Recently I had the opportunity to hear doctor and author David B. Agus speak about his new book The End of Illness at the 92nd Street Y. He was interviewed by Connie Chung. It was an evening full of brilliance, insight, and inspiration.
David B. Agus, MD is an oncologist and professor of medicine and engineering at USC, Keck School of Medicine and Viterbi School of Engineering. He is also the head of USC’s Westside Cancer Center and the Center for Applied Molecular Medicine. In 2009 he received GQ’s Rock Star of Science Award. ….yeah, he’s a pretty cool guy. Being an oncologist, he has had to face cancer patients with the lamentable news of little or no treatment left and so, his book, The End of Illness, is about prevention and hope. In a perfect world, Dr. Agus would like the population to bypass illness in our older ages. He would prefer us to take charge of our bodies and do what is right for our personal health. Who wouldn’t agree with that?
Dr. Agus is creating a movement away from the typical treatment of cancer, heart disease, obesity, Alzheimers, etc., and is reevaluating how western society treats these diseases. Being an oncologist (though The End of Illness is not just a book about cancer) Dr. Agus equates the current treatments of cancer with bacterial or viral infections. When we get a sinus infection, for example, we take an antibiotic which targets bacteria and clears up the infection. In the case of cancer, we’ve been targeting cancers through treatments, like antibiotics for an infection. But, research has shown that typical cancer treatments are not “good for the goose, good for the gander” scenarios. It’s wonderful that people can be cured by certain treatments but what works for you may not necessarily work for me.
How do we find out what specific treatment will work specifically for our bodies, you might ask? Well, Dr. Agus has figured a way to test our genetics. This will show us what diseases we may be predisposed to developing and what medications and dosages would be the best for our bodies. I might only need a low dosage of a medication, or a combination of this and that, to help me fight a disease. Your body may need something different with a higher dosage. Many times medication will work to fight a disease but it may be harming another part of your body. You will wind up becoming healthy after fighting an ailment or a disease from the medication you took, but you may have to deal with another medical issue because the medication you just took negatively affected another part of your body.
Dr. Agus wrote an abundance of facts and simple steps to follow in your every-day life to decrease the risk for the western diseases that afflict our country. One is to avoid bodily inflammation (which is the common source for all major illness) by making a few simple changes to your daily habits: wear comfortable shoes; get a flu shot; if you’re an older person, take an 82 mg aspirin or Lipitor (a statin – talk to your doctor first). There’s much more, so you’ll have to read the book.
Another point Dr. Agus stresses is to eat right! Yay for nutritionists! Having a healthy, whole, well-rounded diet is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Dr. Agus even quoted Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. We should be eating whole foods that come from the earth; foods that our grandparents or great-grandparents would recognize as food, and if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.
With the changing U.S. health care system and food-related illnesses on the rampage, the best health care is prevention. With Dr. Agus, we need to stay on this path and bring the full population into better awareness of what health and disease prevention truly is. The End of Illness is a brilliant, in depth look into our future in medical practices that I strongly encourage everyone to read.