Book Review: Drop Dead Healthy
In the past few years my practice of cardiology has expanded from stress tests and placing stents to include a functional approach to hypertension, hyperlipidemia, coronary artery disease and other maladies. Along with that shift, my reading has expanded from the New England Journal of Medicine and Circulation to include a variety of materials from ashwangandha to zinc!. Along the way I encountered A. J. Jacobs, a contributor to Esquire Magazine. His books The Know It All (a year’s journey reading the Encyclopedia Britannia) and The Year of Living Biblically (a year of living in Manhattan following Old and New Testament rules while raising a young family) provided information wrapped in humor. Therefore, I bought with eagerness his newest work, Drop Dead Healthy, published in 2012 by Simon and Schuster.
In his latest book, he describes a 2 year journey to improve his health: Project Health.
Jacobs begins at 172 pounds and 18% body fat by tackling diet options. He meets with the director of research for the Calorie Restriction Society, tackles mindful eating and chewing, what he calls “chewdaism,” and concludes sensibly that he needs to eat more leafy green vegetables.
Keeping my interest keen, Jacobs tackles the heart as the first organ system he studies for self-improvement. He joins a gym and hires a trainer to motivate him learning that a syndrome of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness can creep up a day or two after exercise in the uninitiated. Not satisfied, he is intrigued by the Paleo movement and joins a Caveman workout group in Central Park, climbing over logs on all fours. At the end of that month he uses a, iPhone app called HourFace to digitally create his face as an old man providing motivation to exercise for youthfulness and vitality! He reduces his weight to 168 pounds commits to training for a triathlon before his book journey is over.
Chapters follow on studying hearing and vision, GI and lung function, immune optimization, dental health, other organ functions. Between stretching, meditating, flossing, chewing, petting dogs, drinking wine and so on, he calculates that it takes over 6 hours a day to practice the health enhancing lessons he has learned (not including the time it takes to make love to his wife for health reasons which he will not divulge!). He synthesizes much research on toxins in the environment to 2 lessons: 1) don’t microwave in plastic and 2) eat sea creatures low on the food chain like crab to avoid mercury. He memorizes the rhyme about BPA “Four, five one and two, all the rest are bad for you”.
The book closes with 7 appendices including tips on exercise, eating less, treadmill desks, stress reduction, food advice (If you are going to eat meat, make it a side dish. Thomas Jefferson), noise reduction, stress reduction, and toxins to avoid.
All in all, I would enthusiastically recommend Drop Dead Healthy for its wealth of information and the humor it is wrapped in. Few of us will take 1-2 years to experience such a range of health options, mainstream and obscure (like Finger Fitness by Greg Irwin). However, at the end of his journey Jacobs is down to 158 pounds, has dropped his body fat in half, and has much wisdom to share with us and our patients.