Food is a relationship just like marriage — only eat food you love and that loves your body back. Many of us are poisoning ourselves with too many calories, sugars, and saturated fats found in red meats and fried foods. The best things to eat are fish, vegetables, and healthy fats — nature’s fuel and medicine! For me, I love walnuts, avocados, and salmon. All three provide a great mix of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients the mind and body love.
The term Blue Zones has been used to describe places where people live long and healthy lives. What exactly does it take to live a long and healthy life? What is the science and the secret behind longevity and life extension? In this series, we are talking to medical experts, wellness experts, and longevity experts to share “5 Things You Need To Live A Long, Healthy, & Happy Life”. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dr. Michael Roizen.
Dr. Michael Roizen has more than 40 years of experience as a medical doctor — certified in both Internal Medicine and Anesthesiology. He is the Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic, a professor at the Lerner College of Medicine of the Cleveland Clinic at Case Western Reserve University, and a scientific advisor to PanTheryx, an integrated digestive and immune health company. Dr. Roizen is widely known for the RealAge concept he developed, which motivates behavior change, is an author of four №1 and nine Top 10 NY Times Bestsellers. Recently, he authored what he calls the most important book he has written, The Great Age Reboot, and created the accompanying Reboot Your Age app.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
When I was asked to co-lead cardiovascular anesthesia at the University of California San Francisco, I found that the main determinant of patients’ outcomes was their age. I was witnessing how people progressed post-op, and I became determined to help them become 10 to 20 years “younger” than their calendar age, so their recovery time was shorter. This when I developed RealAge as a motivating metric that promotes behavioral and lifestyle changes that affects one’s health, and therefore, their physiological age. When I created this method in 1998, it was predicted that 60 could be the new 40. Little did we know that people who were following the RealAge Method were actually turning on or off genes when certain choices were made. Therefore, their physiological age was getting younger. Today, thanks to medical advancements and scientific breakthroughs, I believe that in the next ten years and with an 80% probability that 90 can be the new 40.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
This is a lesson about doing the right thing and being kind.
On my first day at the Cleveland Clinic in 2005 as chair of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Management, I was in a very busy operating room when a surgeon I was with overreacted at the number of appointments that day. As a result, he took it out on the scheduling clerk. Instead of taking the scheduling clerk aside to talk logistics, the surgeon made a public scene.
Seeing that it was my first day, I did not know who he was or who he reported to, but I did not care as this was no way to act. I took him aside and suggested he have some compassion and to have the conversation privately. I said that kindness would get him farther in life and in his career, and that he should apologize for his actions the next day. To my surprise, he took my suggestion and did. After this, the OR and surgical areas seemed to function more efficiently, and people were better situated to handle hardships or difficult conversations. They weren’t afraid to speak up and share opinions. What’s even more impressive, our teams had fewer errors in the operating room because all team members felt more empowered.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m lucky to have nine people instrumental in my success:
- My wife Nancy who encourages and supported every crazy idea
- My parents who were disappointed when I didn’t try my hardest — I never wanted to let them down
- A pediatrician (Dick Fischer MD) who came to our house when I was sick as a dog at age 9 –he gave me a shot — probably penicillin or streptomycin, and in six hours I felt better and decided that day I wanted to be a doctor so I could help people feel better
- A French teacher in high school, Albert Sutter, who said if I worked hard I could achieve honors by the second half of my junior year; I did it in the second half of freshman year and ran to him with joy — his comment: have we lowered our standards that much. He made me work harder.
- An English teacher in college who called me in after three weeks and asked what I wanted to be — a physician I replied. He said that was good as I’d never make it if I needed to write. He wanted to write a NY Times best seller. I learned to write and get a team so I could.
- A pharmacology and medicine professor at the University of California San Francisco, Ken Melmon, MD, PhD, who was my role model and mentor; showed combining top notch research and striving to benefit patients in innovative ways was doable.
- My chair (Bill Hamilton, MD) at the University of California San Francisco –he taught me how to lead with a vision and how to make hard decisions with grace, kindness, and innovativeness. When I asked for a resource, if he hadn’t already planned to allocate it, I knew I was wrong.
- A co-worker, Jon Moss MD PhD, who kept pushing me to not accept the status quo and keep challenging the accepted.
- Albert Ratner and his wife Audrey, who at 94+ are models of curiosity and innovativeness, and who is a co-author on the Great Age Reboot book and whose persistence really drove development of the Reboot Your Age app.
You are a successful leader. Which three-character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Three traits I think have been most instrumental in my success are my willingness to ask for advice from other experts, recruit the best talent to bring a vision to life, and ask for input from the full team, no matter what the answer might be.
Ask seasoned experts for advice.
The first phone call I made after I accepted the chair position at the University of Chicago was to Doug Talbott, MD, who ran the largest physician addiction rehabilitation program in the U.S. Not only was he a friend that I could share the good news with, but I trusted his medical and professional advice as I moved farther into my career.
Dr. Talbott at the time was overseeing an addiction rehabilitation program where he saw a lot of substance abuse, something that happens often in my area of medicine, and something that is not discussed. Statistics show roughly 15% of anesthesia, critical care, and pain management staff and recruits fall victim to addiction because of the access to narcotics. My goal as chair was to reduce and prevent substance abuse.
With help from Dr. Talbott, I created a process to educate and train staff and faculty, and my department saw a steep reduction of addition. Today, more than 1,200 staffers have been trained, fewer abuse incidents occurred, and the program was replicated at the Cleveland Clinic when I started work there.
A shared vision.
Finding any talent is easy but recruiting best-in-class talent that shares the same vision, values and mission is gold. I believe in recruit people better than you and building a team that complements each other’s work. This helps create comradery, pushes people to continue to do their best and allows for teaching. When I took over a hospital’s department, it had been neglected with no vision or shared mission to follow. By building a team that all shared the same goal, we were able to turn the story around and become one of the top ten departments in the country. And, it wasn’t because of one individual or leader, it was because of the recruits and their efforts. We all lived, breathed, and worked to make the vision a reality.
Always be kind.
Part of what has gotten me to where I am is how I treat others. From leading difficult conversations with empathy to showing appreciation, I try to always do things with kindness.
I remember when I worked at the University of Chicago, they recruited a top doctor to lead a service area of pain management. Everything on paper and the references provided were superb, unfortunately, this person’s management and leadership skills were lacking. I had to have a hard, yet delicate, conversation about moving them out of their role and into another. Because of how I handled the conversation, they were more open to it and accepted it, becoming a great practitioner, helping advance the science of pain management substantially.
It was the kindness I showed that helped make this transition a successful one. In the end, it does not matter how smart you are, how much money you make, who you know, or how famous you become. People will remember you for how you treat them and your kindness.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview about health and longevity. To begin, can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fields of health, wellness, and longevity? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
My unique contribution is the use of Net Present Value to health choices. For every 10 years younger you are, you decrease your complication rates and risk of death and disability after surgery threefold. So, I developed RealAge — the actual age of your body based on the net present value of your health and lifestyle choices and your genetics — to motivate presurgical patients to make choices that made them the equivalent of 10 or more years younger in the two weeks surrounding their major surgery. I communicated it in emotional and fun ways to get a fair number of people to change their behaviors.
When I co-lead cardiovascular anesthesia at the University of California San Francisco, I found a direct correlation between a patient’s age and their outcome post-op. Every 10 years made a three-fold difference in that person’s recovery, meaning a 55-year-old undergoing the same procedure, with the same surgeon and care team, had one ninth (1/9) the risk of death, disability, and major complications compared to a 75-year-old. So, I worked to develop a way to help patients become 10 to 20 years younger than their calendar age. In 1998, my team and I started to research this theory of “turning back the clock” and if it was possible to have a younger physiologically (RealAge) than the actual calendar age. We discovered that those with a calendar age of 60 were able to lower their physiological age to 40 (RealAge) by changing the way they participated in things like physical fitness, nutrition, social connectedness, etc.
Although we predicted in 1998 that 60 could be the new 40, little did we know that when people applying this theory, their bodies were turning on good genes and turning off the bad ones. Now, we say that in the next 10 years, thanks to modern medicine, 90 can be the new 40. Because RealAge became a breakthrough and a motivating metric for so many, I wrote about it in a book, “RealAge: Are You as Young as You Can Be” that later became a best-seller and Oprah favorite.
Today, the Cleveland Clinic uses the RealAge concept in its ‘Healthy Choice Program’ with employees and their dependents. As a result, with the 120,000+ people that have participated over the years, the hospital has saved more than $50 million dollars in premiums and co-pays the first 10 years of the program. Additionally, many people in this program now have lower to normal blood pressure and better cholesterol numbers. A win-win for the employer and the employee and their family!
Lastly, since medicine and science are constantly evolving and getting better, I built on this concept with my latest book — The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow and recently launched mobile app, Reboot Your Age. The Reboot Your Age program was developed to help people achieve a younger physiological age so they can do what they love for longer.
Seekers throughout history have traveled great distances and embarked on mythical quests in search of the “elixir of life,” a mythical potion said to cure all diseases and give eternal youth. Has your search for health, vitality, and longevity taken you on any interesting paths or journeys? We’d love to hear the story.
My longevity work has led me to meet and work with outstanding scientists, including Valter Longo, Ph.D. Dr. Longo is a biogerontologist and author of “The Longevity Diet.” For instance, his work recommends reducing calories to 1,000 for one day, then to 750 for four days, then resume a Mediterranean diet once a quarter — that resets all the biomarkers of aging to that of a younger person. The concept of a “fasting mimicking diet” and “eating only while the sun is out” is rooted in the guidance I share in The Great Age Reboot book and the Reboot Your Age app.
Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Live A Long & Healthy Life”? (Please share a story or an example for each)
- Change your attitude. You are a genetic engineer for your body. You can unlock your ability to live younger for longer and here is how:
- Food is a relationship just like marriage — only eat food you love and that loves your body back. Many of us are poisoning ourselves with too many calories, sugars, and saturated fats found in red meats and fried foods. The best things to eat are fish, vegetables, and healthy fats — nature’s fuel and medicine! For me, I love walnuts, avocados, and salmon. All three provide a great mix of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients the mind and body love.
- Choose a team of medical professionals for their trust, honesty, knowledge, and curiosity to assess your body and brain, and to advise you with solid science. I am constantly reading up on the latest science and research and telling my patients how to incorporate it. For example, I recommend taking a multivitamin-multimineral supplement daily. While research didn’t show much benefit in the ten-year analysis for cancer or heart disease, it showed an 18% reduction in cancers and 25% reduction in heart disease for those taking this supplement daily after 20 years. Additionally, the research showed brain health benefits after consistently taking it for 3 years. Studies show that taking a baby aspirin (or NSAID like ibuprofen) can cause gastro distress. For the 30 million people take a baby aspirin for aches/pains or healthy heart function they are likely unaware that the gut lining is being compromised, allowing toxins to be absorbed. To support the gut lining and overall gut health, research has shown that taking bovine (cow) colostrum (I’m on the scientific advisory board of the company PanTheryx that produces Life’s First Naturals which supplies this) and drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help. I recommend 2000 mg of cow colostrum. Also, consider adding a probiotics like Trubiotics or Digestive Advantage. And phospho-creatine (400 mg a day) helps your brain stay young as it helps prevent muscle weakness as we grow older.
- Slowly add physical fitness and speed to your body and brain through specific activities and brain games. Walk 10,000 steps a day (or equivalent) to start. This can be in increments at the beginning, slowly building to longer stretches as you progress. Try building the intensity to increase the heart rate, too three times a week for 20 minutes. Regarding brain health, the mantra here is “use it or lose it.” When the brain is consistently working, especially when quick decisions need to be made, this promotes the growth of neurons, connections, and the hippocampus. It also helps reduces the risk of dementia and increase memory recall. I like playing games like BrainHQ’s Double Decision and Freeze Frame.
- Manage stress and build your posse and purpose. When stress is high, it triggers a cascade of hormonal effects, making it the number-one ager. While it’s impossible the eliminate stress all together, our response to it will dictated the effect it has on our health. Friends, or your posse, and purpose are key to managing stress.
Can you suggest a few things needed to live a life filled with happiness, joy, and meaning?
I believe in having a group of people, your posse, that lift you up, encourage you and have your back, and finding purpose in everything you do. Without these things it can be a lonely, unfulfilling, and uninspiring road.
Some argue that longevity is genetic, while others say that living a long life is simply a choice. What are your thoughts on this nature vs. nurture debate? Which is more important?
Both nature and nurture play a huge role in life. When the body is young, our genes take us where they want to go. But as we age, the more control we have over our genes and what potentially happens in our body. The answer to your question really resides in the science of the human genome project.
For example, there are two people that receive bad medical diagnoses. “Person A” has a strong immune system, is in good shape and takes good care of themselves physically, mentally, nutritionally, and socially. “Person B” on the other hand has a weak immune system, is not in good shape, and rarely takes care of themselves. Who do you think will have a better possible outcome? It does not take a medical degree to think “Person A” will do better because of their lifestyle choices. While a strong body can’t weather every medical storm, there’s little doubt that a stronger body can surely weather storms better than a weaker body.
This principle is the one that guides us as we think about the Great Age Reboot — how to live younger for longer. You will be better prepared, more fortified, and have a stronger biological shield if you take control over your health destiny, rather than wait for every fix. The same holds true for your financial destiny. The stronger you are now, the better prepared you will be for the future. Why? There are many unknowns as to our timeline and the availability of these antiaging medical advances. But we know that smart choices can make it much more likely benefit will follow.
When it comes to health, our original parts are nature’s most masterful design. And if we can keep those parts in their original packaging, there’s a good chance that our health outcomes will be even better when we try the Rebooting Method — focusing on nutrition, physical activity, sleep, not smoking, brain health, and stress management. Focusing on these areas provide natural ways of engineering your DNA switches. The Reboot shouldn’t be about saving one’s life. It should be about enhancing it. Our future depends on what we decide now. And those decisions will make us live stronger in both body and pocketbook and prepared to fully enjoy the Great Age Reboot.
Life sometimes takes us on paths that are challenging. How have you managed to bounce back from setbacks in order to cultivate physical, mental, and emotional health?
First, for me, it begins with a great life partner, my wife. But also, like I said earlier, a posse and passion have a lot to do with where I am. Without a purpose and the people, I surround myself with it would be hard to bounce-back from roadblocks or celebrate my wins.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
Rule number 1: Always do the right thing.
Rule number 2: Change your attitude — you are your own genetic engineer. Your choices matter to how well and long you live.
Rule number 3: When in doubt, refer to rule number one.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
As the saying goes, age is just a number. I want to remind people that it’s never too late to reengineer their body, learn how to live younger for longer, and think about how life extension can work for anyone. The Great Age Reboot book explains how longevity is possible, and for those ready to start, the Reboot Your Age app is available. Ninety is going to be the new 40, and this new reality will have far-reaching effects on work, family life, retirement and more, making longevity the next social disruptor.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
- Instagram — @drmichaelroizen or twitter @DrMikeRoizen
- Column from King Features — appears in hundreds of newspapers nationwide
- YOU: The Owner’s Manual Podcast
- Download the Reboot Your Age app from Apple App or Google Play stores
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.