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A Scientifically Proven Plan for Feeling Young and Living Longer
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Now at the peak of health, Dr. Sears shares his program in Prime-Time Health. This engaging and deeply informative book will motivate readers to make crucial behavior and lifestyle changes. Dr. Sears explores how to keep each body system healthy and delay those usual age-related changes. Written in Dr. Sears’s wise, accessible, and entertaining voice, Prime-Time Health is a practical program to help you live your best life possible-pain-free, disease-free, stress-free, and medication-free.
Copyright © 2010 by William Sears, MD, and Martha Sears, RN
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
FIRST eBook EDITION: JANUARY 2010
Little, Brown and Company is a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. The Little, Brown name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
This book is intended to supplement, not replace, the advice of a trained health professional. If you know or suspect that you have a health problem, you should consult a health professional. The author and publisher specifically disclaim any liability, loss, or risk, personal or otherwise, which is incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this book.
Illustrations by Debbie Maze
To our children and grandchildren:
Following the Prime-Time Health plan in this book will help us be there for you.
When my son Lucas was born, nine years ago, I was determined to be the best father I could be. So, I must have read just about every child-care book ever written, or at least it felt that way. I was getting a little discouraged with the conflicting advice, some of which seemed misguided or even downright cruel (“Leave your baby in another room, and let him cry himself to sleep”).
Fortunately, I came across the books of Bill and Martha Sears. They were like a breath of fresh air—authoritatively written and scientifically based but tempered by the real-world wisdom the authors gained raising eight kids. Bill and Martha speak from experience, both personal and clinical, and their books became my field guides.
Their recommendations mirrored my intuitive and scientific understanding of the importance of attachment parenting, good nutrition (especially omega-3 fatty acids), the countless benefits of breast-feeding, and so on. I knew that when children are loved, held, cuddled, touched, and bonded with, they become more confident, healthy, and independent, not spoiled. So it felt affirming when I read, “Spoiling is what happens when you leave something (or some person) alone on the shelf—it spoils.”
I thought, Too bad the Searses haven’t written a book to show grown-ups how to stay healthy and enjoy life. Now, in Prime-Time Health, they have.
In this book they apply their decades of clinical experience to show how diet and lifestyle changes can turn around your illness issues—and much faster than had once been thought possible—so you can enjoy living longer and healthier.
Dr. Sears also shares his personal story about how being diagnosed with colon cancer was a wake-up call, a catalyst for transforming his own life for the better. His experience mirrors that of many patients who have told me, “Being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness was the best thing that ever happened to me.” Why? Because it was a powerful motivator for making changes in their lifestyle that made life so much more joyful, healthful, and meaningful.
For more than thirty years, my colleagues and I at the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute have conducted a series of research studies showing that changes in diet and lifestyle can make a powerful difference in our health and well-being, how quickly these changes may occur, and how dynamic these mechanisms can be.
Because these mechanisms are so dynamic, people who make comprehensive lifestyle changes usually find, as Dr. Sears eloquently describes, that they feel so much better, so quickly, that they reframe the reason for making lifestyle changes from fear of dying to joy of living. We’ve learned that joy, pleasure, and freedom are what make lifestyle changes sustainable and worth doing.
Many people tend to think of a breakthrough in medicine as a new drug, laser, or high-tech surgical procedure. They have a hard time believing that the simple choices that we make in our daily lives—what we eat, how we respond to stress, whether or not we smoke cigarettes, how much exercise we get, and the quality of our relationships and social support—can be as powerful as drugs and surgery, but they often are. And often, the results are even better.
We used high-tech, state-of-the-art measures to prove the power of simple, low-tech, and low-cost interventions. We showed that comprehensive lifestyle changes can stop or even reverse the progression of coronary artery disease, prostate cancer (and, by extension, breast cancer), diabetes, hypertension, obesity, hypercholesterolemia, and other chronic conditions.
Often, I hear people say, “Oh, I’ve got bad genes. There’s not much I can do.” It turns out that even our genes are more dynamic than had once been realized. In our research, we found that changing your lifestyle changes your genes as well—“turning on” hundreds of genes that help prevent diseases, and “turning off” genes that promote heart disease, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and other illnesses. We published this study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. We also found that changing your lifestyle increases telomerase and thus the length of telomeres, the ends of our chromosomes that control how long we live. Even drugs have not been shown to do this. Dr. Sears describes these findings in chapter 2, and they are giving many people new hope and new choices.
The theme of Prime-Time Health has been a guiding principle of all of my work: your body often has a remarkable capacity to begin healing itself if you stop doing what’s causing the problem. To a large degree, these underlying causes are the lifestyle choices we make each day—for better and for worse.
In my experience, people who really understand something can make it simple without being simplistic. In Prime-Time Health, Bill and Martha Sears do just that. They describe clearly and simply not only how to live longer but also how to live better and enjoy life more fully every day. Awareness is the first step in healing, and this book is a powerful way of increasing awareness. Read it, and it will transform your life for the better.
—Dean Ornish, MD
Founder and President, Preventive Medicine Research Institute; Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco; author of The Spectrum, Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease, and Eat More, Weigh Less.
Prime time can be the best part of your life. What does prime time mean to you? My wife, Martha, defines prime time as “the second half of life.” I consider it a time of less pressure, when the kids are out of the house—if not yet out of your pocket. You’ve raised your family, built your career, developed your social networks, and, most important, accumulated a whole lot of memories. It’s an opportunity to enjoy those memories and to make more. It’s a time when the “want to dos” can start to replace the “must dos.”
We should look forward to prime time. Yet most of us dread getting older as we hit middle age because we think it will mean a prolonged period of disease and disability. I hope this book will relieve any fears you have about aging and help you prepare for one of the most pleasurable stages of life. I put together the Prime-Time Health plan after my own midlife health crisis. Based on my experiences and sound medical science, it contains all the health and wellness advice I give my own children as they reach middle age.
In the early decades of adulthood, you work to fulfill your family obligations and do what you have to do professionally, socially, and economically, which leaves you with few resources for yourself. In prime time, you finally have some of those resources. Will you have the health to enjoy them? It depends on how well you prepare.
Consider the story of our close friends Jim and Susan. They each worked hard and diligently put money into their retirement plans. Susan loved to travel to exotic and exciting places; Jim loved weekends on their boat. The problem was that Jim and Susan led their lives differently. They both saved money, but only Susan saved her body. She worked long hours at her job as a nurse, but she also worked out regularly, watched what she ate, and maintained her health. Jim was a TV addict. He sat a lot, drank a lot, smoked, and thought exercise was a waste of time. He loved his Texas-size grilled steaks, and “burn a big one” was how he ate. But it turns out he was grilling his body too—on the inside. At fifty Jim got diabetes; at fifty-five he had a coronary bypass; at sixty-two knee replacement surgery. He has to take pills for his highs: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and high blood sugar; and also for his lows: depression. For Jim, prime time is sick time, not the best time in his life. Jim and Susan’s hopes for their future are dwindling. Susan spends much of her time caring for Jim, and about the only travel his health permits is to and from the hospital or a doctor’s office, or an occasional golf game when his legs can take it.
Like Jim, many folks spend much of their prime time coping with the three Ds: disease, disability, and doctors. This book is written for the Jims of this world and for prime timers who want to avoid these Ds.
I could have been a Jim, but when faced with a medical crisis twelve years ago, I turned a corner and discovered the benefits of prime-time health.
Longevity means a long and healthful life. I love that word! I don’t like antiaging, the term used in most healthy-aging books. Think about it: if you don’t age, you die. That reminds me of a card my son Matthew gave me on my sixty-fifth birthday. It read, “Getting older isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.” Early in my research to develop my Prime-Time Health plan, I figured out that longevity comes down to four factors, which I remember with the acronym LEAN:
Lifestyle: how we live
Exercise: how we move
Attitude: how we think
Nutrition: how we eat
Let me give you a brief overview of what you can expect from this book. First, you will learn why and how I put this health plan together. Then you will learn the simplest explanation of aging you’ve ever heard and the secrets of people who age well. Next, I will take you on a journey through your body so you can help yourself age more healthfully. Last, you will get a crash course on prime-time well-being: how to eat, sleep, manage stress, and enjoy better sex.
Realizing that even when you practice the Prime-Time Health plan you will eventually get some illnesses, I’ll also teach you about the pills-and-skills model of health care. In partnership with your doctor, you will be able to take charge of your health. And as part of your health-care program, you will learn a doable and enjoyable fitness and weight-management regimen.
While this book is for all audiences, I wrote it mainly for three groups of readers:
The forty- to fiftysomething prime timers who are in the prevent mind-set. They wisely want to keep their bodies in good working order before they start to wear out. They want to prepare so they can be there for their children and grandchildren.
Prime timers who are in the repair mode. This group didn’t take the best care of their bodies, some parts of which are starting to wear out. Prime-Time Health can give you a second chance. Fortunately, the body is resilient.
Young parents who want to give a gift to their own parents. The loving message: “Mom and Dad, we want you to be around for your grandchildren’s weddings. Please read this book—and follow it!”
Reading alarming headlines about Medicare soon going bankrupt and people using all of their savings to pay medical bills motivated me even more. I concluded that the answer to our country’s health-care crisis is self-care.
SHOW ME THE SCIENCE!
As I was putting together my own Prime-Time Health plan, I realized that there have been volumes written about aging, and hundreds of youth-promising supplements touted. Yet few claims are based on solid science. Studies that “prove” that one diet works are later refuted by other studies showing that it doesn’t. Who’s a prime timer to trust? I’ve made sure that everything in Prime-Time Health is backed up by common sense and credible science. I am a science-based physician, and my patients and my readers trust me to have thoroughly researched what I write about and teach. So, here’s my promise to you: this health plan is based on what I learned during twelve years of study of scientific research.
Visualize how you would like to spend your prime time. Imagine being able to enjoy the delights of the world, the pleasure of walking along a beach, a pain-free day, and the mental clarity to remember and enjoy the experiences and resources you’ve accumulated. Or, do you want your prime-time years to be brief and your calendar littered with doctors’ appointments? Do you want your life’s savings to go to co-pays on drugs that fill your medicine cabinet? The choice is yours.
This book is both a life plan and a health plan, and with it you can add years to your life and life to your years.
Here’s to your prime-time health!
HOW TO READ THIS BOOK
To get the most dramatic benefits from Prime-Time Health, we suggest that you follow these steps:
1. Take a health break. Go to a relaxing place for a week or a weekend. Read the book cover to cover, highlighting topics you find especially relevant. Reading the entire book first will show you how your organs and tissues work together, like well-tuned instruments in an orchestra. When they are in harmony, beautiful music—health—results. You will see how the health of one organ affects that of another and appreciate the common themes that make each operate at its prime. You may think, I don’t have a knee problem, so I’ll skip that chapter. Don’t! You need to know how to prevent a knee problem, because painful knees could eventually lead to a hurting heart.
2. Pick the parts. Go back and choose the concerns that are most pressing for your own health. Practice the whole Prime-Time Health plan or just part of it. It’s okay to pick and choose. The best part of the plan for you is the one you will consistently do.
3. Put together your plan. Turn to chapter 24 to customize your own personal Prime-Time Health plan.
Because the field of prime-time health is changing so quickly, we will provide frequent updates at AskDrSears.com/Prime-TimeHealth. Featured at our website are:
a list of recommended nutritional supplements
video clips that elaborate on many of the important points in this book, including fitness tips, breathing techniques, nasal flushing, and personal messages from Dr. Bill
reports on new scientific breakthroughs in prime-time health
recommended books, websites, and other resources
And now, on to prime time.
Are You Ready for
In this section I will share with you how I researched, formulated, and live the Prime-Time Health plan and how I enjoy better health in nearly every organ of my body because of it. I will show you how you can do it too. You will learn what steps to take to make health your hobby. You will also learn about the usual changes that occur as you age during prime time and, even more important, how you can positively influence these changes. Let’s begin by putting together your personal prime-time plan for health.
Invest in Your Personal
Prime-Time Health Plan
The scene opens on a cruise ship in the Pacific Ocean. I was a guest speaker and had been scheduled to talk about healthy aging. When it was my turn to speak, I opened with a question: “Now that you’re in the prime of your life, how many of you have a retirement plan, such as an individual retirement account, or IRA?” Nearly every hand went up. Next I asked, “How many of you have set up an Individual Retirement Account for Health, an I-R-A-H?” No hands went up, yet the look on people’s faces revealed what they were thinking: I’m not sure what a health retirement plan is, but I should have one! After the seminar, many folks thanked me for opening their eyes. They had saved money for retirement, but they had not saved their bodies to better enjoy it.
PLANNING FOR PRIME TIME: THE FABULOUS FOUR
Save enough money.
Save enough time.
Nurture your relationships.
Maintain your health.
Consider health the vital ingredient in your prime-time plan. Not everyone can save as much money as they’d like or have as much free time as they want. But you can work to save your health. I wrote this book to help you prepare your very own Individual Retirement Account for Health.
Certainly, I had an IRA (as a father of eight, and needing to pay for all those braces and help three of our children get through medical school, I wish I could have saved more). After forty years as a hard-working physician, I looked forward to my prime time. This book, which took me more than a decade to finish, was written on the job as I was formulating my own IRAH, a plan that I wish I had started earlier.
Even though I am a doctor, my health habits used to leave a lot to be desired. I grew up as an overweight overeater. I still cringe at the memory of my mother taking me into a department store to buy huskies, those big-waisted pants that chubby kids wore. My nickname was Templeton, after the overeating rat in the book Charlotte’s Web. My first date with Martha, my coauthor and wife of forty-three years, was at an all-you-can-eat buffet—I figured that if the date was a dud, I’d at least be able to eat.
For most of our married life, Martha tried to change my eating habits. I remember asking her on one of our weekly “date nights” (when we put the kids to bed early and enjoyed a romantic dinner for two) what we were having for dinner. “Stroganoff,” she said. Ah, my favorite. When I sat down to eat what looked and smelled like beef stroganoff, I took a bite and complained, “Martha, this tastes like dog food!” (She’d substituted tofu for beef.)
Cancer caused me to care. I should have listened to Martha and eaten the tofu, because in April 1997, at the age of fifty-seven, I underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy for colon cancer. During my recovery, I realized that I had been neglecting a vital aspect of planning for prime time—my health. Cancer caused me to care. Before that, I’d been a “wuss” (wait until you get sick—stupid!).
I vowed that I would not squander my health. I had too much to live for. As a physician, I knew that the human body is resilient and can bounce back and repair itself in many ways—with the right care. So I began my journey back to health. I wanted to be an asset, not a liability, to my wife and children. I wanted to be active, pain free, and disease free, and to not only be at my grandchildren’s weddings but to dance at them. I wanted to be a healthy prime timer. Here’s how I got started.
MAKE HEALTH YOUR HOBBY
In preparation for developing my health plan, I decided to study success stories—testimonies of people who survived major illnesses like cancer and became healthier. They all had one thing in common: they had made a project out of their problem. They studied their illness and researched ways they could help heal themselves. I realized that after I got one cancer, I was at a higher risk of getting another cancer, especially since my body had been polluted by chemotherapy and burned by radiation therapy, and even more so because my father died of colon cancer at age seventy-five.
Next, I consulted the experts. I studied the secrets of centenarians, people who live to be a hundred or more. What did these folks do to live longer and healthier? In addition to healthy eating and habits, centenarians had one thing in common: they made health their hobby.
So I was determined to make health my hobby too. We all need a hobby, and the older we get, the more important hobbies become. What more wonderful pastime could a person choose than to become a health nut? Why not focus more energy on the one thing that matters most?
Health span is more important than lifespan. What impressed me most about the centenarians was not only their quantity of life but also their quality of life. Researchers who study the health habits of cultures with the highest longevity focus less on lifespan and more on health span (the number of disability-free years we live in reasonably good health). We read that human beings are living longer now than ever. In most developed countries people over eighty-five are the fastest-growing segment of the population. Yet, that statistic is misleading. The fact is that we are living longer but not better.
Enjoy more time at the top. The standard American model of aging is health until age fifty, wearing down from fifty to sixty-five, and gradually falling apart after that. According to this model, many of us miss prime time entirely. But we don’t have to follow this pattern. Consider prime time your opportunity to spend more time at the top in good health. How long we spend at the top depends, in large part, on how we plan for it. We can focus on the ABCs, seeking to remain active, brain smart, and contributing. Or, we can do nothing and look forward to the three Ds: disease, disability, and doctors. Which will you choose?
DISTURBING PRIME-TIME STATS
These health statistics are hard pills to swallow:
More than 50 percent of all insured adults in the United States take prescription medicines regularly for chronic health problems.
On average, Americans buy more medicine per person than do the people of any other country.
Three out of four people over age sixty-five take medication for chronic illness.
Twenty-five percent of people over age sixty-five take five or more medicines regularly.
THE BENEFITS OF MY PRIME-TIME PLAN FOR HEALTH
Within three months of beginning my health plan, I noticed big changes from head to toe. And at this writing, I continue to enjoy medication-free, disability-free prime-time living.
Clearer thinking. My brain got better faster than my body. I experienced a lot of mental perks from the program: my thought processes were clearer, and my memory improved. I noticed fewer mood swings, and I managed my feelings more easily. I was more consistently upbeat and handled stress better. My brain seemed more focused. All of this makes scientific sense. The brain is affected by eating and lifestyle changes—for better or for worse—more than any other organ in the body, so it stands to reason that it would show improvement first.
Clearer vision. My eyesight improved. I used to wear glasses to read the scoreboard at baseball games. One night a few months into this program, I forgot my glasses. Surprisingly, I could read the scoreboard clearly without them. This makes sense because the eyes are really an extension of the brain. What is good for the brain is also good for the eyes.
More sensitive nose. Pardon the comparison, but in wild animals the nose is the organ of survival, hunting, and danger alert. The same is true of humans. Hazardous vapors are supposed to warn us to get away from the source before they harm our health. Most prime timers have lost this nasal alarm system, but you can get it back. My sense of smell became more discerning. Smelly substances in the air bothered me more. I went out of my way while driving to avoid following buses and trucks that spewed out irritating exhaust fumes. I could sniff out a smoker before entering a room. These irritants did not bother me before, but they should have. My garbage-avoidance system was working better.
A PATIENT’S STORY
A few years ago I got scared thinking about the aches and pains, the multitude of medications, and the illnesses that my mother experienced (not to mention her dementia and Parkinson’s), realizing that all that might be in store for me. I also watched friends who were unwilling to change their diet and lifestyle suffering from diabetes and heart disease.
As I searched for ways to keep this from happening to me, I began reading lots of self-help books, taking minerals and supplements, and doing moderate exercise. Nothing worked, not even the strong urgings from my doctor, who eventually resorted to a last-ditch solution—giving me more drugs. Then Dr. Bill told me that he didn’t take any medications and gave me an opportunity to read his work.
"Amusing, encouraging, and easy-to-remember prescriptive mnemonics and slogans enliven a lucid, personal and professional narrative. Sears provides what similar books often lack-an honest and trusted voice plus the latest medical science in a comprehensive, accessible program that is hard to resist."
"A distillation of common-sense advice mixed with more surprising, age-specific mandates all designed to promote longevity and a healthy later life."—Vogue
- "A very important and exciting book. Its strength is in its simplicity. I recommend it without any reservation whatsoever."—Stephen T. Sinatra, MD, FACC, CNS, author of The Sinatra Solution
- "Chock full of things you can actually do to improve your health. Dr. Sears's new book gives so many insights and is presented in an easy and accessible way."—Mark Liponis, MD, coauthor of Ultraprevention and author of Ultralongevity
- "Prime-Time Health is a classic. It is not just a health book; it is a compelling and captivating portal to success, happiness, and the hope that life is wondrous and limitless when you are healthy and fit."—Vincent Fortanasce, MD, author of The Anti-Alzheimer Prescription
- "In his usual science-made-simple style, Dr. Sears shows how your body can make its own internal medicines to act like a fountain of youth. I enjoyed reading Prime-Time Health from cover to cover. I recommend you read it, and then do it."—Dr. Louis J. Ignarro, Nobel Laureate in Medicine and author of No More Heart Disease
"The book breaks everything down into quick, manageable bites that are easy to swallow and follow, and it's full of good, hearty advice."
- "Amusing, encouraging, and easy-to-remember prescriptive mnemonics and slogans enliven a lucid, personal and professional narrative. Sears provides what similar books often lack-an honest and trusted voice plus the latest medical science in a comprehensive, accessible program that is hard to resist."—Publishers Weekly
- On Sale
- Oct 29, 2010
- Page Count
- 464 pages
- Little Brown Spark