You probably know him best as CNN’s chief medical correspondent, but Sanjay Gupta is also a practicing neurosurgeon at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and a published author. He was in Toronto recently to promote his new novel, Monday Mornings. Already garnering fab reviews, the book follows the up-and-down drama in the lives of five surgeons at the fictitious Chelsea General Hospital (and yes, there’s already a TV pilot in the works). When I meet Gupta, he’s all smiles, patiently signing autographs for hundreds of guests who’ve come to hear him talk about medicine, family and juggling three careers.
1.You can eat yourself out of a heart attack. Treating disease is good, but never getting sick is better, says Gupta. And he, like many experts, says we can heart attack-proof ourselves with a few diet tweaks. One strategy he recommends is reducing the amount of meat in your diet. Whether it’s joining the Meatless Mondays movement or going vegetarian a few days a week, your heart (and waistline) will thank you.
2. Never wait until tomorrow to say something important. Life is unpredictable. Accidents happen. If you want to tell someone something big — like you love them or you’re sorry — there’s no better time than right now.
3. View mistakes as opportunities. As humans, we seem hard-wired to get defensive when confronted with our slip-ups. But in reality, these are the greatest opportunities for learning. As difficult as it is, try to take your ego out of the equation. Even better, openly share your experience to develop best practices so the same problem is less likely to happen in future.
4. Regular daily movement beats the gym. The human body wasn’t built to sit for the majority of the day, and then run hard on a treadmill or lift weights for an hour. Find ways to sneak more movement into your days: Take the stairs, walk part of the way to work, set an alarm to stretch every few hours. Your body will thank you.
5. YOU are in charge of your life (and your health). So often, we play the blame game when it comes to making smart lifestyle choices, but the only person truly responsible for your decisions is you.
6. Use plane rides to cross things off your to-do list. Gupta wrote a lot of his novel at 30,000 feet. It was one of the only times he could completely dedicate himself to the task. Follow his lead and take advantage of travel time to get things done. Even listening to audio books can make your daily commute more fulfilling!
7. Doctors make mistakes too. Nobody’s perfect, not even top medical professionals. So don’t be afraid to ask questions about a diagnosis, get a second opinion or simply speak up if something feels awkward or weird.
8. Family matters more than career. Your job may seem like the most urgent thing right now, but you probably won’t remember the presentation you made today five years from now. What you will remember is missing your daughter’s first dance recital.
9. Bravado is just another word for bluff. It’s natural to want to appear self-assured, but displaying too much confidence can backfire. Admitting your insecurities is often a smarter strategy than trying to cover them up.
10. Never take things for granted. No matter what you do, don’t allow yourself to get complacent in your relationships, your job, or even your workout regime. Mistakes are more likely to happen when things become too comfortable. Avoid this trap by approaching every task with the same precision, excitement or curiosity as you did the first time.
Monday Mornings is Sanjay Gupta’s first novel.
Laurie Jennings is the executive editor and health editor of Chatelaine magazine.