7 questions about health you need to ask now

Are you “living life to the fullness” and if not, why not? What could you change to make that happen?

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What does “health” mean to you?

Let’s continue exploring the heart of health by looking at a couple of interesting books. In another post we considered this definition:

“a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”

World Health Organization
2 bandaids crossed on a world globe
photo from the Lightstock collection (affiliate link)

Or you could also say

“There’s a Lot More to Health than Not Being Sick”

There's a Lot More to Health than Not Being Sick by Bruce Larson

So, what is “a lot more”? 

I’m introducing you to two medical writers who believe  health is multifaceted and not centered around the presence or absence of disease.

Health- flux and adaptation

(Note: this post uses affiliate links to sites where you might make a purchase which will help fund this blog; your help is appreciated. )

book cover- The LUCKY YEARS by David B. Agus, M.D.

Enjoying life to the fullest

Despite the author’s  impressive credentials, I was skeptical about a health book called “The Lucky Years”, as if health is just a matter of the luck of the draw or throw of the dice.  

The author is David B. Agus, M.D. , Professor of Medicine and Engineering at the University of Southern California , , author of two bestselling books and a CBS News contributor.

In The Lucky Years- How to Thrive in the Brave New World of Health Dr. Agus covers some hefty topics including

  • how the human body ages
  • Innovative cancer treatments with immunotherapy , DNA sequencing, and molecular targeting
  • The use of clinical trials to study new treatments for cancer and other diseases
  • How cancers metastasize (spread)
  • Potential uses for stem cells
  • New insights into the development of antibiotic resistance
  • Proteomics- study of the body’s proteins
  • The relationship of antibodies to common viruses to onset of chronic diseases

Rather than highly technical detail he offers a broad overview of these new technologies and how they may help treat and potentially prevent the main causes of death, that is cancer and chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

He recommends patients understand and use technology to maintain and improve their health and not rely solely on their doctor to do so and to actively participate in the healthcare system.

He believes that health data will be used to prevent, detect and treat disease and to prolong life.

Large quantities of such data, organized in a secure database, will help us predict risk and recommend preventive measures, such as already done with

  • Colonoscopy to prevent deaths from colon cancer
  • Aspirin and statin use to prevent cardiac deaths
  • Management of low grade cancers conservatively, avoiding the use of surgery or chemotherapy

The body is an incredible self-regulating machine. You don’t need to do much to support its health and optimal wellness.”

Health is in perpetual flux. 

I agree with Dr. Agus’ views on what health is, or rather what it is not.

“I don’t know what true health is, particularly on an individual basis.

For person A, health can be living totally free of illness and disability.

For person B, however, perhaps health means managing a condition well and enjoying life to the fullest despite some disability.

While we can certainly try to measure health in a variety of ways- weight, cholesterol, blood sugar, blood cell count, hormone levels, markers of inflammation, how you look, and how well you sleep, for example- none of those figures or generalizations will tell the whole picture.

And they won’t reveal how many years and days you might have left on this planet.”

He offers this advice –

“I encourage you to view your total health as a complex network of processes that cannot be explained by looking at any one pathway or focal point. Health is in perpetual flux.


A constant state of healthy adaptation

Nutritionist Hailey Pomroy, author of Fast Metabolism Food Rx, recommends using food as “metabolic medicine.”  

“Food integrates with your body to create health in a powerful way.”

She explains health using a formula E + M = H which means

Eating, Exercise, Environment  plus

Metabolism, Metabolic pathways, Me  equals

Health, Homeostasis, Harmony

In this formula, E stands for everything we put into our bodies as well as everything around us, including people, your job, the weather.

M is what is inside of you, including your genetic makeup, and what happens when your body processes (or metabolizes) food, nutrients, toxins, medications.

“Health doesn’t always mean you are disease free, It means your body has created a homeostasis or internal balance, …is a constant state of healthy adaptation or flux.”

So, what does HEALTH mean to you?

Considering their advice, think about what health means to you.

Use these questions to get started.

  1. Do you use any type of technology to manage your health and medical care? If so, is it helpful, or just more busy work?
  2. What is your relationship with your personal physician? Do you rely on your doctor to tell you what you should do, or recommend what you should do to stay healthy and treat ailments?
  3. Do you know what  medical conditions you are at risk for, and what you can  do to prevent them?
  4. What health measures are important to you, like blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, BMI, mammogram, and why?
  5. Are you “living life to the fullne” and if not, why not? What could you change to make that happen?
  6. How do you use food?
  7. What factors make up your E and your M? Do they add up to the Health that you want to create?

exploring the HEART of health

How to use watercress and other greens-and why you should

Greens are a superfood because they are so nutritious, are inexpensive to grow, and come in many varieties with a broad diversity of flavors and textures.

Despite the name, this blog isn’t about watercress, but is like watercress-unique, peppery, bright and nutritious. And as a physician blogger, I want to know more about the health benefits (and possible dangers) from watercress.

So while searching for information about watercress, I found an intriguing book,

the book of greens-a cook’s compendium

More specifically, it is

“A cook’s compendium of 40 varieties, from Arugula to Watercress, with more than 175 recipes” from the title page

The authors

Jenn Louis has competed on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters,” was named one of Food & Wine’s “Best New Chefs,” and has earned two nominations for the James Beard Foundation Award of Best Chef: Northwest. Her debut cookbook, Pasta By Hand published in 2015, was nominated for an IACP from the International Association of Culinary Professionals and this, her second book, debuted in April 2017 and won an IACP award. The book was also nominated for a James Beard Award.

She has owned and operated three restaurants and a catering business in Portland, Oregon. Jenn is actively involved with nonprofits including World Central Kitchen, Alex’s Lemonade and Share Our Strength.

Kathleen Squires is a food and travel writer from New York City. She has coauthored The Coolhaus Ice Cream Book, The Quick Six Fix, and The Journey, which won an IACP award.

Why write about greens?

The Book of Greens is about 40 different varieties of greens; some you probably already know and use-

  • arugula
  • bok choy
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • kale
  • lettuces
  • spinach

Others are less known and used, at least to me-

  • agretti
  • chickweed
  • mache
  • mizuna
  • seaweed
  • succulents
  • wild and foraged greens
Greens are a superfood because they are so nutritious, are inexpensive to grow, and come in many varieties with a broad diversity of flavors and textures. Jenn Louis

green leafy vegetables
image from LIGHTSTOCK.COM, stock photo site, an affiliate link

What’s in The Book of Greens?

This book is a cookbook, not a textbook on greens, so it features recipes, some simple, some complicated, but all incorporating some variety of greens. She starts by covering some cooking basics as it applies to greens-

  • How to buy greens-fresh, in small quantities
  • How to prepare-clean and handle them gently
  • How to cook-which methods work best for each variety
  • Storage of greens
  • Tools to use in prep and cooking
  • Notes on common ingredients used in cooking greens-oils, spices, salts, stocks, vinegars
  • Seasons-when to buy

Watercress basics –Nasturtium officinale

an ultrapeppery, strong-stemmed green, one of the oldest documented greens, dating back to ancient Greece, Rome, and Persia page 271
  • most often used in salads and sandwiches, and pureed as a soup
  • used in sandwiches for British afternoon tea
  • prescribed by Hippocrates (an ancient Greece physician, considered the father of medicine)
  • used by Captain Cook’s crew to prevent scurvy

This last point was likely due to its Vitamin C content; a deficiency causes the disease scurvy. It also is rich in other vitamins- A, B, E, K, and the minerals calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese. Some experts call it the most nutrient-rich vegetable.

How to use watercress

Watercress grows in the spring and fall in North America. She calls it a tender green which can be eaten raw or cooked. Best cooking methods are

  • lightly sauteed
  • wilted in soups
  • quickly steamed
  • quickly stir-fried over very high heat

Watercress recipes in this book

  • Chicken and pork belly paella with watercress
  • Slow-roasted pork tonnato with watercress and tomatoes
  • Watercress soup with creme fraiche and za’atar

Wild watercress-Nasturtium microphyllium

This watercress relative grows wild, rather than cultivated. It has a “more intense peppery and piquant flavor.” It grows in any watery terraine-streams, lakes, ponds. (Edible wild greens must be chosen carefully, so as not to confuse them with poisonous plants.)

In addition to the authors, the photographer, Ed Anderson, deserves special recognition. His photos of the greens and the finished recipes make this a “coffee table book”, even if you never try a single recipe.

Also by Jenn louis, pasta by hand

Other posts on this blog about watercress

powerhouse vegetables

“A 2014 research study tried to determine exactly which fruits and vegetables were most likely to keep us healthy.

They defined  “powerhouse fruits and vegetables” as those  highest in nutrients, specifically the minerals potassium, calcium, iron and zinc and vitamins A,B,C, D, E and K. ” continue reading at the link above

exploring the HEART of healthy cooking

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