We all know that it's easy to talk the talk; walking the walk is more of a challenge. That's particularly true for physicians who are determined to educate their patients about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
We all know that it’s easy to talk the talk; walking the walk is more of a challenge. That’s particularly true for physicians who are determined to educate their patients about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. It’s not easy, but more physicians are beginning to recognize that the benefits are significant — to both the physician and the medical practice.
“Doctors who engage more with their patients will have more loyal, long-term patients who are more adherent to any lifestyle, supplement, or orthodox medical regimen,” says Ross Walker, MD, an Australia-based cardiologist. “Walking the walk and discussing this with patients does improve their compliance.”
More powerful than drugs
Walker, whose practice places particular emphasis on preventative cardiology and cardiac imaging, was astounded during his cardiology training by the patients who would be coming in for their second or third bypass operations, often five or six years after their first, having not changed any aspects of their lifestyles.
When he started reviewing the literature, it became clear that lifestyle modification and the appropriate uses of supplementation were twice as powerful in the long term than any drug therapy or surgical procedure he could offer his patients. Since then, lifestyle modification and many aspects of integrated cardiology have always occupied a central part of his own life and the therapies he offers to his patients.
“For physicians to be credible to their patients they have to also be an example,” Walker says. “For a patient to see an obese cardiologist or to smell cigarettes on a cardiologist’s clothes and breath really gives all of the wrong messages. Equally the patients need to see that their doctor is calm, friendly and caring.”
Walker is very open about his own eating and exercise habits because he would not expect a patient to do something that he is not prepared to do himself. He also talks to his patients about the importance of their emotional life.
“There is a wonderful saying about climbing the ladder to success to find you are on the wrong wall,” Walker explains. “The right wall is, of course, developing excellent lifestyle habits and also developing long-term loving, caring relationships with the people who are central to your life.”
Walker believes there are five key principles that physicians should employ as part of helping patients leading a healthy life. Perhaps the most important, he explains, is that physicians focus far too much on statin therapy as a form of preventative cardiology. Walker says he treats risk rather than cholesterol.
“In all men at age 50 and all females at age 60, I perform a coronary calcium score (not an intravenous CT coronary angiogram) to assess a person’s level of risk,” Walker explains. “This is, of course, if they had not already had a cardiovascular event.”
He also points to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that showed clearly that coronary calcium score was the best predictor for cardiac risk, and in intermediate patients proved Framingham Risk wrong in 65% of cases.
“Patients with zero or very low calcium scores despite cholesterol levels don’t always need statin therapy, but all people need lifestyle modification as this not only reduces their risk for a future vascular event but all other common diseases as well,” says Walker
Walker also advocates judicious use of nutritional supplements, such as BergaMet Mega and BergaMet Pro, which have just been released on the American market. These two supplements have been in use in other parts of the world for 20 years, though.
“I have been using [BergaMet Mega and BergaMet Pro] personally and in over 1,000 patients in my own practice in Australia for the last two years,” Walker says. “It has been shown to reduce cholesterol on average around 30%, LDL cholesterol around 36%, increase HDL up to 40% and reduce triglycerides by around 41%.”
The most powerful drug
Walker is also a proponent of exercising regularly and quitting all addictions.
“You cannot be healthy and smoke,” he says. “You cannot be healthy and drink too much alcohol. And you certainly cannot be healthy and use any illegal drugs.”
But the most powerful drug on the planet, says the author of seven best-selling books, is happiness, peace and contentment.
“I see every day as a self-improvement program, and every day should be a quest for becoming more happy and contented,” Walker explains. “I believe the most important therapy a doctor can offer his patients is his or her time. And having practiced medicine in this fashion for the past 30 years, it is certainly a very rewarding life.”