one, so you actually strap your ankles in. And it’s like a teeter-totter – wherever you put your arms will then change the position you’re in. so finally, when you have your arms right above your head, you’ll tip almost, but not quite, upside down. It feels great. And what’s happening is that not only is it helping – it’s cheating gravity, is what it’s doing. We’re cheating gravity when we’re upside down like that. It’s also pulling the bones away from each other, like when I was describing what to do if you want your muscles to be longer than your bones. A pretty gentle traction – it’s a method of traction, so that if you hang there long enough, your nerves will tell your muscles to let go, your muscles will then elongate at the very tapered ends called the tendons, and you really do get longer. You can restore your height that way. And at the same time, you’re cheating gravity and you’re getting more circulation in your face. But beyond that, if you don’t do – and you can like hang off your bed, just to get some of that going for your head. But be careful – I don’t want anybody falling on their head. But another thing you can do is make sure that you’re gentle with your skin. Some of us have grown up treating our faces like we do everything else about our body, like it will always be okay. And we end up maybe with places where our skin is thinning and now we have dark places where we’ve kind of abused that part of our face. So what we need to do is be gentle and always stroke upward. You want to do strokes upward. And if you go to a massage therapist and she’s young or he’s young, they may not realize that. It’s your body; you take control. And if you’re think that they’re pulling downward on your face, just tell them you’re rather them do the upward stroke – so that kind of thing.

MB: So the inversion’s also going to help with disc problems. My father used to kid that he was being downsized and getting shorter. This will help prevent downsizing of your height.

GM: Yes, yes. Right. And you’d want to start out slowly at first, so that you can get those muscles that aren’t used to that elongation. You don’t want them to spasm in response, so just do it a couple of minutes at a time. And finally, I can do it for about a half an hour now. It’s where I meditate.

MB: One of the tips that you inadvertently gave us is one of the ways to tell a good massage therapist is whether they stroke upward on the face. How else would you judge whether a massage therapist is really doing what he or she should be doing?

GM: You would want to know how much training they have. But even so, that’s not always what constitutes a good massage therapist. But I must say that I was forced to go to massage school three different times because I move from state to state and that’s tricky. Licensing is not reciprocated from state to state. But with my education, I definitely became a better massage therapist. But also, probably you’re going to want someone who is intuitive and compassionate. And how you find that is tricky, too. You know, you might be good at – I would look – when I hit towns, for instance, a new town, and I want a massage, I go to the health food store and sometimes I go to the library. And it’s interesting. And at the library, I just ask people there. Librarians – if it’s a small area, librarians know their community really well. And a health food store, the same way. And sometimes you can find publications, free publications in the health industry, here, there, and everywhere, and they will have ads. And I intuitively look at the ads, and if they say holistic, I know they think like I do and I probably would find affinity to that. But maybe somebody doesn’t want that. Maybe somebody wants someone who’s just going to kind of shut up and rub them. And I think you’d be able to tell by the way they place their ads, and if they’re going to the trouble to do that, I think that tells you something about them, too. Sometimes you can see a person reflected even in their Yellow Page ad. That would not be me, though – I have one little line in there. I’m not sure how to tell you about that. And I trust – I sort of have good luck and I trust my luck. So the people I find seem to be the people I needed. So maybe if you set your intention that you want to find someone who’s really a good therapist for you, maybe the law of attraction kicks in.

MB: Okay. I’m reminded that I used to go to a massage therapist who was very, very good at the massage, but she was an unhappy, negative person. And after a while I just said, “This isn’t good for me.”
GM: That’s a good point. I think anything in the healing – including the MD that you might have to choose – I think somebody with a positive attitude is always going to be a better choice.

MB: Yeah. I mean, I’ve changed doctors just because I concluded the person was a pessimist and I want someone who’s looking for how something can be done instead of why it can’t be done.

GM: You know, I had – we didn’t talk about this yet, but I had breast cancer. What made the most difference to me was the surgeon on my way out after our consultation. He hugged me! And he said, “You’re going to get just fine.”

MB: Wow.

GM: And that just – it was like my grandpa was there! And it just meant so much. We need to follow our intuition in how someone makes us feel, because that’s part of our healing.

MB: One of the things I love about your exercises is they’re so simple, they’re so easy. You know, Pilates is very good, but you have to be a contortionist sometimes to do the exercises. But yours, you don’t have to get a sweat up or anything and you see the results so quickly.

GM: If someone would like to try this right now, it’s as simple as this. We could just turn our chin, keeping our nose and our forehead and our chin in alignment – just turn your head all the way to the right and look over your right shoulder, and stop where it feels a little painful, like a stretch. And then bring your chin back into the center. And then turn your head all the way to the left, and when you get to where it stops, look – look and see what you can see. Where’s your area of vision? Now turn your head back to center and then go back to the right again. And low and behold, your head goes further around the other way. You can see further, just by that little exercise. And if your head goes all the way around, then you’ve got a whole ‘nother issue going.

MB: Head-spinning, huh?

GM: Yeah.

MB: So that little exercise alone is also going to help with the computer use.

GM: Exactly. That’s one of my favorites. And it’s a dramatic one, because it’s so fast already. That’s all your muscles needed. And if you do it three times, you’ll be really amazed at how far around you get. And it’s that fast and then you go right back to work. I teach in the book breathing along with it, because basically, when you’re doing the stretch, you’re exhaling, and when you’re returning from the stretch, you’re inhaling. And you’re feeding your body when you do that. And after a while, because your body knows it needs it, it adopts that as the habit very easily, because it does know that you need it.

MB: Gini, in my book, you’re part of a long tradition of therapists who solve their own problems to develop systems, like Frederick Alexander with voice problems, and Moshé Feldenkrais with knee problems, and Pilates who had asthma and rickets and rheumatoid fever. I think it’s wonderful the way you’ve come up with such easy-to-do exercises that incorporate balance and just bring everything together so holistically – the breathing, the energy, the digestion, the posture – literally from head to toe. You really are a gem.

GM: Ah, I love being included along with all those people. That’s – thank you so very much.

MB: And you’ve got an advantage over them. Some of them have passed on.

GM: Hey, that’s right, that’s right. That’s a wonderful thing to think about. And it feels better to feel better. And indeed, need is the mother of invention. You know, without those difficulties, perhaps we never would’ve gotten around to finding out these things. So there really is a blessing in everything.

MB: And I think it starts with believing that there must be a better way, and I’m going to find out how to feel better when I walk and sit at a computer, and everything else I do.

GM: Right. And if I can help people know that you don’t have to keep hurting in the same way, then, boy, that really makes me feel like I’ve been here for a purpose.

MB: Thank you so much for being with us. You’ve been listening to America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr, Michael Brickey, with the Ageless Lifestyles Radio, your source for cutting-edge thinking on being youthful at every age. Today’s expert guest is holistic movement expert Gini Maddocks. Her website is HolisticMatters.net – make sure you get .net. Her site has lots of tips and information about her blog and newsletter and videos and her fabulous book. Her email is Gini@holisticmatters.net. Information on Anti-Aging Psychology and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at DrBrickey.com, or you can just go to NotAging.com. I’d love to get your feedback and comments. You can send them to radio@drbrickey.com.