Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the power of prevention

Chatelaine expert Dr. Elaine Chin sits down with fellow doctor Sanjay Gupta to talk about how we can all help save our own lives

Doctor's pocket filled with vegetables

Photo by Getty Images

As the chief medical correspondent for CNN, Dr. Sanjay Gupta has met more heads of state and witnessed more devastation — inside and outside hospital walls — than most physicians could imagine. I was thrilled to have a chance to talk to him recently, during the promotional tour for his first novel, Monday Mornings, which chronicles the ups and downs of medicine at the fictitious Chelsea General Hospital.

Among the things we agree on: Each person’s health is her responsibility. And disease prevention is a huge opportunity on the table for both doctors and patients. Health care professionals need to lead the charge — not just by rescuing people when they fall ill, but by being a resource to help them not get sick in the first place. Personal responsibility begins with learning about our bodies and managing our lifestyles appropriately. Here are some insights from my conversation with Gupta.

Q: What are your top diet and exercise to-dos to prevent illness?

A: One, try to eat seven different-coloured foods every day to give your body the nourishment it needs. Two, take a fish-oil supplement to keep your brain sharp. Three, eliminate or greatly reduce meat intake. Four, get your exercise from natural movements in your daily life. Do more walking, stair climbing, yardwork, gardening, dancing and so on. Going to the gym is great, but the human body wasn’t designed to sit or lie for 23 hours and then go the gym for an hour a day. We’re designed to move. That’s why I do a lot of walking meetings — and I also find them to be the most productive.

Q: Your CNN documentary The Last Heart Attack was about President Bill Clinton, and its message was that people need to be more aware of their heart health. How was it received?

A: Pretty well. And that’s because we recommended things most docs know to be true. For example, the amount of cholesterol in someone’s blood is important, but so is particle size in some cases. It’s been discussed at national medical conferences. And if a patient is at a high risk of heart attack, CT angiograms should be considered to investigate their coronary arteries. When a prominent cardiologist tells me these are things all cardiologists know to be true, I’m thinking, why doesn’t everybody know? That was our goal with The Last Heart Attack: to use the media to educate.

Elaine Chin, MD, is the co-founder of Executive Health Centre. She is also a regular contributor to Maclean’s, Canadian Business and CityNews.

Get more insights from Dr. Sanjay Gupta by clicking here.