Dr. David Agus is on a mission. He wants health care to focus on what works -- prevention rather than treatment and, when needed, treatment that's been proven to work.
Agus, a professor of medicine and engineering at USC, has just written a book A Short Guide to a Long Life, which includes 65 rules in order to lead a healthy and robust life.
Companies like Dell and CBS (CBS) have reportedly bought massive quantities of the guide for their employees to improve employees' health and help their bottom line.
"One heart costs a company $75,000; one case of colon cancer over $110,000," Agus explains.
On Agus' to-do list:
- Get an annual flu shot even if you don't tend to get the flu
- Eat real food on a regular schedule
- Take a baby aspirin daily
- Consider statins even if you don't have high cholesterol. (He says statins can help much more than just heart disease.)
- Follow prescribed cancer screening schedules
These recommendations are generally common practice among doctors and what patients have come to expect. But Agus' don't-do list may surprise some. He advises:
- Avoid vitamins and supplement
- Don't juice or detox
- Don't pass through airport security backscatter ex-ray scanners; choose a pat down instead
The data does not support the benefits of vitamins, supplements, juicing or detoxing, says Agus.
"Men who take vitamin E have a 17% increase in prostate cancer that lasts three years after they stop taking it...smokers and former smokers who take beta carotene or Vitamin A have a dramatic increase in lung cancer and death," he notes.
Agus worries about the lack of data for long-term effects on body scanners: "We have no long-term outcome data...In the 1950s people put their foot in a box to see if their feet fit in their shoes, and we got cancers of the leg."
Underlying all of Agus' recommendations is a belief that health care should focus on preventing disease rather than treating it, and that health care reform should focus on health, not health care finance.
"I wrote this book out of weakness," says Agus. "A couple of times a week I look somebody in the eye and say 'I have no more drugs to treat your cancer.' I don't want to do that anymore. Most of these cancers are preventable or delayable."
He says change will come when incentives -- and disincentives -- for health care change. "A surgeon gets paid for doing an operation," he says. "They don't get paid for saying 'go on a preventive strategy.'"
Agus applauds Obamacare for requiring insurers to cover vaccines for children and adults without charge and for allowing companies to use differential charges based on the behavior of the insured.
"Everybody has a right to do whatever they want...smoke, drink soda or be as large as they want, but does society have the obligation to pay for health care ramifications of what they do?" he asks.
If Agus had his way, companies would install coin-operated elevators. Employees would be healthier for the exercise and companies would save on health care costs.
"Every time an employee takes an elevator instead of walking the stairs they're hurting the bottom line...by increasing the prevalence of disease," says Agus.
Watch the video above for more of the doctor's recommendations!
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