Another topic from Dr Chatterjee
The Science of Longevity by Dr Peter Attia
Healthspan matters more than lifespan
By Dr Chatterjee,
No one would argue that smoking is a killer. And no doctor would wait until a patient was showing early signs of cancer or heart disease before advising them to quit. Yet this is one of the few health scenarios where early prevention is given the evidence-based weight it deserves. This week’s guest on my Feel Better Live More podcast believes that needs to change.
Dr Peter Attia is a medical doctor, a longevity expert and author of the brand-new book, Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity. He gained his medical degree at Stanford University, trained in general surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and was a surgical oncology fellow at the US National Cancer Institute. He’s also on the editorial board for the journal Aging and host of The Drive podcast, which covers health, medicine, and longevity.
Peter is not interested in reaching unheard-of age milestones or hitting birthdays in triple figures – unless he can do it with full vitality. He believes our focus needs to be on the quality of life we’re living; our health span rather than our lifespan.
We begin this conversation by talking about the evolution of medicine. Without being critical of doctors, who are all trying to do their best with the models they have, we discuss the limitations of current practice. Peter calls this ‘medicine 2.0’ and describes it as adept at dealing with ‘fast death’, from trauma and infection. But it’s failing to counter our declining life expectancy or deal with the prevalence of chronic disease.
Peter shares what he calls the ‘four horsemen’ of the health apocalypse – namely the 4 disease states, that will end up taking most of our lives: atherosclerosis, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases and metabolic dysfunction. Our objective, he says, should be to die ‘with’ disease, not ‘of’ disease and we need to delay the onset of these four horsemen. Medicine 2.0 gets involved too late. A huge part of Peter’s philosophy is about aggressively taking action to delay the onset of these four horsemen. But, to do that, we will need to take a different approach, which Peter calls, ‘medicine 3.0’
In our wide-ranging conversation, Peter shares which investigations and tests he thinks we should all be doing and he explains why when it comes to longevity, exercise is the most important areas to focus on.
We then dive into the hugely important idea of context and pay-off. What is the cost of your health habit and do the sums add up? If exercising to extremes causes an injury that puts you out of action for months, was it worth it? If meditation or food prep robs you of quality time spent with loved ones, is that the best choice to make? Should you prioritise sleep at the expense of social connection? Of course, these are distinct questions with individual responses – all of which speaks to Peter’s personalised approach to healthcare. There’s no one-size-fits-all.
We also discuss one of my big passions, the vital importance of emotional health and, Peter talks openly about his own struggles with extreme perfectionism and shares some of the tools that he uses daily to help.
I loved having the opportunity to connect with Peter during this in-depth and enlightening chat. I hope this conversation inspires you to transform your own healthspan. Click here to listen on my website.