Physician discusses ‘Brave New World of Health’ at Town Hall South
The title of Dr. David Agus’ first book was supposed to be “What Is Health?”
“To me, that is the key question,” the eminent physician and researcher told his audience March 7 at Upper St. Clair High School.
One of his patients had a different idea.
“Steve Jobs just called and changed the title of your book.” Agus’ publisher informed him, passing along the late Apple co-founder’s reasoning: “‘Health’ is a bad word. You need something bold and declaratory.”
The renamed “The End of Illness” went on to become an international best seller.
“Steve did know marketing.”
Agus, who has written two books since – “A Short Guide to a Long Life” and “The Lucky Years: How to Thrive in the Brave New World of Health” – wrapped up the 48th season of the Town Hall South lecture series by providing a wealth of insight to what he called “a magical time in what’s happening in health and technology.”
From calling into question the wisdom of taking certain vitamins to describing what artificial sweeteners actually do to the human body, Agus made sure to detail the research and clinical studies that have gone into making the relevant determinations.
“My job isn’t to tell you what to do,” he said, “but to give you the data to make the right decisions.”
For example, he cited studies that have shown a certain medicine, a type of which was recommended by Greek physician Hippocrates as early as the fifth century B.C., to reduce the rate of cancer, heart disease and stroke.
That would be aspirin. And if all Americans would take a low dose daily, the savings in health-care costs could add up to hundreds of billions of dollars.
“Most people don’t do it,” Agus said. “Why? Because it’s too cheap, and no one is marketing it.”
On the other hand, successful marketing has led to some substances – he mentioned the likes of growth hormone, testosterone therapy, calcium and vitamins E and D – achieving widespread use despite studies that cast doubt on their presumed merits.
Regarding what actually has merit, Agus offered some tips based on applicable research, including:
• Developing a regular schedule with regard to sleep patterns, meals and exercise.
• Following a diet that includes protein, fat and some carbohydrates, along with fresh foods for which the nutrient value has not diminished.
• Getting plenty of exercise, the benefits of which were described in a 1950s study of British transit workers that found ticket takers had “dramatically lower heart disease and cancer” rates than bus drivers, according to Agus.
“We’ve become a nation of bus drivers,” he said 21st-century United States. “Our bodies are designed to move.”
As the 21st century progresses, Agus said he foresees a shift toward Americans becoming increasingly data-savvy and taking a more active, “ground-up” role in their treatment.
“You will change medicine, not your doctors,” he said. “By you asking questions, you will make that happen.”