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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Dr. Andrew Weil
Aired October 25, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, he's back, Dr. Andrew Weil. He says you can live longer and live better and he'll tell you how and he'll take your calls on all your health questions. Dr. Andrew Weil is next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We're here in New York and it's always a great pleasure to welcome, no matter where we are, Dr. Andrew Weil to LARRY KING LIVE. His new book is "Healthy Aging" there you see its cover, "A Lifelong Guide to your Physical and Spiritual Well-Being."
He wrote "Eight Weeks to Optimum Health." All his books have been major best-sellers and, as I was telling him and the people at Knopf, this could be his biggest seller ever. In fact, two weeks ago Andrew Weil made the front cover of "Time" magazine. There you see that cover. He had made it previously in May of 1997.
He's director of the program in integrated medicine at the University of Arizona. His Web site is drweil.com and he's a New York Times best-selling author, as we said. It's a great pleasure to see you.
DR. ANDREW WEIL, AUTHOR: Always good to be back.
KING: Before we talk about the book and aging your concerns over the avian flu?
WEIL: I think they're very real. You know this is -- we are watching this virus develop and this is probably the sequence that developed before the 1918 pandemic which was very serious, so I think we got to keep our eye on this and our best hope is to develop a vaccine to monitor this.
In 1918, the curious thing about that flu, it killed young, healthy people preferentially. You know, flues usually kill old, debilitated people. That flu killed young, healthy people and what killed them was the immune reaction to the virus. It causes such an intense immune reaction that that's what filled up the lungs with fluid and often killed people within 12 or 24 hours.
KING: Is Tamiflu the only thing that helps now?
WEIL: It is but we really don't know how good that will be. You know there's been some alarming reports that suggest that the virus may be developing resistance to Tamiflu, so we have to keep our eye on the situation.
KING: We have a lot of books on aging.
KING: Everybody is doing it and everybody is concerned about it. What makes this different?
WEIL: This book takes a very strong position against anti-aging. I think our culture is completely under the spell of anti-aging philosophy. There's a whole branch of anti-aging medicine out there.
Aging is natural. It's inevitable. It's universal. Animals age, plants age, mountains age, stars age, everything is doing it. We're aging from the moment we're born or the moment we're conceived. If you set yourself up in opposition to that process, you're in a very bad relationship with nature.
KING: So what do you do?
WEIL: I think what you really do is be pro-health rather than anti-aging. The real question is does aging mean you have to get sick? You know a lot of diseases become more frequent after age 60. Cardiovascular disease, cancer, diseases like Alzheimer's Disease, as well as things like osteoporosis, degenerative joint disease.
So, for many people a lot of the fear of aging is fear of disability, of pain, of disease. The question is, is that an inevitable consequence of aging? The answer is no. You can separate age-related disease from the aging process.
KING: But if I separate the disease or if I can not get the disease won't I live longer?
KING: Just maybe?
WEIL: Maybe. It is true that some of these diseases, especially heart disease and cancer, kill people prematurely, so by preventing those, yes, people will live out normal lifespan.
I don't know that we're going to be able to extend human lifespan. We certainly don't have methods of doing that at present and I don't think we're going to get them in the lifetimes of anybody watching this program.
KING: The general thinking is we will. We'll splice genes.
WEIL: There's a lot, yes, I hear the promises out there but I will tell you very firmly that at the moment we have no anti-aging methods and we're not likely to have them in the future.
KING: How do I use the book?
WEIL: The book gives a lot of specific practical advice about how you can reduce the risk and delay the onset of age-related disease. KING: Yes.
WEIL: Well, by eating right, by eating a diet that reduces inflammation because inflammation, especially at the cellular level is a root cause of many of these age-related diseases, by exercising throughout life, by being physically active, by getting proper rest and sleep and I think by having a healthy attitude about it.
You know, I want people in this culture to start embracing aging, to not see it as a calamity, to not be so obsessed with youth. I think it's time for us to change this dominant paradox.
KING: Most of us if you get to around 70 worry about it. You start-- you read the obituaries every day.
WEIL: Of course but I think, you know, part of the purpose of the second half of life is to think about death and approaching death and not to shun it, not to avoid it, not to deny it. That is what happens. I think that denial of aging is not good mental health.
KING: You're not including plastic surgery now right?
WEIL: Well, I think that's -- that's a little more complicated. If people want to do cosmetic surgery because they want to improve their appearance, well if they want to improve their appearance, if they want to feel better about themselves that's not my business but to the extent that the motivation is there to deny the reality of aging I worry about that. I think that takes us away from reality.
KING: I see. In other words if you take the wrinkle away because you want to look better and feel youthful that's fine.
WEIL: That's fine. That's not my business.
KING: But if you're taking it away because you think you (INAUDIBLE).
WEIL: Because you can pretend to yourself that you're younger, no. Now the technical term for what I advocate in this book is compression of morbidity. Morbidity has the medical meaning of sickness.
The idea is to squeeze the time of disability and discomfort at the end of life into a shorter period as possible, so you want to live well and as long as possible and then have a rapid drop off at the end.
KING: A rapid drop off meaning go to sleep again 96 years old and not wake up.
WEIL: Yes. Well, I used an example in this book of my mother who died last year at...
KING: While you were writing this?
WEIL: Yes, at 93 and I think she was a very good -- a very good model of healthy aging. Up until a year before her death she was very physically active. I told the story of on her 89th birthday I asked her where she wanted to go. I'd take her anywhere. She said she wanted to go to Antarctica, so I took her to Antarctica. I mean that's the kind of woman she was.
But, you know, in her last year she had a relatively rapid decline. She died at home. She didn't go to an assisted living facility. She had all her wits about her and on the last day of her life she had very good interactions with family and friends. I mean I think that's how we all like to do it.
KING: You don't want to die in pain.
WEIL: I think it's you want to not die in pain and you also don't want to be prematurely disabled by disease.
KING: Does that mean you're opposed to hospice centers where everybody is dying?
WEIL: No, I think -- I think hospice is one of the great advances in healthcare. I think hospice provides a wonderful needed service in our culture.
KING: In the "Time" magazine article, it listed you and a bunch of others who they say are aging gracefully. How do you interpret that?
WEIL: Well to me graceful aging first means embracing the process. You know I am aware of my aging. I am not, absolutely not interested in trying to slow aging or to reverse it or stop the clock, which I think is impossible and I really practice what I preach. I do all the things I tell readers to do there with the aim of trying to be healthy as long as I can.
KING: What's the most -- I'm going to take a break now, the most important health thing you can do?
WEIL: I think breathe correctly. Breathe. I have long been an advocate...
KING: Well, if you don't (INAUDIBLE).
WEIL: No, if you don't the alternative is not good but most of us have never been trained in how to breathe and by regulating the breath you can really affect your physical health and it's simple stuff. It's free. It takes no equipment and it's very time efficient.
Well a general rule is to make your breathing deeper, slower, quieter and more regular and to do that you want to work with exhalation because you have much greater voluntary control of the muscles that control exhalation. The more air you squeeze out the more air you automatically take in. That's a good thing.
KING: Never thought he'd say that. We'll be back with Dr. Andrew Weil. The book is "Healthy Aging." We will be including your phone calls for an extraordinary man. Don't go away.
KING: Tomorrow night Prince Albert of Monaco, his first interview since the death of his father Prince Rainier.
Our guest, Dr. Andrew Weil, the book "Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to your Physical and Spiritual Well-Being." Is it ever too late to start aging gracefully?
WEIL: Never too late, at any point in your life that you begin...
KING: You could pick up this book at age 80?
WEIL: You could pick up that book at age 80. It would have things to tell you that would help you improve your lifestyle and further reduce your risks of age-related disease.
KING: When was the last time you were sick?
WEIL: Let's see a year and a half ago I had the flu. I was in Japan.
KING: Didn't take your flu shot?
WEIL: I did not take my flu shot and...
KING: Dr. Weil!
WEIL: ...and since then -- no, and since then I have taken my flu shot, taught me a lesson. I was quite sick with it (INAUDIBLE).
KING: Now why would you not take a flu shot?
WEIL: Well I think I was just lazy about it, you know. I thought, you know, I was in the -- you know, I was in the age range. I wasn't thinking about it. I went to Japan. I caught it there and I was quite sick with it so I take my flu shot now.
KING: The book is divided into two parts and there's a lot of flu available this year, a lot of flu shots.
WEIL: Yes, no problems.
KING: Part one the science and philosophy of healthy aging and, part two, how to age gracefully. All right what do you mean by science of aging?
WEIL: Well, this is an exploding field of knowledge. There is a new field called biogerontology (ph) and this is the study of the aging process especially at the cellular level, at the molecular level.
We have a lot of information now about what actually happens when people age and this is, you know, it's an interesting field to keep an eye on. I've tried to summarize all of that for readers so that people have a sense of where the science is.
KING: Why do we age?
WEIL: Very good question. I think there's a lot of theories out there about why we age. They have to do with things like accumulation of errors in the DNA code. There is one theory that's very powerful that this is a matter of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress, the main source of that is normal metabolism and we have an antioxidant defenses against it but eventually oxidative stress wins.
But the deeper question is why do these things happen? And I think this is, you know, to me this is a law of the universe. There is a well-known law in physics that the energy of the universe stays the same but the disorder of the universe increases over time. You know it's called times arrow, things move in one direction and I think this is the underlying problem. This is why everything ages from us to mountains.
KING: When we hear about a tribe of people in remote Asia that live to 130 or people in Soviet Union who never get a disease.
WEIL: Yes, you know, you may remember the National Geographic had a cover story on this a couple decades ago and in every instance when scientists tried to verify these claims it turned out that the birth records couldn't be authenticated.
In (INAUDIBLE) in the former Soviet Union there was even a clear pattern of state supported falsification of birth records to develop this region for health tourism and to receive research grants.
The one place, there are places in the world though where claims have been authenticated. One is Okinawa and I've talked about this on the show before.
WEIL: The other is Sardinia off Italy, so don't you think that these are both islands off, you know, larger nations. I've been to Okinawa a number of times. I'm going back in February. They're so much different there. These people eat a different diet. They're genetically different. They have clean air and water. They exercise.
The one thing that struck me though was that there is such a different cultural attitude toward aging. The oldest old people, people in their 90s, 100, they're living treasures in this culture.
The communities make whole efforts to include them in all community activities so they don't experience the kind of isolation that old people do here. A great story I got is that a common cause of sibling fighting in Okinawa is over who is going to get to take care of the aging parents.
KING: They want to take care.
WEIL: They want to take care. That's honor in taking care of the aging parents, very different, so that's got to play a role. And this is why I worry so much about our culture because I think the most damaging conception here is that the worth of human life diminishes with aging.
You know we can see that in the workplace. Older people get shunted aside, paid less. You know we got to change this and I -- I have great hope that the baby boomers can do some of this because they're about to turn 60.
KING: The average age now is 78 we live to right?
KING: We've pushed that way ahead.
WEIL: Way ahead.
KING: It was 65 when Social Security was passed.
WEIL: Way ahead. So I think there's real potential out there now for this, you know, as we see the graying of our society. For a lot of these people, I think a lot of the baby boomers aren't going to settle for the models of aging that previous generations accepted.
KING: Is now 70 what was 60?
WEIL: Absolutely. You can see this all around you. I commonly see people who are in their 70s who look like people in their 50s.
KING: Therefore, the retirement age is out of whack.
WEIL: Right and I think that has to do with the fact that we have more knowledge and we have better products and services available to us. People know a lot more about how to take care of themselves. That's good.
KING: How about this book? It's a best-seller. It's only published by the guy and he says that the pharmaceutical industry is trying to keep us unhealthy and that there are lots of things that we could do to live much longer. What do you do?
WEIL: I think it's a mixture of common sense and nonsense and you have to be careful about sorting through it. You know, as I said earlier, there are no anti-aging medicines out there and not only aren't there but we're not going to have any in the foreseeable future.
I think it's theoretically possible at some point we will be able to genetically manipulate lifespan but that's far in the future. There is no practical methods of doing this now.
KING: Are they working on it?
WEIL: Yes, people are working on it and a lot of them when they make these research breakthrough in animals the first thing they do is form a biotech company or join it with the idea that they're going to have some miracle product out there. Nothing of that has panned out yet.
KING: If we have advance stem cell research, are we going to improve life and keep performing?
WEIL: I think there's a great potential there, you know. I write about stem cells in the book. Stem cells have the potential to stimulate regeneration of tissue, to reverse disease damage, like a part of heart muscle that's been destroyed from a heart attack. This is very important frontier research and if we don't get with it, we're going to be left in the dust by other countries.
KING: Do you think we will?
WEIL: Well, I think, you know, California has sort of made an effort in this direction and I think a lot of the research will be done privately but, you know, already a lot of it has shifted to other parts of the world.
KING: Our guest is Dr. Andrew Weil and his book is "Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to your Physical and Spiritual Well-Being." We think it will be his best seller ever.
We'll go to your calls at the bottom of the hour, more with Dr. Weil after this.
KING: The book "Healthy Aging," the guest Dr. Andrew Weil. People's concerns about growing older, "USA Today" polled people about their concerns, the greatest concern losing your health, 73 percent. The second greatest losing your ability to care for yourself.
KING: Third, losing your mental ability. The least concerns being alone, losing looks.
KING: Does that encourage you?
WEIL: I think that encourages me. I think those are real concerns and they're things that we can do something about.
KING: You write in the book that being -- because aging reminds us of our mortality it can be a primary stimulus to spiritual awakening and growth. Does belief help?
WEIL: I think it does but, you know, belief is often catalyzed by observing the fact that everything changes that nothing is permanent and I think we see this immediately in our bodies. We change. We age. We die. I think by being aware of that and focusing on it, it makes you think about life in a different way.
KING: But it's not reversible?
WEIL: Aging is not reversible and it's pointless to put energy in that direction.
KING: Don't smoke, right?
WEIL: Of course.
KING: Watch your weight.
WEIL: Of course. By the way, however, it looks as if the health threats of weight are much greater when you're young than when you're old.
WEIL: The epidemic we're not seeing of childhood obesity this is a real health problem. We're seeing an epidemic of type 2 diabetes in it wake. We're going to see these kids grow up to people in their 20s and 30s who have heart disease. That's terrible. But it looks as if excess weight in middle age and in old age is not that kind of health threat and there may even be some advantages to it.
KING: What is an example of some anti-inflammatory things to eat?
WEIL: Slow digesting carbohydrate foods.
WEIL: Meaning sweet potatoes, winter squashes, beans, whole grains, cracked grains, as opposed to things made with flour and sugar, which is all the refined carbohydrate snack foods. The good fats, especially the Omega 3 fatty acids, olive oil, oils in avocados, nut seeds these have an anti-inflammatory effect.
All the fruits and vegetable and you want to eat across the color spectrum because it's the pigments in these fruits, like your blueberries, it's those pigments which are anti-oxidants and protect.
KING: Are you putting down my blueberries?
WEIL: No, I love your blueberries. I tell people to eat them. They're good.
KING: It's one of the healthiest foods.
WEIL: Absolutely and it's because of those purple pigments, you know. Those are powerful anti-oxidants.
KING: And fruits don't affect diabetics?
WEIL: There are different kinds of fruits. In general, the tropical fruits are much -- have a much greater impact on blood sugar whereas the temperate fruits, and especially berries, you know, all the berries and cherries and pears and apples, those are much, much more benign. They have much less of an impact in blood sugar.
KING: Better than pineapple. WEIL: Much better.
KING: But kind of don't taste so good.
WEIL: Well then you can have it occasionally.
KING: One, if you could banish a good item from the earth, the power of Weil, what would you banish?
WEIL: Well, I suppose at the moment the first thing would be parsley hydrogenated fat, which is in all of the cheap snack foods that people are eating.
KING: You mean the kind in potato chips?
WEIL: Yes, this is the source of trans fats which we've seen so much of in the news extremely unhealthy for our hearts and for cancer.
WEIL: All that stuff. You know I'll tell you I go into, if I'm driving on an interstate highway and I stop and go into a convenience store, there's almost nothing there I can eat. I mean maybe a bag of peanuts. There are those things with bright blue frozen slush going around and everything I pick up it's all artificial ingredients. No, that's doing us in.
KING: What do you make of the new emphasis on dark chocolate?
WEIL: Well, I'm one of the people that's put the emphasis there. I helped.
KING: You started it. What is (INAUDIBLE) that's good.
WEIL: Dark chocolate has a very high content of what are called polyphenols and these are the same anti-oxidants that are in red wine and green tea and olive oil but actually dark chocolate has even more of them. So, you don't want to eat, you don't want to go overboard with this and it's got to be good quality dark chocolate, at least 70 percent cocoa but it's a good thing for the diet.
KING: Where do you sell your own supplements?
WEIL: You know my supplements are sold on my Web site and they're also sold in retail stores like Whole Foods. I would -- if you're interested in this, if you go to my Web site, drweil.com, click on the vitamin advisor. This is a free service and it will ask you a lot of questions about health and then you'll get individualized recommendations for supplements.
KING: Are supplements as good as the food?
WEIL: No. Supplements are absolutely not substitutes for the foods that contain them but they are insurance against gaps in the diet. I think everyone in this country should take a multi vitamin, multi mineral supplement. By the way, one of the lowest cost public health interventions that we could make if the government would give every school kid a multi vitamin that would do so much.
WEIL: So much to improve behavior, learning ability, health problems, such a low cost intervention to do.
KING: A nice, chewable, tasty one too.
WEIL: Sure that would be great. I mean...
KING: Sex good for aging?
WEIL: Sex is good but I think it's important to realize that sex, like other things, changes as you age. You know when you're 30 your sexuality is different from what it was at 18. When you're 60 it's different from what it was at 30.
KING: Different in a male and a female as they age?
WEIL: I think the mechanics of sex changed, desire changes. I think what's most important here is to have clear communication with your partner about what you want, what you need and to address actual problems as they come up.
KING: Stress and aging?
WEIL: Well that's a huge subject and I don't think we can live without stress. Stress is part of human life.
KING: Just walk in New York.
WEIL: Exactly. But I think what we can do is learn strategies for neutralizing the most harmful effects of stress on the body. The main hormone that mediates stress is called cortisol and we know that cortisol is directly toxic to nerve cells in the brain and the part of the brain that processes memory.
And since age-related memory loss is one of the things seen in the "USA Today" poll that people are most concerned about that in itself is an argument for learning how to deal with stress, the breathing techniques that I mentioned earlier are very good for that.
KING: Alzheimer's growing or diminishing?
WEIL: Well, it's -- there's a lot of it there. There is some evidence that it's increasing. I think there's a lot that can -- our treatments for Alzheimer's are miserable but I think we know a fair amount about prevention of Alzheimer's Disease and that involves the anti-inflammatory diet because Alzheimer's begins as an inflammatory process in the brain. That's why taking Ibuprofen has a preventive effect.
KING: It's good for you?
WEIL: Yes, it helps prevent. Turmeric, the yellow spice in curry, I've talked about this on your show before looks good. India has the lowest rate of Alzheimer's in the world. They eat turmeric at every meal and there's some evidence that this is a factor there.
Education is protective against memory loss. The more education you've had the more connections you got in the brain and the more connections you have the more you can afford to lose.
I think one of the best kinds of education that's protective is learning another language. You don't have to master the language just the attempt to learn it that people who speak more than one language have better brain function and they're more protected against memory loss.
KING: How do you deal with the mental effects of aging as my friend the late (INAUDIBLE) said when he reached age 80, aging is a bitch. You get arthritis. You get pains you never thought of before. Is there any way to cope with that?
WEIL: Well I think these specific problems, yes, there are strategies for dealing with them. If it's aches and pains, you can move in warm water. You can get acupuncture treatments. You can seal with them but I think you also have to accept the fact that your body changes as you age and that means adapting what you do to a changed body.
KING: You've also been, despite the fact of your interest in holistic stuff, you're not anti the pharmaceutical industry.
WEIL: Not at all. I think there are some very good products of the pharmaceutical industry out there. I think there's also a lot that aren't good and some that are dangerous and in my own integrated medicine practice and what I teach, you know, we have certainly no objection to using pharmaceutical drugs when that's the thing to do. If we can find a natural alternative to them, you know, I'd like to use that first.
KING: Like Lipitor is a pretty good drug.
WEIL: Lipitor is a pretty good drug. These are some of the best things that we've come up with.
KING: We'll take a break. When we come back, we'll include your calls. This is the book, "Healthy Aging," he's done it again, Dr. Andrew Weil. He was on the front cover of "Time" and we'll begin taking your calls right after these words.
KING: Welcome back with Dr. Andrew Weil, author of "Healthy Aging." He also wrote "Eight Weeks to Optimum Health." And we're ready to go to your calls. He's by the way, the director of the program of integrative medicine at the University of Arizona. He'll be doing a series of town meetings around the country, leading up to Thanksgiving next at Faneuil Hall in Boston. If you want further information on that, just go to his Web site. That's...
KING: DrWeil -- one word -- DrWeil.com. And you will get all the information on appearances in a city near you.
Charlotte, North Carolina. Hello.
CALLER: Hi. How are you tonight?
CALLER: Great. I have chronic IDS with -- that's constipation based. And I don't smoke. I don't drink. I take some prescription drugs. But do you know, what can I do besides fiber and laxatives, because that's how frustrating it gets, can I do to get rid of my chronic constipation?
WEIL: Oh, you know, there's so much you can do. Irritable bowel syndrome is I think made to order for integrative medicine treatment. By the way, one of the first graduates of my program, Dr. Russell Greenfield (ph), practices in Charlotte. I would go see him. He'll give you my kind of medicine.
KING: Boy, did you hit it lucky. Tomorrow morning call Dr. Russell Greenfield (ph). He's in the phone book in Charlotte.
WEIL: He's great.
KING: Define integrative medicine.
WEIL: Integrative medicine, the short answer is it's the combination of alternative and conventional medicine. But it's more than that. It's healing-oriented medicine that is focusing on the body's capacity to heal itself. It looks at the whole person, body, mind and spirit. It looks at all aspects of lifestyle. It really emphasizes the doctor/patient relationship.
KING: Man, did you hit a lucky city. Las Vegas, hello.
CALLER: Larry and Dr. Weil, good evening. What a privilege. And thank you so much for all the information.
KING: Hello? Did we lose you, ma'am?
CALLER: ... chemotherapy and experimental treatment for M.S.
KING: M.S., we're making any headway?
WEIL: Yes, actually, you know what, let me just mention something. She just asked about chemotherapy in M.S. That's an extreme treatment that can be useful short term.
KING: And are they doing that?
WEIL: They are doing that as an immune-suppressive. But there's an interesting new finding about M.S. that everyone should be aware of it. It looks as if M.S. is related to vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin -- it's actually a hormone that we can make in our skin. And I was taught in medical school that it was only needed for building bones and absorbing calcium. KING: That was Harvard Medical School.
WEIL: Harvard Medical School. But turns out we have vitamin D receptors throughout the body, and that it looks very important in preventing many kinds of cancer, including lung cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and it seems to be involved in the prevention of M.S.
One of the mysteries of multiple sclerosis is why it becomes more common as you go north or south toward the poles, and why it's almost nonexistent at the equators. And the answer, it clearly now looks as if -- this is vitamin D deficiency, because the higher the latitude, less sun exposure.
Everyone should be taking 1,000 international units of vitamin D a day. That is much higher than I was taught to recommend. It's harmless in those doses. That may turn out to be too low, but if you have M.S. in your family -- actually, for a patient with M.S., I would recommend even higher doses. Ask your physician about that.
KING: And what, when we see chemotherapy, that's chemical treatment, right?
WEIL: It is chemical treatment designed to suppress aspects of immune function that mediate the damage to nerves that we see in M.S. And it can be very useful in some kinds of M.S.
KING: And in cancer, it's...?
WEIL: In cancer, it's intended to kill dividing cells, and the hope is that cancer cells are dividing faster than normal cells. Sometimes they are, sometimes they're not.
KING: Is cancer a civil war in the body?
WEIL: I think you can think of that. I mean, it's kind of...
KING: Body going to war with itself?
WEIL: It's cells that lose the ability to respond to the body as a whole. I mean, in a way it's the ultimate selfish growth of cells. They're only concerned about themselves, not about the rest of the organism.
KING: We don't know why they do it though, right?
WEIL: Well, I think we are closing in on genetic mechanisms involved in cancer. I think there are a lot of triggers on cancer. Some of them environmental. I do think that one day, we will look back on the chemotherapy era and look at it the same way we looked on the way we used to treat mental illness 100 years ago.
KING: Phoenix, Maryland, hello. I'll try it again. Phoenix, Maryland, hello.
CALLER: I love your show.
KING: Thank you.
CALLER: Dr. Weil, I would just like to say, I just turned 40 years old, and I'm not so worried about aging. My bigger concern is cancer, because I just -- I just attended two funerals in the past year of women that I know in their 40s, leaving young children behind, that died of cancer. And there's many, many more out there that I've heard of. And it seems like there's almost an epidemic of this.
WEIL: You know what, so many people I know say the same thing. I think everybody's lives are being touched by cancer today. And that makes it all the more important to learn about the preventive strategies, starting with diet. I mean, we know a lot about foods that you can eat. Again, particularly fruits and vegetables, that have these protective elements in them that protect against cancer. You know, you want to learn this information. You will find a lot of that in my book and in my previous books, or on the Web site. You want to be proactive here, and especially if you've got cancer in your family. You want to be more proactive and really look at all aspects of your lifestyle and what you can do to reduce cancer risks.
KING: Is there a healthy food against cancer?
WEIL: Well, I think there are many.
KING: What's a good one like?
WEIL: Blueberries, for example. Also, tomatoes, which have a red pigment that protects against prostate cancer.
KING: Is lycopene as good as tomatoes?
WEIL: Lycopene? No, I think tomatoes are better, and we don't know whether taking lycopene as a supplement reproduces the effect of a tomato.
KING: Vitamin D is in most supplements, isn't it?
WEIL: It is, but you want to read the label. First of all, you don't have enough. Usually you get 400 units at best. So you want to take an additional probably 1,000 or 400.
KING: Atlanta, Georgia, hello.
CALLER: Hello. Larry, Dr. Weil, it's a pleasure to be speaking with you this evening.
KING: Thank you. CALLER: I'm calling in regards to myself. I'm approaching 40 and have done much of what you said -- advise to do as far as (AUDIO GAP). My question is about the omega 3s and what (AUDIO GAP)?
KING: The phone was kicking out, but she was asking about....
WEIL: Well, she was asking about the benefits of omega 3s. I think research in this field is exploding. Omega 3 fatty acids -- these are the ones in oily fish, in walnuts, in a few other foods -- absolutely vital for health. Most people in this country are deficient in them. They protect cell membranes. They reduce heart attack risk, they reduce cancer risks. They're good for mental health.
I think a major question you want to ask yourself is where are you getting your omega 3s? How can you get more?
Now, in the past I've told people to eat fish, you know, salmon, sardines. There are a lot of concerns about fish today, as you know, about mercury in fish, about PCBs in fish.
KING: I take those every...
WEIL: Well, I think this is a reasonable alternative is to take fish oil as a supplement, because the good fish oil products are distilled so they're free of continents, and there are even some pleasant-tasting liquids that you can give to kids.
KING: How about flaxseed?
WEIL: Flaxseed is good, and I recommend it over flax oil. I like to buy flaxseeds. They're cheap. You grind them. Get a little coffee grinder that you can dedicate to flax. Grind maybe a quarter cup at a time. Keep it in the refrigerator. A tablespoon or two a day -- they're very good, by the way. They taste sweet and nutty. You can sprinkle them over cereal or a salad. It's a good source of vegetarian omega 3s and fiber.
KING: Helping you live longer, Dr. Andrew -- mostly because we want you to stay tuned. It's always a selfish motive; we're the media.
"Healthy Aging" is the book. The guest is Dr. Andrew Weil. Go on drweil.com for appearances. He's going to do town meetings, next one in Boston. Don't go away.
KING: Back to calls for Dr. Andrew Weil, author of "Healthy Aging."
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, hello. Hello, Edmonton, are you there?
CALLER: Yes, can you hear me?
KING: Go ahead, I'm sorry. Go ahead.
CALLER: OK. I went through surgical menopause at the age of 30. And I found that significantly affected my bones because I have a family history of that, but mainly my bladder. I developed intrastisal (ph) stititis in bladder and I've lived with that for like 30-plus years with intense pain. I've tried all of the treatments. None of them have worked. And it's ruining my life, I guess.
WEIL: All right. I'll give you a couple of suggestions. So she had her ovaries out. And I assume you were given hormone replacement, which should be done when you have your ovaries out prematurely. And she's now developed a condition, sometimes called irritable bladder syndrome. So it's a kind of imbalance between the nerves that control the bladder and the lining of the bladder. Very painful and difficult to treat.
There are two suggestions I'd have for you. One is to work with a mind/body therapist. My preference would be a hypnotherapist or a practitioner of interactive guided imagery, to see if you can use the mind/body connection to promote healing of the bladder. The other is to work with a good practitioner of Chinese medicine. They're sometimes quite effective with us, with a combination of acupuncture, herbal treatment. and dietary change.
KING: How does acupuncture work?
WEIL: Well, you know, in Western terms, we know that for pain control, it works by stimulating endorphins, our natural opiates. But in the Chinese conception, acupuncture is said to manipulate energy flows around the boy. The problem is, in Western science, we don't know what these energy flows are. But acupuncture works well for certain kinds of conditions and irritable bladder syndrome is one of them.
KING: Fredickton, New Brunswick, hello.
CALLER: Hello. Thank you for taking my call.
CALLER: Dr. Weil, your comments on juicing fresh fruits and vegetables as a source of extra vitamins and nutrients in your daily diet, instead of over-the-counter juice?
WEIL: Well, I think juicing yourself, you're going to get a much better product than over-the-counter juice. And it also involves you in an act that you're doing something for your own health. The one caution I'd have is that fruit juices are highly concentrated in sugar. So I think you want to be moderate in your consumption of fruit juice. You know, vegetable juice is great, but don't let that replace vegetables in your diet, because whole vegetables are giving you fiber and other things that you need.
KING: Is V-8 therefore a great drink?
WEIL: It's high in sodium. So, you know, you might want to use the low sodium form of V-8. If you make it yourself, it's going to taste better.
KING: Montreal, hello.
CALLER: I have a question.
CALLER: Of all the things you suggested for healthier aging, if you had to choose just one, what would that be?
WEIL: Well, that's a tough question. But a few years ago the MacArthur Foundation released a book called "Aging" -- it was a study of aging in America. It was called "Successful Aging." And they interviewed hundreds of healthy old people to look for commonalities. The two things that stood out in their data were maintenance of physical activity throughout life. That doesn't mean going to aerobics class, it's just being physically active. And the second thing is maintaining social and intellectual connectedness. And I think both of those are very key. So that's would I concentrate on.
KING: Well, you mean, reading, keeping in touch with people?
WEIL: With people. Right. I think one of the sad things that happens in our present society is that many old people, their world shrinks. They become isolated in communities of other old people. Their contacts outside of themselves diminish. That's not protective of health. So the -- this is again in contrast with Okinawa (ph), where as I said, these old people were actively included in all community activities.
KING: We'll be back with more of Dr. Weil. The book, "Healthy Aging." The Web site, drweil.com. Don't go away.
KING: Americans polled say they want to live to be 87. What do you say? What do you want to live to?
WEIL: Well, my father lived to 80, my mother to 93. So I think somewhere in between there. You know, I -- there was -- I quoted in the book some interviews with people who were in the oldest old, one a woman in her 100s who said that that was too long. And...
WEIL: Yes, she said when she hears people say they want to live to be 100, she says, why? She says, she doesn't think you're going to like the world, you know, when you get to be that old.
KING: Palo Alto, California, hello.
CALLER: Hello. Good evening, gentlemen. My question is -- I am a good role model of my two older sons. I keep a healthy diet and I exercise daily. How do I make a strong impact on both of my boys to stay away from -- on healthy food and to exercise daily?
WEIL: How old are they?
CALLER: Nineteen and 26.
WEIL: A-ha. Well, they're out in the world. They're going to be doing their own thing. And you know, my guess is that just you be the best role model you can and that will have great influence on them. You know, it's really important to try to get this information to young people. And I hope this book will be read by young people. Because a lot of the choices you make early in life really influence how you're going to age.
KING: One problem, though, is that young people don't think about abling.
WEIL: And they think they're indestructable and they also don't see the immediate effects of unhealthy living. And then when they get to be -- when people get to be in their late 40s, early 50s, suddenly it appears to them that their body starts to fall apart. It didn't suddenly start to fall apart. You know, these are cumulative effects of this.
So all I would say is you just be the role model you can and tell them, and you know, I think that's the best thing you can do.
KING: Clarksberg, West Virginia, hello.
CALLER: Larry, first of all, I'd like to say I love your show.
KING: Thank you.
CALLER: It's very informative. And my question for Dr. Weil is, I have a parent in her 80s, who's suffered for the past year with nerve damage from shingles. She's tried patches and medication. And I just wondered, is there anything that you can suggest for treatment of a pain from shingles?
WEIL: Yes, I would certainly try acupuncture, which has been successful with that kind of post-shingles pain. I assume she's tried some of the topical capsaicin creams. This is from red pepper. It's a powerful local anesthetic and it works.
KING: (INAUDIBLE) pain in shingles.
WEIL: You know, this is the -- the after effect of the virus. It's a long-lasting after effect of the -- this is the chicken pox virus that inflames a nerve root, and in some people, in a percentage of patients, the pain is very long lasting. So try acupuncture.
KING: Which of the diseases do you think will be the hardest to cure?
WEIL: You know, I think cancer is a tough problem, because it's something happening on such a deep level in our cells. It's a lot of -- big problem. It's not one disease. So I think that's going to be -- you know, we'll make breakthroughs here or there, but I think that's going to be tough.
KING: St. Petersburg, Florida, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Dr. Weil.
CALLER: You're just wonderful. Thank you for being there. A big question. I've been involved with sciatic nerve problems for years.
CALLER: I've had acupuncture and had wonderful relief from it with the electrodes. Now, where the hell do we get Medicare involved in picking up some of this expense?
WEIL: Well, that's a great question. And I think, you know, the big challenge we face is getting equitable reimbursement for integrative treatment, including some of these alternative therapies. I really believe that integrative medicine is the future, and I think as the health care crisis deepens in our culture, and by the way, I think we're going to see a total collapse of the health care system.
I think the wisdom of integrative medicine is going to become more apparent because it has the potential to lower costs, by bringing lower-cost treatments into the mainstream.
You know, my colleagues and I at the University of Arizona are working on this. We are trying to partner with corporations to do some of the basic outcomes research, to collect data to show that if you put integrative medicine and conventional medicine head to head, in common conditions, we can produce equally good or better outcomes at lower cost. And it's going to happen, but it's going to take your demanding that, it's going to take our doing the studies to produce the data.
KING: Comedians generally live a long time.
KING: Is that because they are making people laugh?
WEIL: I think they're making people laugh, and also I think they're able to see the ridiculous side of life. It was one of the -- I quoted my mother. One of her mottoes was, never lose your sense of humor. She said, no matter what happens, you have to always be able to laugh.
KING: Good things happen to your body when you laugh, right?
WEIL: Excellent things.
WEIL: And have you heard about laughter yoga? There is an Indian physician, a few years ago he started in Mumbai, India and he's now got these laughter clubs all over the world.
KING: You just sit and laugh all day?
WEIL: No, they get together for a half hour in these big groups. They do breathing exercises first and physical exercises. They don't use humor. They start by doing simulated laughter, and then in a group, it becomes real. And people...
KING: Yeah, once you hear it.
WEIL: Once you hear it. And this is extremely healthy.
KING: I laugh just at the thought of it.
We'll be back with more moments with Dr. Andrew Weil right after this.
KING: One more quick call. Dallas for Dr. Weil. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Dr. Weil. First, I just want to quickly thank you for your mission to inform and support integrative medicine, because you just helped millions of us find a peace and healing from it. So we really appreciate it.
My question has to do with, I know that you use integrative medicine for your dogs. And I want to ask you about the continued debate in the veterinarian community on annual vaccinations, and whether or not they're actually needed.
KING: Good question.
WEIL: You know, obviously rabies vaccinations are needed, and these should be kept up according to schedule.
I think that the pressure that consumers have felt to give annual vaccinations for the other kinds of diseases, I think that probably is not necessary. And you can do this at much longer intervals than we've been told to do.
KING: You're doing an extensive tour, you're doing town meetings. You can find out more about that at drweil.com. Is this, in your own thought, your most important book?
WEIL: I think so. Because it's a real challenge here. As I said I think at the beginning, we are an unhealthy society in regard to our conceptions of aging. I want to try to start a dialogue to change that, and to get us off of this anti-aging kick, to think instead about being pro-health, to learning how to live long and well, and to really see the value in aging, that aging can bring increased wisdom, depth of character. There are rewards to aging. It's not just challenges and losses.
KING: We don't have much time. Do you also favor a community death, by that I mean the family around, discussing it before you die?
WEIL: Ideally, that would be wonderful. I think all of us would like that.
KING: We shunted it in the past?
WEIL: We have shunted it. And I think it has to do with our fear of the process and wanting it off the scene.
KING: And so we don't want to go in and tell him or talk to him about it.
WEIL: Exactly. Yeah, that would be a nice change, to see that happening.
KING: Because we're scared.
KING: As always.
WEIL: As always.
KING: Dr. Andrew Weil. The book, "Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Physical and Spiritual Well-Being," published by Knopf.
We could not leave you tonight without marking the passing of a quiet woman and a giant in American history. Rosa Parks, the mother of the civil rights movement, died last night in Detroit at age 92. Fifty years ago, she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. Parks was arrested. And a young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King Jr. led blacks in a year-long boycott of the bus company. Eventually, courts ruled that the segregated bus service was unconstitutional.
I was fortunate enough to interview Rosa Parks in 1995, and I asked her why she did what she did that day, knowing she would go to jail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSA PARKS: I took this as an opportunity to let it be known that as a passenger, I was not being treated fairly, and as a person, and we as a people were not treated fairly, because we had to undergo this type of treatment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Paying tribute to Rosa Parks today, Michigan Congressman John Conyers said, "By sitting down, she was standing up for all Americans." Well put. Rest in peace, Rosa Parks, one of the great names in American civil rights history. Tomorrow night, Prince Albert of Monaco joins us. It's his first interview since the death of his father, Prince Rainer. Prince Albert tomorrow night.
We have our own prince. He is in New York, he's Aaron Brown.
AARON BROWN, HOST, NEWSNIGHT: He's a prince of darkness.
KING: Is Anderson with you tonight.
BROWN: No, Anderson is off for a few days.
KING: The prince reigns alone!
BROWN: Yes, he does.
BROWN: We'll see if we can handle it. Thank you, Larry.
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