Doctor: Ditch health trends, listen to your body
Published Wednesday, February 1, 2012 9:41AM EST
Handfuls of vitamins. Lemon water in the morning. Glass of red wine at night. Thirty minutes…no wait, one hour of exercise a day. Sound familiar?
When it comes to healthy living, opinions are thick on the ground.
This deepening whirlpool of advice has prompted one doctor to pen a controversial new book, asking readers to ditch collective wisdom and start listening to their bodies.
In his book The End of Illness, David Agus calls for a personalized no-nonsense approach to health in which people pay attention to little red flags in order to avoid debilitating conditions in the long run.
"The key is knowing yourself," he told CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday.
That means taking inventory of how you look and feel, a measure that Agus says goes beyond a cursory evaluation of your mood.
For instance: Have you lost hair around your ankles? According to Agus, this could be a sign of a circulatory problem. Ladies, is your ring finger longer than your index finger? This could suggest you're at risk for osteoarthritis down the road.
"You have to know yourself in a manner that you've probably never done before," reads a line from "The End of Illness."
Agus' personal inventory test goes on to ask readers to take stock of their breathing, exercise tolerance and more – advice that isn't exactly groundbreaking. Doctors have long advised patients to scan their skin for unusual growths and marks. Most women have likely heard that hair growing in odd places could signal hormonal changes.
However, the obviousness of the questionnaire plays into Agus' main point. We heed general guidelines but ignore basic warning signs in our own bodies, he charges.
"Nothing about health is one-size-fits-all, so until you know how to perform your own ‘fitting,' you won't be able to live the long and happy life that's awaiting you," Agus writes.
Still, in his book, Agus tries to debunk some common health trends by pushing some tips of his own.
He's asked would-be health nuts to get rid of their vitamin supplements and throw out their juicers, arguing that they aren't effective in promoting good health.
"Certainly juicing tastes good but it really is degraded fruit," he told Canada AM. "Eat the real food."
Among one of his more controversial points, is the advice that people over the age of 50 should take statins and baby aspirin.
Statins are a commonly prescribed drug used to improve blood cholesterol levels. Critics are wary of people "needlessly" taking the drug and say the long-term effects of the drug aren't yet clear.
Agus also writes that the annual flu vaccine can change a person's health for the better, a recommendation that (unsurprisingly) doesn't sit well with the anti-vaccine crowd.
He also pushes a few bits of conventional wisdom such as eating and going to sleep at the same time every day.
"Your body strives for that regularity," he said. "On the weekend you take a nap or change your schedule it stresses your body a lot."
There are some more surprising points in his book. High heels, for instance, are labelled as a daily source of inflammation that could take years off of a person's life.
"You want to know yourself," said Agus. "If you wear a pair of shoes and they hurt and you don't feel well, don't wear those shoes."
It all goes back to a guiding rule pushed by the ancient philosopher Socrates: Know thyself.
"Know yourself so you can go (to the doctor) and say 'How can I live to my 90s without disease?' It's possible."