~ Sep 08 Dr. Mehmet Oz: Global Medicine

Sue Kovach

Changing the way millions of people actively incorporate preventive health into their lives has become a daily practice for Dr. Mehmet Oz. As one of the world’s most accomplished cardiac surgeons, Dr. Oz is taking life-saving medicine beyond the operating room. Now, in an effort to reinvent medicine on a global level, he has taken his visionary medical knowledge to every conceivable form of media to teach people how to use natural methods to live longer, reduce stress, and avoid the killers of heart disease and cancer.

A quick Google search reveals over 795,000 entries for Dr. Oz. On any given day, he can be heard on XM Satellite Radio, seen on Oprah or Good Morning America or read in Esquire magazine or in any of his bestselling YOU books. Everywhere one looks, there is Dr. Oz patiently instructing all of us--both patients and doctors--on a new kind of medicine that begins with taking an enlightened approach to preventing life-robbing diseases. Dr. Oz is at the forefront of an international revolution in health and medicine.

Yet despite the immense media presence, Dr. Oz remains first and foremost a dedicated, hardworking physician, a rolls-up-his-sleeves cardiac surgeon who is at the top of his field and performs more than 250 surgeries annually. In addition to all of this, he has time to develop new life-saving techniques.

Dr. Oz is director of the Heart Institute at New York Presbyterian/Columbia Medical Center and professor and vice-chair of Surgery at Columbia University.

His research interests include heart replacement surgery, minimally invasive cardiac surgery, complementary medicine, and health care policy. He has authored over 400 original publications, book chapters, abstracts, and books in addition to receiving several patents. And all the while, he is pushing the envelope of what is currently called the "standard of care" and empowering patients to take charge of their own health and well-being. Put these two pictures of Dr. Oz together and you begin to see the makings of a movement, one that has the power to change the face of medicine and how it is practiced, even how we think about it.
Dr. Oz's Personal Health and Wellness Program

Dr. Oz takes the following supplements:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils)
  • Vitamin D3
  • Calcium
  • Multivitamin daily


For his patients with heart problems, Dr. Oz recommends the following in dosages customized to the patient:

  • Folic acid
  • CoQ10
  • L-Carnitine
  • Niacin (if the patient has high cholesterol)



Exercise

Dr. Oz has made a DVD of his personal fitness program, which was designed by his trainer, Joel Harper. He says, "It's a straightforward way of getting people to exercise. I'm traveling a lot and don't have time to go to the gym, but I like to work out so I put this on my computer and do my workout in my hotel room."

Diet

Dr. Oz eats a Mediterranean-type diet.

As a child, Mehmet Oz thought about what he wanted to be when he grew up and decided he would either be a professional athlete or a surgeon. He reasoned that there were similarities between the two--both have to deliver the goods every day, and no one cares how well you performed yesterday. Growing up, it became clear that his abilities in athletics would not lead him to a stellar career in that field, so he focused on medicine.

After earning an undergraduate degree from Harvard, Dr. Oz enrolled in medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, where his training was what he called "traditional." Students were essentially instructed to ignore any real or perceived mind-body connection and to view and study organs as individual entities. This process, he says, is effective for teaching science-based, organ-based medicine. And at the time, he found this approach sufficient.

Physicians sometimes claim they find deep insight about human existence bordering on revelation during their early years of medical school. When Dr. Oz first saw a living, beating heart in a patient's chest cavity, he was awed by the elegance of how the organ "twists the blood out of it the way you would wring water from a towel." He knew then that the heart would become his specialty. Watching it twisting and turning, he suddenly understood why the heart is so important in so many aspects of life and culture, from poetry and religion to its association with the soul and love. From that point, he says, "I've dedicated my life to trying to figure out how to help people who are challenged with heart disease."

But it was near the end of his residency that Dr. Oz met a patient who gave him what he calls an epiphany. He wasn't prepared to have the foundation of his education turned upside down by one experience. A woman with a bleeding ulcer was brought into the emergency room. Though she had lost a lot of blood, a transfusion and a suture would fix her problem. However, the woman and her family calmly refused the blood transfusion for religious reasons, even though that transfusion could save her life. Dr. Oz whisked the woman off to the operating room, confident he could eventually get the family's permission to do the transfusion.

The surgery went well, but the patient showed signs of organ failure due to blood loss and her blood count was at a point where she should have already died. Still certain he would be doing the transfusion, Dr. Oz was horrified when the family steadfastly refused. At this point came the epiphany. The patient's family, was in effect telling Dr. Oz that there was a deeper love, a deeper belief by which they were living their lives, and that no matter how logical it seemed that she should get the blood, they didn't want the blood.

"The woman who was going to die that evening hung out for another day, and then another day, and then another day, and she finally went home," Dr. Oz says. "And she never did get that blood. And although I would never recommend, in the future, for someone not to get the blood, it was to me a very revealing experience, because I began to recognize that as dogmatic as I thought I could be with my knowledge base, there were certain elements of the healing process I could not capture. And even if I was right in the science, I could be wrong in the spirit."

The experience caused Dr. Oz to conclude that there was more to medicine and healing patients than his training had taught him. He began to investigate other means of healing, and that led him to non-Western medical practices that really weren't completely foreign to him. His parents were born in Turkey, and he spent summers and holidays in the country, a place where non-traditional methods of healing are commonplace. That upbringing probably gave him more of an open mind in regards to alternative healing methods.

Sometimes these innovative healing therapies were brought to his attention by patients who came to New York Presbyterian Hospital from all over the world. They had their own healing traditions that had been effective for them in the past and wanted to continue using them. But they sensed that the modern doctors in this country wanted nothing to do with such things, which resulted in something Dr. Oz found interesting.

"They would abdicate all responsibility for their care once they walked into our hospital, and so we tried to change that, to give them the confidence to play an active role in their own recovery process by letting them use their own healing traditions. And that's how I actually learned about many of these alternative therapies."

Dr. Oz became comfortable with seeing the same reality from different perspectives--traditional and non-traditional medicine. He reached beyond the medical textbooks and conventional thinking to enlarge the paradigm by exploring alternative means of healing and complementary therapies. Today in his clinical practice, and as director of the Cardiovascular Institute Complementary Medicine Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital, he boldly brings out-of-the-mainstream techniques such as meditation, yoga, reflexology, energy healing, and massage into the operating and recovery rooms. He recommends nutritional supplements, proper diet, stress reduction and exercise, believing there is far more to healing than technology and pharmaceuticals. His goal is to promote health and wellness in his patients, not just absence of disease.

Some physicians might consider such techniques being used in modern hospitals to be radical at best. But by using them and showing that they can lead to more positive outcomes, doctors might discover that there is more than one way to practice medicine, something better than what was taught in medical school.

Says Dr. Oz, "Some people feel I'm on to something big, others disagree. Orthodox medicine makes people think it's witchcraft, but I think the truth is in the middle. When you finally figure out that you've got the best technology available, when you've finally climbed the last technology mountain and the patient still doesn't feel well, you've got to look elsewhere. That's when we start looking in areas where typically we in the West are much less comfortable--like spirituality and alternative therapies--things that bridge cultures of healing beyond this country's borders."

Dr. Oz has coined the term global medicine to describe this blending of Western and non-Western methods of healing--two things he believes do not have to be mutually exclusive. He holds these complementary therapies, some new and some very old, to the same standards as he does Western techniques, and will only use what he sees is working for the patient.

"If we are to achieve maximum healing, we should use any tool at our disposal--including non-scientific approaches--provided there is evidence that they do no harm to the patients," he says.

Maintaining his strong confidence in science, Dr. Oz feels that the standard belief that medicine offers all the solutions has caused patients to give up the proactive role they should be playing in their own health care. Reclaiming that proactive role has become his powerful and enabling message to the public, and he is clearly excited about delivering that message to millions through his books and TV appearances.

This public education aspect of his career began when the news media discovered he was "a good interview." Reporters often visit the Columbia University medical school when covering medical stories, and calls to Dr. Oz became more frequent. Increased exposure as a subject matter expert led to even more demand for Dr. Oz, and his audience grew tremendously when he appeared on Oprah Winfrey's show, appearances that eventually led to regular health and wellness segments.

Dr. Oz seems custom-made for television. He engages the audience with his fascination with the possibilities of both traditional and complementary medicine. Listening to him, you want to lose weight, you want to eat better, and live longer. But by educating people in this way, he is helping to open channels of communication between patients and their doctors so that patients are further empowered to become more involved in their own health destinies.

Dr. Oz has become a ubiquitous presence on the internet and has also written several enormously popular books. His breakthrough 1999 book, Healing from the Heart: A Leading Surgeon Combines Eastern and Western Traditions to Create the Medicine of the Future, recalls his own experiences as a heart surgeon, his evolution into integrative medicine, and patient success stories. He went on to create the "You" series of books (co-authored with Dr. Michael Roizen), such as the best-selling You: The Owner's Manual, You: On a Diet, and You: The Smart Patient, written to provide people with the information they need to take control of their own health and become comfortable doing so. His newest book in the series could be the most exciting yet. You: Staying Young, The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty brings the field of anti-aging medicine front and center.

"I think there's a disconnect between people and their own bodies, an information gap," he says. "No one ever said to them, ‘Here's what's going on with your body.' And if they're not ready to hear it in the way they want to hear it, that can be scary. America has a lot of health issues we're not dealing with, but people need to realize they have a lot of control over this process. They can learn things on their own and be savvy users of the health care system. The problem has been that for most people, authentic information can be really hard to get. But I want to make everyone a smart user of health care and to make sure that everyone's getting the best care because both doctor and patient are asking the right questions."

Dr. Oz encourages people to be prepared for their doctor appointments by developing their personal health profile, a summary of their health issues and history that includes family history, and to be prepared to discuss critical topics. He advises people to learn as much as they can from as many sources as they can, and cites Life Extension magazine as "a good resource that's full of practical information and articles about supplements that I often find useful."

"Most patients don't do a great job of communicating with their doctors because patients often give us docs too little pertinent information to go on--and remember, just like a detective, we're looking for the facts," says Dr. Oz. "At the same time, they may also give us too many distracting or off-topic details. The first sign of a Smart Patient is that telltale document, the personal health profile that they produce during their first visit, or even their 50th. This is the sign of a patient who means business, one who will challenge us to be at our absolute best, and who won't waste time and money on redundant and unnecessary efforts."

Between his practice, teaching, writing books, and making media appearances, it is tempting to conclude that Dr. Oz is a man who probably doesn't sleep much. The love of his profession and his passion for his message keep him going in all these areas. He strongly believes that we can turn around the health problems facing the nation today if people will simply take charge of their own health destiny again.

"I'm passionate about the message. I believe that all health care is personal, and we have to get Americans to do it for themselves," he says. "The ultimate solution to the health care problem in our country will only be found through empowering individuals to take better care of themselves. It won't happen otherwise. We can try to delegate healthcare from Washington, DC, but the only way to get healthy is for individuals to take responsibility to do it on their own." With Dr. Oz's help, we are certainly on the way to doing so.

Dr. Oz on Anti-Aging: Five Major Agers (and what you can do about them)

In his book, You: Staying Young, The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty, Dr. Oz focuses on what he calls the Major Agers, 14 biological processes that control the rate at which you age. He offers detailed easy-to-understand explanations of these process and what you can do to combat their negative effects. He also makes diet and supplement recommendations along with prescriptions for stress reduction and other lifestyle changes. Most importantly, he notes that it's never too early or too late to start making positive changes in your life to combat aging.

"Even if you start making changes late in life, you can still repair the damages that age the body," he says. "It's important to remember that the things we do for longevity are things we do for ourselves, not things that doctors do for us."

Here are five Major Agers and what you can do to combat their effects.

1. Bad Genes and Short Telomeres

Genes are key to determining how you age. While you might be stuck with the genes you're given, you can help control the way they're expressed. Says Dr. Oz, "We're starting to uncover more and more ways that you can change how your genes function. For example, just 10 minutes of walking turns on a gene that decreases cancer growth rate, and resveratrol turns on a gene that slows or stops a dangerous inflammatory process that happens in the body."

2. Declining Defenses

When it comes to aging, we're concerned with acute infections and chronic infections, when bacteria and other germs trigger a behind-the-scenes inflammatory response that ages your entire system, says Dr. Oz. Fight declining defenses by getting the nutrients shown to boost your natural defenses, such as omega-3 fatty acids, resveratrol, catechins (found in green tea), quercetin, lycopene, biotin, vitamins B6 and B12, ginger, and curcumin.

3. Toxins

Toxins can chip away at our overall health so we're much more prone to feeling the effects of aging, says Dr. Oz. "Some of the toxins that we encounter are potentially very harmful and can cause cancer, asthma, or allergies, and they can reduce your quality of life in more subtle ways." Weakened immune systems from aging that are unable to fight off the Major Ager of toxins create a perfect storm of cancer-causing factors. To prevent the birth and spread of cancer cells, take these steps:

  • Fortify yourself with vitamin D. "Vitamin D decreases the risk of cancer, perhaps because it's toxic to cancer cells. The other theory is that D bolsters the ability of the guard-dog p53 gene to spot cancerous cells and kill them." Most Americans don't get enough D--we're indoors a lot, or wearing sunscreen when we're outdoors. Dr. Oz's vitamin D recommendation: 800 IU a day if you're younger than 60 and 1,000 IU if you're over 60. (Editor's note: Many aging individuals require far higher doses of vitamin D to achieve optimal status.)

  • Protect your liver. Certain foods and supplements can help improve liver function and have anti-cancer properties. These are choline (which can be found in cabbage, cauliflower, and soybeans), as well as N-acetylcysteine, milk thistle, lecithin (1 tablespoon daily), and rosemary extract.

  • B protected. Research shows that folate deficiency is linked to cancer. "Folate supplementation decreases colon cancer rates by 20 to 50%," says Dr. Oz. "The amount of folate that seems to reduce colon cancer is 800 micrograms a day." The average intake of folate through food: only 275 to 375 micrograms, so you need a supplement to reduce cancer risk.

  • Selenium reduces damage that can lead to cancer. Sources include foods like garlic that absorb selenium from the soil. However, soil in most areas of the country is depleted of selenium. "It seems that taking 200 micrograms of selenium in organic supplements may help reduce cancer," says Dr. Oz. "Don't exceed 600 micrograms a day."


4. Glycosylation

Glycosylation occurs when sugar molecules, or glucose, in our blood attach to protein molecules, diminishing their effectiveness and causing inflammation, says Dr. Oz. This process increases as we age. Glycosylation can lead to atherosclerosis, cataracts, loss of elasticity in skin, and arthritis. What to do: "Losing weight will immediately shift your body's response to insulin and melt away the glycosylation," says Dr. Oz. Exercise and a healthy diet are also important. Foods and supplements that can help include ginseng, cinnamon, tea, and chromium, which have been shown to help increase insulin receptivity and help lower the risk of aging from diabetes.

5. Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation

We all know that UV radiation from the sun damages skin and can lead to skin cancers. It also destroys your reserves of folic acid, necessary for your body to replicate DNA properly. But less attention is placed on the damage that UV radiation can do to your eyes. It can cause oxidative stress, which damages vision by clouding our lens (cataracts) and by damaging the delicate cells of the retina. It also oxidizes the pigments in the retina, decreasing the antioxidants in the back of the eye, meaning that these delicate cells are always at risk of being damaged through free radicals. Conditions like macular degeneration are caused when cells die from oxidative damage. Along with wearing UV-protective sunglasses, nutrition is important to rebuilding antioxidant stores to protect your eyes.

Dr. Oz recommends:

  • Lutein, found in spinach, leafy green vegetables, and corn. You can supplement at 1,000 mcg/day.

  • The eye cocktail. A National Institutes of Health study found that certain vitamins taken together can help prevent vision loss for those who have age-related macular degeneration. Researchers found a more than 25% reduction in risk of vision loss if they took 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 15 mg of beta-carotene, 80 mg of zinc, and 2 mg of copper every day in divided doses.


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