Getting Real About Wellness
Michael Roizen, MD, Cleveland Clinic Chief Wellness Officer, began getting through to his patients when he adopted the label “anti-aging expert.” He co-founded RealAge.com, which has taught millions how to calculate their body’s age — for better or worse. Here’s what “Dr. Mike,” as he’s known on Oprah and PBS specials, has to say about living healthier and younger.
What is an “anti-aging” expert? It’s someone who motivates you to adopt the preventive measures within your control to help you live with a higher quality of life and less risk of death and disability at any age. You see, like any physician, I found a whole bunch of my patients just didn’t pay attention to what I said. They wouldn’t fill prescriptions or take their drugs reliably, for example. So, since almost everyone understands the concept of age, I found the idea of making yourself younger to be really motivating.
What is a person’s “real age?” RealAge is the actual age of your body, as opposed to your calendar age. Your RealAge can be many years older or younger based on your habits. You can control your genes to a much greater degree than any of us thought possible.
How so? Studies have shown that there are 148 factors, from continuing your education to how often you floss, that slow your rate of aging. I’ve adopted 145 of them. However, I don’t get enough sleep sometimes, and I have more stress in my life than I should. And third, since I am a guy, I don’t take hormone therapy, which makes the RealAge of certain people younger at specific times.
So how old are you, really? I am 61 calendar years of age, and my RealAge is around 42.
You must have perfect eating habits to maintain that kind of RealAge. Do you allow yourself any food vices? People might say my food vice is coffee, but coffee is healthy, so I don’t consider that a vice — rather a joy. I do love walnuts, and I carry little packs with me. They are high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acid, which protect the heart.
When your chronological age begins creeping up on you, how do make yourself feel younger? Get on an exercise bike or walk. It is almost paradoxical: You feel tired so you don’t want to exercise, but if you get up and move you are energized.
I hear you play squash to relax. How can such an intense sport be relaxing? With squash you have to focus on the ball every second, or you’ll get hit with it. It seems like an intense activity, but in fact it is totally relaxing, because you can’t think of anything else.
People always say they’re too busy to exercise or do healthy things. How can they make the time? First, you say, “I am a priority; I am worth it.” So you resolve to exercise X amount of time. Or, you say, “As soon as I get up and go the bathroom, the next thing I am going to do after washing my hands is to floss my teeth for two minutes.” It is just a matter of doing small steps that make a big difference.
What is the weirdest health question you’ve gotten? There have been so many. We did a “poop show” on Oprah, and we got every question you could possibly think of. People were asking, “My poop is this color or this shape on Tuesdays, but this shape on Fridays or this frequency; what does that mean?”
Interview originally appeared in Cleveland Clinic Magazine, Summer 2008.
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