Dr. Sanjay Gupta -- 2007 National Book Festival
Thursday, September 27, 2007; 12:00 PM
Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be online Thursday, Sept. 27 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss medicine, his work with CNN, the National Book Festival and his new book, "Chasing Life: New Discoveries in the Search for Immortality to Help You Age Less Today."
Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.
Dr. Gupta is a practicing neurosurgeon and associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. He's the chief medical correspondent for CNN, host of "House Call with Dr. Sanjay Gupta," a columnist for Time magazine and a contributor to "The CBS Evening News" with Katie Couric.
2007 National Book Festival: Full Coverage.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Thanks so much for haivn me today. I've been very excited about the reception for "Chasing Life." This is a book that I think appeals to everybody and offers some ikmportant liessons on how we can all live longer an dhave more functional lives. Some things are intuitive but many may find surprising. I hope you get a chance to take a look. Looking forward to your questions.
Washington, D.C.: What are some new discoveries in the area of aging to help you live longer?
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: There are certainly many scientific discoveries in the world of stem cells and nano-technology taht are very exciting. This whole idea that we are starting to find cells that can rejuvenate our bodies, not only slowing aging but perhaps even reversing it, I think, is closer than many people think. I had a chance to visit stem cell laboratories in Moscow. They were admittedly illegal and deep underground but the scientists there believe that they have been able to reverse biological aging. I don't think we're there yet but as the saying goes, where there is smoke there is fire. And I think that the way we look a life span will soon be redefined.
Let me just say as well that people talk a lot about diet and exercise and while we are always more interested in breakthroughs we know more about the best kinds of diet and the best sorts of exercise than we ever did in the past.
Washington, D.C.: Is there a direct relationship between the aging process and amount of sleep I get each night ?
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: We know that sleep has more purposes that we previously thought. Our cells are constantly going through various states of rest and replication. Sleep allows those cells to remain in states that keeps the cells' machinery working more efficiently. As a result, it can help all the cells in our body and the tissues that they comprise stay younger.
Here's an interesting fact: Sleeping only six hours a night for a week in a row will make you feel on that eighth day as if you'd gotten no sleep at all. Seven and a half to eight hours remains the sweet spot.
Harrisburg, Pa.: What are some basic dietary changes most of us could make that could improve our lives?
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Great question and I wrote almost an entire book on this topic but let me tell you some of the pearls that I learned.
Caloric restriction, restricting the number of calories, does seem to make a difference. Maybe that's obvious but in animals a calorie-restricted diet can increase life span by up to 35 percent. There is now a study going in humans to see if the same thing applies.
I don't put a lot of focus on supplements, mainly because I believe it is hard to get "the good stuff" out of foods and put it into a pill form. I recommend eating seven different colored foods a day (we're not talking about jelly beans here). If you eat seven different colored foods you'll probably get all the good stuff you need.
Also, if possible, with a busy schedule, try and eat more and smaller meals.
Philadelphia, Pa.: I remember a preacher years ago claiming that the human body was meant to live 1,000 years and that the early Biblical mention of people living hundreds of years was indeed not legend or a mistranslation. Recently, I thought I read a scientist make a similar claim that the human body, if properly cared for, could last 1,000 years. Is this true?
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: The oldest living person that has been documented was a French woman by the name of Jean Calment who lived 122 years. Still, I've heard the same things you have. While I don't know about 1,000 years, we know that if we can keep the body in the same state as it is when you are 11 or 12 years old, you could probably live a few hundred years. They key is figuring out what causes our body to slow down and what keeps cells from dividing as efficiently as they once did. Many believe that's where the real fountain of youth lies.
Lansing, Mich.: A lot of corporate greed is driving change in the health care system. Insurers, Big Pharma and even large health systems/hospitals are driving this.
Are you concerned about the rise of managed care and the resulting loss of physician and patient autonomy in health care?
What can we do about this? It seems like we are spending the resources but the people that matter (ie patients and health care providers) are unhappy!
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: When health maintenance organizations or HMOs first became popular, they were designed to "maintain" our health. Instead we have become a culture of disease treatment instead of wellness and prevention. Medically, morally and financially it doesn't make sense to allow people to get so sick before we take care of them. I think many of the problems that you eloquently define would be addressed by becoming a culture of prevention. It won't be easy. Insurance companies don't necessarily want to invest in your wellnes because you're likely to switch insurance companies within 10 years. They don't benefit from their investment in you. Even Medicare, which as over a two trillion dollar budget, invests only a few percent in wellness and prevention. This is an issue that has to be addressed before we can fix the health care system.
Boston, Mass.: How far out on a limb did the doctor treating the Buffalo Bills player who injured his spinal cord go by injecting cold saline into the player? Is it considered "experimental"? Under what circumstances can a doctor try something that hasn't been done before or proven through human trials? Will all spinal cord injury patients now receive a similar treatment?
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: This is an issue that we've been reporting on quite a bit. The induction of hypothermia through saline is not considered standard of care for spinal injuries. While there are many things that doctors prescribe "off-label," this is not something that has been proven to work.
In the case of Kevin Everett, it appears that he has a condition known as central cord syndrome. This is a brusing of the spinal cord that has a very favorable prognosis. Some studies show that 90 percent of patients improve to the point where they can walk. I doubt that we will know for sure whether the hypothermia had any benefit whatsoever.
New York, N.Y.: I notice there seem to be differences on studies in America versus studies published in Asia over the health benefits of such things as ginseng, green tea, acupuncture, etc. where the American studies claim they do not find the same extent of health benefits as the Asian studies do. Why do these studies seem to differ and what do you think is the truth as to the health benefits of gin seng, green tea, and acupuncture?
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: First of all, I have spent a lot of time both in China and in the U.S. looking at these studies. I am not sure which specific studies you're referring to in the world of TCM or traditional Chinese medicine. I have spent time with professors of TCM and most acknowledge that they wish they had better data. Having said that, I was definitely interested to learn that TCM, which has been around over 1,000 years, has been able to withstand the test of time. I believe that many things including ginseng, the antioxidant properties of green tea and even acupuncture have benefit. It will be some time befor controlled trials and the associated sciene catch up. Many people don't want to wait.
New York, N.Y.: Ever since reading about Hall of Famer Ted Williams, I've been extremely interested in head freezing. Do you think the science is there, to preserve myself for generations to come?
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: The science of cryo-preservation is still evolving. As with many things right now you have to bank not only on the science but on the hope that some of the techniques will improve over time.
Briefly, the whole idea that we can freeze tissues in a state that stalls the biochemical processes that cause cell death seems possible. We do this with tumors and other tissues. Whether or not that same science applies to the body as a whole remains to be seen. That has not been proven yet.
Fairfax, Va.: How is the book festival going? How do you find time to write a book and be on TV?
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: I'm looking forward to attending the book festival. Today will be the first day for me. As far as finding time, I try and synergize a lot of the things that I do. So in addition to writing the book I used a lot of the research that I'd done to also produce a documentary (CNN) on the same topic. Subsequently my Time magazine column also evolved around this interest of mine. So while I stay very busy I try to be as efficient as possible.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Unfortunately I have to leave to attend a cancer awareness luncheon at the Capitol. Cancer prevention has been a passion of mine on a personal and professional for a long time. I'm staying in Washington this weekend and I hope to see you at the festival. Thanks for your great questions. Sorry we couldn't answer them all.
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