Ask Dr. Walt – Episode #06 – Essential #2 – Be Proactive in Preventing Disease or The Essential of Self-Care

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Ask Dr. Walt – Episode #06 – Essential #2 – Be Proactive in Preventing Disease or The Essential of Self-Care

In this series, I’m explaining the 10 key habits or 10 essentials of happy, healthy people. In this episode, we’ll discuss how to Be Proactive in Preventing Disease OR The Essential of Self-Care. You can click below to watch a video of the show, or I’ve put the show transcript at the end of the blog if you’d prefer that.

From 2021-2022, I was honored to host a TV show on LiftableTV, “Ask Dr. Walt.” Today, I’m releasing Episode #6, PREVENTING DISEASE AND DIS-EASE. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

It may seem obvious, but the secret to becoming and staying healthy is to prevent “disease” and “dis-ease” in your body, mind, relationships, and spirit as much as possible. So today we’ll talk about how you can Be Proactive in Preventing Disease OR The Essential of Self-Care — how you and your family can, as much as possible prevent disease on Ask Dr. Walt as I’ll discuss how the body’s relationship with the mind and spirit is an essential part of preventing disease and dis-ease.


You can learn more about this topic in my best-selling book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy or Fit over 50: Make Simple Choices for a Healthier, Happier You.



Disclaimer: The Ask Dr. Walt show is designed for entertainment purposes to give information on various medical conditions, treatments, and procedures for your personal knowledge and to help you be a more informed consumer of medical and health services.


Be Proactive in Preventing Disease

The Essential of Self-Care


It may seem obvious, but the secret to becoming and staying healthy is to prevent “disease” and “dis-ease” in your body, mind, relationships, and spirit as much as possible. So today we’ll talk about how you and your family can, as much as possible prevent disease on Ask Dr. Walt.


Hi, everyone. I’m family physician Dr. Walt Larimore and I’m delighted you are taking the time today to join me in my office as we continue our discussion about some of the essentials of becoming healthy.

Here’s a list of my top 10 recommendations for you to consider on a path to becoming healthier physically, emotionally/mentally, relationally, and spiritually. Last time, we covered the first one, the essential of true health—understanding how physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual health work together—and at the end of that program, I asked you to email me at and let me know the next one you wanted me to cover.

For this program, it turns out you voted for #2 on the list, the essential of self-care or how to be proactive in preventing disease. And, at the end of the program, I’ll tell you how you can help me choose the next topic we’ll discuss.


  1. The essential of true health—understanding how physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual health work together


  1. The essential of self-care—how to be proactive in preventing disease


  1. The essential of forgiveness—how to practice acceptance and letting go
  2. The essential of reducing SADness—stress, anxiety, and depression—how to lighten your load
  3. The essential of relationships—avoid loneliness like the plague
  4. The essential of spiritual well-being—cultivate a positive spirituality
  5. The essential of a positive self-image—how to see yourself as your Creator sees you
  6. The essential of discovering your destiny—how to nurture your hopes and dreams
  7. The essential of personal responsibility and empowerment—how to become your own healthcare quarterback
  8. The essential of teamwork in healthcare—how to team up with winning healthcare professionals

Here are some of the questions you asked about preventive medicine:

  • What’s the difference between primary and secondary prevention?
  • Can preventive medicine increase life expectancy?
  • How come some people live to 100? Is it in their genes?
  • As a woman, I’m not sure whether to be more worried about possible breast cancer or a heart attack. I think the cancer is a bigger concern, but I’m not sure. What do you say?
  • How accurate is the Internet as a source of health information?
  • Do vaccines really make any difference?
  • What screening tests do you recommend?

So, at your request, today I’ll address all of these questions and more as we take a common sense approach to the essential preventive medicine.

I want to share a note I received from the wife of a man who “felt fine.” But after a checkup, he got some bad news from his doctor. This is what his wife wrote:

My husband had been feeling great for years—and hadn’t seen a doctor for almost a decade. In my usual tactful way, I told him last summer, “Hon, someone will have to sign your death certificate someday, and we need to get your name in someplace. You’re coming up on seventy, so let’s just both go and get physicals for “baseline info.”

It turns out, that although he was feeling “fine,” the doctor found that my husband had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high glucose, and signs of possible colon problems. In mid-July he had to get two hearing aids. In mid-August, he was operated on for Stage III colon cancer and was facing chemotherapy.

And just ten days ago (after further tests), he learned he has Type II diabetes and had to go on oral diabetes medication. He’s also on cholesterol and high blood pressure medications! Poor guy—he feels like he’s falling apart, even though he still feels okay physically (to our amazement).

Emotionally we’ve both been through the wringer!

Three months later, this man was dead—from diseases that could have been prevented or controlled if only he had committed at an earlier age to have a health checkup. In fact, preventive checkups are such an important aspect of health care, that if the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force gives an “A Rating” to a preventive intervention or immunization, then insurance companies are required to cover it with no copay or deductible. But it’s not always been this way.

For millennia, the only tool physicians utilized for health promotion was called “secondary prevention,” where a doctor would see a patient, treat their disease, and then attempt, secondarily, to prevent worsening or recurrence.

But now it is widely accepted that “primary prevention” is the most effective and economical strategy in healthcare. Many choices and behaviors are associated with dramatic increases in length and quality of life—especially by preventing or delaying chronic debilitating diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

In other words, you can often prevent disease before it starts with primary prevention. It boils down to a series of choices you, your family, and your loved ones will make on a day-to-day basis.

As a family physician, I rarely saw a patient with a previously preventable medical problem who didn’t wish he or she had done more—expended more time and effort—to prevent the problem that was now troubling them.

I spent my first year of medical practice in the Smoky Mountains of rural western North Carolina. There I had the privilege of caring for a number of patients who were in their nineties—and several who were over one hundred years old. Caring for these men and women taught me much about what it means to be a truly healthy person.

Margaret had just turned ninety when we first met. “I’m tired of traveling all the way to Sylva to see the internist,” she told me during our first appointment. “And,” she added, “my doctor over there is so old. I’m afraid he’s not going to be around much longer!”

“How old is he?” I asked.

She giggled, putting her hand over her mouth, blushing. “Oh, honey, he’s barely sixty. He just doesn’t know how to live very well. And I think he’s working himself into an early grave! If he had just listened to me.”

I smiled to myself. Here was a woman thirty years older than her elderly physician, predicting his death. Barely one month later, I saw his obituary in the newspaper. Margaret had my attention, and over the next four years I listened, and she taught. Hardly a visit went by where she didn’t share her wisdom. Here are some of what my office staff called “Margaretisms”:

  • When asked why she always seemed so up, never moody or down, even when an illness flared, she exclaimed, “I’m too blessed to be stressed or depressed!”
  • When talking about a local politician who had been accused of an ethical indiscretion, she quipped, “Forbidden fruits create many jams.”
  • She told me that she exercised twice as much as most people: “Every day I walk an hour along Deep Creek and I walk twenty-four hours with the Lord.”

One afternoon I noticed my nurse, Beth, doubled over in laughter as Margaret was leaving the office. I had prescribed a mild medication to help her with occasional insomnia. She also was taking a laxative sporadically for bouts of constipation. She had pointed out to Beth, “Honey, whatever else you do, never, never, under any circumstances, have a patient take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.” Then she took off out the door to conquer the world.

Margaret had a number of physical and mental ailments, but, she told me, “Minor “mechanical” problems aren’t too noticeable in an “older vehicle” that has been well cared for and is otherwise running efficiently.” And Margaret was running efficiently.

Margaret had a number of similarities with her long-lived friends, as well as with other elderly folks from various cultures who, because of their longevity, have been studied. Leonard W. Poon, the lead researcher in one of the largest studies of centenarians ever conducted, reported that centenarians find meaning in life’s trials and respond effectively to problems. They’re not “wallowers.” Margaret was no wallower!

Some of the longest-long-lived groups of people in the world are said to be among

  • the Georgians of the Caucasus Mountains in southern Russia,
  • the Vilcabamba Indians of the Ecuadorian Andes,
  • the people of the Hunza Valley in Kashmir, and
  • residents of Okinawa, Japan. Not only are they long-lived.

In each of these areas, significant numbers of individuals exceed one hundred years of age, but medical studies also accent the high quality of life of most of the centenarians in these cultures. As scientists have tried to identify common elements, they’ve reported the following characteristics of these non-American centenarians:

  • They exercise regularly and consistently. Walking and other forms of active exercise are part of their everyday lives.
  • They avoid highly processed foods. In fact, virtually none of their food is highly processed, as are many of our junk foods and fast foods here in the U.S.
  • They eat a nutritious diet. They don’t overeat, and their diet is high in fiber, whole grains, nuts, and “good” fats and in some of these cultures, yogurt or soy.
  • Their diets are low in calories, salt, saturated fats, and refined sugars.
  • Health-enhancing fish also is an important staple of the diet in some of these cultures.
  • They drink lots of water. In most of these cultures, the water is usually from wells or mountain streams and has a high mineral content.
  • They consume plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • They avoid loneliness. Relationships within their communities with neighbors, family, and friends are vital.
  • They practice and enjoy regular sex—usually with their spouse, who is their longtime partner in a mutually monogamous relationship, even after the age of one hundred.
  • They live with and depend on their extended families, who offer cradle-to-grave security and support. The concept of a nursing home is not only unheard-of but it would also not be tolerated.
  • They seldom use alcohol or tobacco products.
  • They intensely respect their elders. And when they become elderly, they enjoy the admiration, honor, esteem, and affection of their families and of society.
  • They lead active, fruitful lives well into their second century. There is no retirement. They may slow down a bit, but they never stop.
  • They emphasize relationships and harmony over the pursuit of wealth or success.
  • Many of these people would be considered poor by Western standards. Yet they consider themselves wealthy and satisfied.

What about here in the U.S.? A group of more than one hundred centenarians living within an eight-town radius of Boston, Massachusetts, were the subjects of a study that looked at some of the important characteristics they share:

  • Significant obesity is rare.
  • Most have never smoked.
  • Most seem to be able to stand stress really well.
  • Most exercise on a daily basis.
  • Virtually all eat nutritious foods and avoid highly processed foods.
  • Most are active in faith communities or social groups and have friends with whom they spend time.
  • Because of their lifestyle choices, most show signs of aging very slowly and markedly delaying or even escaping age-associated diseases, such as heart attack, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Ninety percent of the centenarians studied are functionally independent for the vast majority of their lives—up until the average age of ninety-two years.
  • Rather than the incorrect perception that “the older you become, the sicker you get,” these centenarians teach us that “the healthier you’ve been, the older you get.”

Researchers tell us that the odds of living to one hundred years of age are increasing every year. There are already many thousands of centenarians alive today, and at least half of them are well enough to live independently. In fact, the U.S. has the highest absolute number of centenarians in the world with 97,000 living in the country. Japan comes second with 79,000. In the U.S. alone, almost six times as many people are over 100 as there were in 1980. Are they just lucky in the “good genes” department? Or is their health due to the way they live? While scientists continue to debate the factors that are most likely to assist us in becoming centenarians, most now say that long life is not just a result of good genes.

I once had a patient tell me, “Doc, I’ve just got poor genes. Everyone in my family has died young. Guess I will also.” I explained to him that a long, high-quality life is not solely a result of good genetics. Sure, genes are important, but even more important are the decisions we make about daily lifestyle issues—sleeping, diet, exercise, work, leisure, meditation, prayer, reducing stress, and improving relationships.

About 20 years ago, some experts believed that as much as 70 to 80 percent of what controls our lifespan was related to our lifestyle, not our genes. In other words, genetics only accounted for 20 to 30 percent of an individual’s chance of surviving to old age.

Now, based on a 2018 study in the journal Genetics, we know that “genes accounted for well under seven percent of people’s life span, versus the 20 to 30 percent of most previous estimates.”

Let me show you why you can have far more impact on the length and quality of your life than your ancestors. According to the CDC, for many years, the five leading causes of death in the United States, which account for over 60 percent of all deaths, are:

  1. heart disease,
  2. cancer,
  3. chronic lower respiratory diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis,
  4. stroke, and
  5. accidental injuries.

In 2020, however, COVID-19 moved up into third place. Nevertheless, the good news is that between 20 and 40 percent of these deaths are considered premature and preventable. In other words, they are deaths that could have been avoided or delayed.

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health examined the reversible risk factors for premature death in the US. Here are the estimated numbers of premature lives lost annually—virtually all of which could have been prevented, reversed, or treated:

  1. smoking: 480,000
  2. high blood pressure: 400,000
  3. overweight/obesity: 300,000
  4. inadequate physical activity/inactivity: 191,000
  5. high blood sugar: 190,000
  6. high LDL (“bad” or “lethal”) cholesterol: 113,000

In late 2018, a first-of-its-kind measurement by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association pinpointed, by county, what is impacting Americans’ health both by lowering the quality and quantity of life. The top five health conditions that have the greatest impact include:

  1. Hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure, can cause a heart attack or stroke and is also known as the silent killer because it has no early noticeable symptoms but creates an extra load on the heart and blood vessels.
  2. Major Depression, which frequently goes undiagnosed or untreated.
  3. High Cholesterol, which can be hereditary or the result of unhealthy diet and lifestyle choices and can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
  4. Coronary Artery Disease occurs when the lining of the arteries supplying the heart are damaged by high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes putting you at a much higher risk of heart attack.
  5. Type 2 Diabetes results in blood sugar levels rising higher than normal,.

By the way, you can learn more about the health issues impacting your county or state, by taking a tour of the interactive BCBS Health Index map at

My point in reviewing these studies with you is to help you understand that up to half of all premature deaths in the U.S. are attributable to factors in your control—behavioral and other preventable factors—including modifiable habits such as tobacco use, poor diet, poor sleep, stress, lack of quiet time, and lack of exercise.

The CDC tells us that “heart disease is the leading cause of death among American adults and heart problems that were largely preventable (including heart attacks, strokes, heart failure) kill over a half million Americans each year.”

The number one killer of women is heart disease, accounting for about one in every four female deaths. What’s really sad to me personally is that despite increases in public awareness over the past decade, only one in five American women believe the truth that heart disease is their greatest health threat. Many women mistakenly believe breast cancer is their major health concern when, in fact, this disease is far down the list. In reality, more women die of cardiovascular disease than all cancers put together. For example, only about 1 in 31 deaths of women is caused by breast cancer.

Breast cancer is an appropriate concern for women, but my point is that cardiovascular disease should be of even more concern because 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease or stroke. Almost two-thirds of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no symptoms.

As simple a choice as improving your nutrition can have substantial benefits. According to one report, “A diet quality score based on the PURE study, which advocates eating more of seven key foods

  • fruits,
  • vegetables,
  • nuts,
  • legumes,
  • fish,
  • dairy, and
  • non-processed red meat

has been linked to lower premature deaths and reduced cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke in at least three large independent studies.”

Smoking is a major factor in four of the five leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung disease, and stroke. Smoking one to five cigarettes a day increases heart attack risk by 38 percent—40 cigarettes a day increases risk by 900 percent. In a study of nearly a quarter million adults, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found smokers who smoked one to ten cigarettes per day had more than twice the risk of developing tobacco‐related cancer, such as lung, bladder, or pancreatic cancer. An occasional cigarette, even less than one cigarette a day, almost doubled the risks of these cancers. The NIH concluded, “Even low levels of cigarette smoking cause cancer” and all smokers “would benefit from cessation.” As soon as you stop smoking, your risks begin to plummet.

Data from 52 countries reported that nine factors account for most of the risk of cardiovascular disease worldwide:

  • abnormal lipids,
  • smoking,
  • hypertension,
  • diabetes,
  • abdominal obesity,
  • psychosocial factors such as stress and depression,
  • low consumption of fruits and vegetables,
  • alcohol use, and
  • low regular physical activity.

This huge study also found that stress—whether at home or at work, finances, or major life events—although less dangerous to our health than smoking, was as bad as high blood pressure or abdominal obesity. The minimal lifestyle intervention that has been suggested to be healthful for stress reduction is 10 to 20 minutes a day of silence, relaxation, prayer, or meditation.

You may say, “Well Dr. Walt, what you’re saying makes sense, and I do want to begin improving my health, but why spend time watching your show? Can’t I just what I need on the internet?”

Unfortunately, it’s pretty difficult. One group of researchers found that among health websites, retail websites presenting information on products they were selling had the lowest level of medical accuracy (only 9 percent). On the other hand, government websites (.gov) and websites of national organizations (.org) had the highest level of accuracy (81 and 73 percent, respectively). Note that even these “reputable” sources weren’t close to 100 percent accurate!

A real surprise, actually a shock to me, is that educational websites (.edu sites) only had 50 percent accurate medical information. And the majority of the books found by search engines either provided outdated or irrelevant information. Blogs and websites of individuals are even worse, having low rates of accuracy (26 and 30 percent, respectively).

The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that 97 percent of my fellow family physicians say they have patients come to the office visit with inaccurate medical information from an online source. And I’ll tell you that in my practice this is an almost daily occurrence.

Another study by researchers from Harvard Medical School and Boston’s Children’s Hospital found internet symptom checkers varied widely in accuracy. On average, they included the correct diagnosis in the first three results only 51 percent of the time. Individual symptom checkers ranged from 34 percent to 84 percent accurate.

Overall, the chances of finding the right diagnosis listed first in an internet search are very poor. On the low end, one checker listed the correct condition first only 5 percent of the time, whereas the best only listed it 50 percent of the time. Understandably, the sites did better at identifying common conditions than uncommon ones.

Popular magazines may be even worse sources of health information. Researchers tell us, after reviewing consecutive months of the ten most popular women’s magazines, that virtually all of the articles focused not on the most common detrimental lifestyle factors but on a wide variety of health myths—for example:

  • eat lots of broccoli to prevent cancer,
  • take a multivitamin to prevent heart disease and cancer,
  • eat garlic to fight off colds and flu,
  • get a pet to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and
  • eat active-culture yogurt to live longer.

The researchers contend that much of the health advice presented in these

articles “was not based on solid scientific evidence, and was in fact a distortion

of scientific reality.”

So, the bottom line is that much of what you read in magazines, watch on television, listen to on the radio, and find on the internet regarding critical health information is too often inaccurate or misleading.

We are now so bombarded with health advice that many are to the point where we can no longer sort it out, and we tend to ignore much of it. But I’m here to encourage you. The bottom line is that in large measure you can determine your own destiny with regard to becoming and remaining a healthy person. And I’ll be here to help you every step of the way with trustworthy, evidence-based information that is medically reliable, and since we’re also a faith-based program, it will be Biblically sound.

My prayer is that you come to understand and appreciate the great privilege of stewardship you have in becoming and remaining a highly healthy person. Family history and genetics play a role, to be sure, but it is increasingly obvious that your lifestyle decisions play a much larger role. The Bible teaches that it is our sacred duty to be proactive about our own self-care. God considers the human body, which He designed, to be His temple. This is described in this verse: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Our shows on LiftableTV will be designed to help you do just this by giving you medically trustworthy and biblically sound advice that is reliable, reputable, and reproducible to help you and your family live longer and higher quality lives.

Let’s end this episode by getting real practical with you with what I like to call the “Ten Commandments of Preventive Medicine.” We could identify several more tips related to preventing disease, but these ten should get us off to an excellent start. And, of course, in future programs, I’ll share other tips for you and your family to improve your physical, emotional/mental, relational/social, and spiritual health.

  1. See a primary care health professional for regular preventive maintenance and care.

When you purchase a motor vehicle, it comes with a maintenance schedule. When I looked at the schedule, it reminded me of the preventive medicine schedules I use in my practice—a schedule of recommended screening tests and immunizations. The timing of these services depends on your body’s “model” and “mileage”—that is, your gender and age). Unfortunately, most adults and many children and adolescents have fallen way behind on their maintenance schedules—especially during the COVID pandemic. If you haven’t been taking routine care of your body, resolve to make an appointment with your family doctor this year to find out which preventive services are recommended for your age and gender. And then follow up by getting the recommended tests and immunizations.

  1. Avoid or reduce obesity.

Obesity is now an epidemic in America. Over 70 percent of the adults in the U.S. are either overweight or obese. The proportion of people that is overweight or obese has gone up over 40 percent in the last 30 years and is increasing the premature death rate for heart disease, diabetes, several forms of cancer, hypertension, stroke, arthritis, depression, fatigue, poor work performance, and sleep disruption—and that’s only a few of the diseases associated with being overweight. The good news is that even small reductions in your weight can have positive benefits. There certainly are good and bad nutrition plans. If you are overweight and are interested in reasonable approaches to

nutrition, consider discussing this with your family physician or a Registered Dietician Nutritionist.

  1. Exercise regularly—and wisely.

Forget the term “regular exercise” and think instead of beginning to move around more often. It is clear from the medical studies that any movement is better than none. Frequent movement of almost any type will help you control your weight, improve your overall health, and reduce your risk of such medical problems as diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis. According to the CDC, moving for at least thirty minutes five days per week will do the trick and the thirty minutes can be spread throughout your day. A trademark of our Ask Dr. Walt show is “Let’s get moving toward better health.”

  1. Pursue a lifelong monogamous marriage relationship.

Married people are, in general, healthier than singles or those who live together without the commitment of marriage. Married people live longer and generally are more emotionally and physically healthy than unmarried. That’s the finding of hundreds of studies conducted from the 1930s to the present. Simply put, marriage offers important health benefits to individuals and society that no other relational status can match. If you’re married, improving your marriage will improve your health.

  1. Protect your dental health.

You probably already know that you can help your teeth and gums stay healthy by brushing and flossing, getting regular dental care, using fluoride as recommended by your family doctor or dentist, eating balanced meals, and limiting sugary snacks. Here’s something you may not have heard: Infections of the gums, called gingivitis and periodontitis, have been associated with cardiovascular disease—including heart disease and stroke. Poor dental health can result in problems during pregnancy. A visit to the dental hygienist every six months, therefore, is not only good for your dental health, and your baby if you’re pregnant, but will also improve your cardiovascular health.

  1. Be careful with alcohol.

If you drink alcoholic beverages, keep your intake minimal. And always be sure to separate drinking and driving. This rule is a no-brainer—never drink and drive. Never. But there’s an equally important and often forgotten corollary: Never ride as a passenger in a car driven by someone who has been drinking alcohol—any alcohol—even one drink. Never.

  1. Stay away from tobacco.

If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, resolve to quit this year. Half of all adults who once smoked cigarettes have kicked the habit. So can you. Literally, the day you stop, your health will begin to improve and over time all the risks smoking gave you begin to fade. Many folks who smoke don’t want to stop because they know that they may gain weight when they do. So, what’s more dangerous for your health? Smoking or some weight gain. Research now clearly shows that you live longer with some excess weight than you do if you keep smoking. One recent study of nearly 17,000 people showed that those who quit smoking had weight gains averaging 7 pounds more than smokers who continued to smoke. However, even with this weight gain, those who quit smoking showed and gained weight had significantly reduced risk for heart attacks, strokes, and even type 2 diabetes. Better yet, their risk for all-cause mortality from premature death was half that of those who continued to smoke.

  1. Reduce unnecessary stress, anxiety, and depression.

Most of my patients don’t realize how damaging some forms of stress, along with anxiety and depression, are to their overall health. Our mental and emotional health is strongly tied to our physical and relational health. Because of this, we’ll devote an entire show on this topic in the next few weeks.

  1. Double-check alternative health approaches with your family physician or pharmacist.

A large majority of Americans use some kind of alternative therapy, such as herbal medicines, dietary supplements, vitamins, essential oils or aromatherapy—among many, many others. Some people mistakenly believe that all alternative practices are harmless. In reality, some can be harmful or even dangerous. If you use any alternative medicines or therapies, be sure to let all your healthcare professionals know. More than 60 percent of Americans who use alternative methods don’t inform their other health professionals. Always check with your family doctor and pharmacist in order to find out whether an alternative practice you’d like to try is safe for you.

  1. Use automobile safety devices and install and maintain smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

Here’s a simple one for you and your family. You and everyone who gets into your vehicle should buckle your seat belt every time you’re in the vehicle—no matter how far

you’re planning to go. Surveys show only about 70 percent of Americans now buckle

up—quite an increase from previous years. While that’s good, it could be better. And, finally, smoke and carbon dioxide detectors save lives. They are inexpensive and effective. Smoke detectors are your best protection against death or injury in a nighttime fire in your home, but they won’t protect you if they don’t work properly or if the battery is dead or has been removed. The American Red Cross recommends that you test your smoke detectors once a month, replace the batteries at least once a year, and replace the detectors themselves every ten years.

You may not find a lot of surprises in these first ten tips—but the real question is when are you going to put them into practice?

Primary prevention is not the only critical aspect of maintaining and improving your health; screening for early disease and vaccinations against disease is also lifesaving. A large study revealed some shocking information.

Only 8 percent of U.S. adults age 35 and older had received all high-priority recommended preventive services. Five percent of adults did not receive any such services. So, let me give you a little test: How many of the following 14 services have you had? Men (♂) should have up to 12, while women (♀) should have up to 14.


Percentage of US Adults (> 35 years old) Receiving Recommended Preventive Services


Blood Pressure                                 87%

Breast Cancer (♀)                            74%

Cervical Cancer (♀)                         68-75%

Cholesterol                                        82%

Colon Cancer (> 40 y/o)                 64%

Osteoporosis (♀)                              63%


Alcohol use                                       41%

Depression                                        41%

Obesity                                              64%

Tobacco use                                     62%


COVID-19                                          51%

Influenza (Flu)                                  49%

Zoster (Shingles)                             38%

Pneumococcal (Pneumonia)          66%

Don’t be surprised if you had a low score. A study by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) found Americans lack understanding of cancer screening. In fact, only about one in twenty folks answered correctly four true-false questions about cancer screening.

I want to end today’s show by telling you a story that happened during my first TV series. In the late 1990s, I was privileged to do over 850 prime-time episodes of a live TV program, “Ask the Family Doctor” on the Fox Health Channel. Early on in the series, I received a call from a name named Larry. His question was: “What can I do about my fatigue? I’m always tired.”

He seemed short of breath and wheezy just asking the question. Obviously, I had to ask him a few questions in order to accurately assess his situation. I soon learned this: Although Larry was a young man, he smoked, never exercised, worked in a high-stress environment, had a terrible diet, and was morbidly obese. His blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels were all high—yet he had refused his doctor’s recommendation to change his lifestyle or, if not, to take medications. He was five feet nine inches tall and weighed over 250 pounds.

At the time we had a health assessment tool on the network website. I quickly took Larry through the questions. With a click of the mouse, we had a quantitative answer to the qualitative opinion I had formed, namely, that Larry’s life expectancy was dramatically reduced. Worse yet, his quality of life and satisfaction with life was poor. He was unhappy when he called, and he was even more unhappy with my answers.

“Well,” he exclaimed, sounding exasperated, “I guess I’ll have to go back to the doctor and start taking some pills!”

“Larry,” I responded, “pills may help, but until you’re willing to participate in your own health care—to take control of your own health—you’ll never get better. The pills may slow your decline, but if you truly want to be healthy, you’re going to have to develop a strategy to change some things—and change them dramatically and immediately.”

He was quiet for a moment. I took a gamble. “Larry, do you have kids?”

I could hear his voice soften. “Yes, two beautiful daughters.”

Here was the key I needed. “Do you want to see them become healthy and happy? Graduate from college? Do you want to be there to walk them down the aisle and give them away to their future husbands? Or do you want them to grow up without a dad? Do you want to play with your future grandchildren?”

He was quiet and then almost whispered, “I see what you’re saying.”

“Then just do what you need to do.”

The call ended, and I pretty much forgot about Larry until two years later when, during a commercial break, the producer said, “Walt, we’ve got an amazing call. It’s a guy who says you saved his life.” I had no idea who it might be. But, yes, you guessed it—it was Larry.

He didn’t sound like the same guy. He described his health journey over the course of the previous two years. He was still slightly overweight, but no longer obese He was exercising most of the days of the week. With the help of a Registered Dietician, he and his entire family had changed what he called “our diet of death” into a great-tasting and nutritious meal plan. And with a tobacco cessation service, he had conquered his tobacco addiction.

He found a job he loved, and the family found a church that they all liked, and they attended regularly. He was loving being a good husband and dad. I asked about his

blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels and he reported that they had all normalized—initially with medication and then, with his family doctor’s guidance, he slowly was able to decrease and then stop all his medications through making permanent lifestyle changes. He was excited about how much better he felt. “Doc,” he said, “you saved my life.”

I remember smiling and shaking my head. “No, Larry. You saved your life. And your

family will never be the same because of what you’ve done.”

I hope I get to meet Larry face-to-face someday. But until then, I tell you this: You can follow this now healthy man’s example. So, what do you say?

We hope that this show will help you increase your knowledge and assist you in making wise decisions about your and your family’s health. By beginning with a single step and continuing to improve on a day-to-day basis, you, your family, and your loved ones will be on your way to not only becoming happier and healthier but living longer.

Let me leave you with my TIP FOR TODAY: A colleague of mine has suggested a simple formula for good health: 0-5-10-30-150.

  • 0 = Zero cigarettes;
  • 5 = five servings of fruit and vegetables a day;
  • 10 = 10 minutes of silence, relaxation, meditation, or prayer a day;
  • 30 = a body mass index (BMI) of less than 30; and
  • 150 = 150 minutes of exercise per week.

We’ll have more tips for you in each of these areas in future shows, but next time we’ll continue our look at the 10 Essentials of Healthy, Happy People. We have eight more to cover, and I’d love you to vote on which one you want me to do next. Just drop me an email at and let us know your next choice. Of course, you can send in any other questions you’d like me to address.

So, we’ve done the first two. Which do you want next?


  1. The essential of true health—understanding how physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual health work together
  2. The essential of self-care—how to be proactive in preventing disease


  1. The essential of forgiveness—how to practice acceptance and letting go
  2. The essential of reducing SADness—stress, anxiety, and depression—how to lighten your load
  3. The essential of relationships—avoid loneliness like the plague
  4. The essential of spiritual well-being—cultivate a positive spirituality
  5. The essential of a positive self-image—how to see yourself as your Creator sees you
  6. The essential of discovering your destiny—how to nurture your hopes and dreams
  7. The essential of personal responsibility and empowerment—how to become your own healthcare quarterback
  8. The essential of teamwork in healthcare—how to team up with winning healthcare professionals

Just drop me an email at and let us know your next choice and other questions you have. What concerns about your or your family’s health? One warning, I cannot answer specific questions about your individual health, like I was able to do with Larry and others in the past, but I bet you have plenty of great general questions to ask me, so send them to, and we’ll get to as many as we can during future programs.

In addition, you can read more about these 10 Essentials in two books that you can find on my website, One is Fit over 50: Make Simple Choices for a Healthier, Happier You and the other is 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy.

Don’t forget to vote on our next program. So, until our next visit, let’s get moving together toward true health, and “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”

Disclaimer: The “Ask Dr. Walt” show is designed for entertainment purposes to give information on various medical conditions, treatments, and procedures for your personal knowledge and to help you be a more informed consumer of medical and health services.

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2023. This blog provides healthcare tips and advice that you can trust about a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

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