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M. P. Ravindra Nathan

Editor's Note: This series is designed to give you heads up on healthy living and graceful aging.

It is not easy to get an interview with Sanjay Gupta, M.D., the world-famous CNN Medical Journalist, a renowned neurosurgeon and now the author of "Chasing Life," a book about "New discoveries in the search for immortality to help you age less today." And it is just as difficult to get entry into CNN building because of security precautions. In spite of correspondence with his secretary Ann Howard for two months, I couldn't get the interview, because of his busy schedule. Finally, a direct e-mail to him elicited a prompt reply: "I promise you I will get you the appointment."

That was how I arrived at the CNN building in Atlanta on May 7 with my wife to interview Dr. Gupta and hear his ideas about healthy aging. Although he had just landed from New York City after a journalistic assignment, the 38-year-young, smiling neurosurgeon appeared very relaxed and cordial. Knowing how busy he is, I launched my discussion without much preamble.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta
How do you manage your ever-so-busy schedule? You have two careers, both hectic and demanding. Now, a third one as a writer, too?

Dr. Gupta: If work is your passion, you don't ever have to work! (Most physicians can relate to this.)

In your book, you mention that the longest average life span in the world goes to Okinawans (Japan), where living to 100 years is a common phenomenon. What is their secret?

Dr. Gupta: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and unrefined carbohydrates, coupled with hard, purposeful work, appears to be the theme among the centenarians in Okinawa. They observe a special tradition, "hara hachi bu" - push away from the table before you are full! Eat till your hunger is sated, but not till you are full to the brim.

What do you think is a practical approach for a long, healthy life for Americans?

Dr. Gupta: Most people understand the fundamentals of eating right and exercising daily as being essential for a healthy life. But do they do it? People have to walk, jog, or do other regular aerobic exercise. Some simple weight training, like bench pressing, weight lifting, etc.. would also be immensely beneficial. This will increase your upper body mass and expand your chest. All you need is a couple of dumbbells to get started.

In other words, people should pay attention to the basics - like nutrition, exercise and maintaining the optimal weight, right?

Dr. Gupta: Yes. Obesity is probably our biggest problem now. I made it a priority to talk about it two years ago, so we started airing segments on obesity. Three decades ago, the U.S. had some of the most robust and vibrant citizens, but now it has the most obese people. That is the bad news, but the good news is that it is fixable.

For many, this problem may have started at school, consuming tons of calories. For the first time, our children are going to have life spans shorter than us! All the gains we have made medically and technologically will be erased by this one problem, and obesity will overtake smoking as the No. 1 killer.

How can we motivate our patients to exercise regularly?

Dr. Gupta: They need to have a plan and should make a conscious decision to go to the gym at least 4-5 times weekly and exercise with a partner. Within a month, they will lose some weight and that is an inspiration in itself. When they have a specific plan, it is easier to follow through with it like, "I am going to do some weight lifting, then 15 minutes of treadmill or other exercises."

What do you think is the role of stress?

Dr. Gupta: Stress is one major factor these days, but the term is overused in our society and we hear the excuse "I am stressed out today" often enough. Stress makes you feel unwell and hence, we must take steps to relax. You can learn how to combine the mind and body, and I practice what is called "the body awareness" which I learned from my mentors. Whenever possible, I meditate, focusing on myself. It is very relaxing and clearly has great beneficial effects on one's body and mind.

(Interview continued in the next issue)

Cardiologist Dr. M. P. Ravindra Nathan, director of Hernando Heart Clinic in Brooksville, lives in Brooksville.



o Do not eat heavy meals at night: Meals full of carbohydrates are a wrong choice. Most of us have to have heavy meals at night and our typical meal is filled with carbohydrates such as rice, wheat, potato sabji, etc.

Sleeping slows down all of our body process; thus, food stays in our stomach, which creates acids and uncomfortable feelings during night. Therefore, dinner should not be more than 600 calories. I suggest many of my clients to have just a protein shake and small ball of salad or soup for dinner. I

f you are not vegetarian, then you may want to have a small piece of lean grilled chicken or lean grilled fish. You should avoid spicy and acidic food at night such as pickles and chili. Your meal should be at least three hours before your sleep time. Therefore, the walk after dinner works because it accelerates your digestion and takes up at least an hour of your three-hour requirements.

o Do not drink lots of water before you go to bed. Well, I am a water lover but I don't think it is huge problem if you have a habit of drinking a glass of water before going to bed. Just try not to drink a lot, which interrupts your sleep. Even if you need to go to the bathroom in middle of night, go immediately instead of holding until absolute necessary; this will make you feel uncomfortable and disturb the good sleep.

What are some of the things to fall into a good night's sleep?

  1. Take a nice warm shower every night before bed time.

  2. Drink a glass of warm skim (fat free) milk about 30 minutes before bed time.

  3. Force yourself to sleep at certain time. You will need to train your body to sleep early since you already have train it to sleep late. So, set the bed time.

  4. Bed time is not a time to talk about family, work and relative issues. There should be absolute positive and happy talks and thoughts at bed time.

  5. May be read. Many people like to read and they lose the sleep but put a restriction on reading. Decide to read only few pages a day. Also, pick a book that relaxes your mind.

  6. Play soft music at bed time. There should be no vocal, prayers or bhajans. There are CDs of soft music, soft jazz, rain fall, waves, specific soft instrument (flute, piano, violin, harp, etc). There are music CDs for sleep too.

What are the benefits of a good night's sleep?

  1. Overall good health.

  2. Fresh mind creates pleasant environment around you.

  3. Develop an ability to solve issues without being angry or cranky.

  4. Work with energy for the day.

  5. Less or no chances of getting headaches in the morning or in the afternoon.

  6. Muscles feel fresh; therefore, your body ache is not making you cranky.

  7. An active day makes you ready for a good night's sleep.

  8. The positive and refresh body makes you feel great at work and home, and gives you energy to exercise the next day.

Achut Mashruwala of Fitness Guru Inc. can be reached at (813) 857-5103 or e-mail

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