“No wonder Forbes magazine recently called a healthy lifestyle the single largest threat to drug company profits!” Dr. Charles “Snuffy” Myers
I am a big fan of those authorities who champion lifestyle changes as the way to prevent and potentially even reverse the genetic malfunctions linked with prostate cancer (PCa). Names like “Snuffy” Myers, Dean Ornish, Mark Moyad and others spring to mind. Countless PCa patients – or men at high risk for PCa – who have embraced their guidance are walking around free from cancer. Not just cancer, but they have also greatly reduced their chances of dying prematurely from heart attack, stroke, complications from diabetes, etc.
Dr. Myers is an expert on PCa. Not only is he a medical oncologist who specializes in this disease, he is also a long-time PCa patient. He was diagnosed with aggressive, metastatic PCa in 1999, at age 55. At present, he enjoys what might be called “durable compete remission” from his cancer. How did he accomplish this? As he puts it, “…I learned that by educating myself first and then formulating a well-crafted strategy…I was able to force what would be considered a remission while preserving my overall health and longevity.”[i]
Based on results from the HALE Project, Dr. Myers explains four lifestyle factors that collectively reduce the death rate from coronary atherosclerosis by 73%, from cancer by 69%, and all other causes by 67%. These are astonishing numbers!
Four key lifestyle factors
Admittedly, it’s hard to change a lifetime of poor health habits that include smoking, being a couch (or cubicle) potato, and the “Western” diet of refined grains, too much sugar, unhealthy fats, a high proportion of red meat, and whatever chemicals exist in the agribusiness food supply that passes through fast food chains.
Instead, here are four do-able lifestyle changes that influences the compelling HALE Project results:
- Quit smoking! Obviously, if you are not a smoker, or quite years ago, don’t take it up. However, if you smoke, you can’t give it up soon enough. There are many successful smoke-ending programs, but a good starting point is the strategy laid out by the American Cancer Society.
- Drink wine (yes, you read that correctly). In particular, the equivalent of one to two glasses of red wine per day is shown to have cardiovascular benefits. Dr. Myers points out that if medical or religious reasons prohibit alcohol, the juice from concord grapes contains many of the same beneficial polyphenol antioxidants.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes per day. While many studies specify vigorous exercise for a certain number of days and the duration each time, Dr. Myers points out that even walking or gardening is beneficial, but daily is the key word.
- Healthy diet (Dr. Myers recommends the Mediterranean diet, and other studies have also demonstrated tremendous health benefits). The principles include healthy fat (olive oil or other monounsaturated oil), legumes, grains, nuts (for most of the calories and protein), fruits and vegetables, limited daily intake of dairy (and only in the form of yogurt or cheese), eggs, fish, shellfish and white poultry can be eaten several times a week (confine red meat/pork to few occasions per month).
Points to remember
Before closing, I want to underscore two important points.
First, all four of the lifestyle factors seem to have a synergistic effect. In other words, taking on one or two won’t give the same results. That said, we humans set ourselves up for failure if we take on too much change at once. Therefore, if you currently don’t practice any of these, start small with one change at a time. Only add another as you have successfully incorporated a previous change. And, if the idea of “permission” to drink two glasses of red wine per day seems like a tempting first step, I would encourage you to tackle the other three first, just in case you start with alcohol and never quite make it to any other changes! That would clearly and totally defeat the purpose.
Second, since Dr. Myers experienced a recurrence, he also developed an approach to hormonal therapy for himself, which is beyond the scope of this blog. I just don’t want to leave the reader with the misperception that he personally did not use any prescription treatment. However, thanks to his lifestyle (in addition to intermittent hormone use), he continues his mission through his website and video blogs, where you can see he is the picture of health in his mid-70s.
Why choose anything else?
If you don’t have PCa, consider the above four lifestyle practices as a way to greatly increase the odds that you never will.
If you have PCa and are on Active Surveillance, these four practices should be your best friends.
If you have undergone treatment (whether radical or focal) for localized PCa, studies have shown you can diminish the chance of recurrence by getting on board with the program.
And if, like Dr. Myers, you have advanced PCa and are on hormones or other systemic treatment, now is the time to follow his example by reading his book, Beating Prostate Cancer: Hormonal Therapy & Diet.
[i] Myers, Charles “Snuffy.” Beating Prostate Cancer: Hormonal Therapy & Diet. Charlottesville, VA: Rivanna Health Publications, 2007.