Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Andrew Weil: Embracing the Inevitable

In his home town of Philadelphia on Sunday, the guru of integrative medicine, Dr. Andrew Weil, had a disturbing message for those of us who have plunged headlong into the unretiring camp, determined to not think about the inevitable.
"Fighting aging is a colossal waste of time,” said Weil. “If you try to stop the aging process, you put yourself in opposition to nature.”
At age 70, this Central High and Harvard Med School grad is nonetheless upbeat. Where, as a younger man, he jogged, then biked, he now swims, having paid attention to the grumblings of his knees. His once-radical ideas about nutrition are finally gaining traction in medical schools and he remains at the vortex of the health movement he started decades ago.  
Speaking at Forever Young, a Center City health event that benefitted the Klein branch of JCC and drew about 1000 people, Weil talked about the goal of extending one’s healthy years and pushing disease and decline to a "rapid drop off.”
How to do that? Not so much with drugs as with lifestyle changes:
--Keep up the physical activity, but don’t stick with the sports that hurt;
--Stay socially and intellectually connected;
--Eat more Mediterranean-type foods, with fewer of the bad types of fats and carbs that promote inflammatory reactions in the body. The beneficial whole grains, he said, have little bits and pieces you can see, not the “pulverized” stuff.
--Take 2,000 IU of Vitamin D; there’s growing evidence that it prevents all kinds of ailments.
And breathe.
A kind of yogic breathing exercise, he maintains, is “spectacularly effective” at reducing stress. It goes like this:  Take four sniffing type deep inhales through your nose, one on top of the other, without an exhale. Hold that breath for seven counts, then exhale loudly and slowly through your mouth. Do this four times in a row. And practice it two to four times a day.
Try it at bedtime to help you sleep. And turn to it during moments of stress.
It’s an antidote to the “fight or flight” response, Weil says.
The “relentless anti-aging message of our culture,” he says, “distracts us from the important goal of being healthy through life.”
Instead, Weill says, our culture should look at the positives of aging. As with wine and whiskey, the passage of time results in more depth and complexity. And ancient trees represent power.
"They're survivors."

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