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Sanjay Gupta MD

Turning Your Mind into a Powerful Healer; Being Free of Aging; Town Goes on Diet; What to Know About Lighting Up Your Fireworks; Antidepressants and Birth Defects, Is There a Link?

Aired June 30, 2007 - 08:30   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: This is an island airport off the coast of Spain there. A lot of tourists frequent that area. But again, a small bomb has exploded at that airport. It had been evacuated. So there's no reports of injuries at this hour. As soon as we get more information on this, we'll bring that to you.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Of course, it's gone to the time of increased alert really all over the world, certainly in this country, after the threat of the London bombings. Two car bombs found. They did not detonate. The investigation there continues after two cars packed with gasoline, packed with nails appeared ready to go off, but they did not. Some alert folks, some vigilant folks there found some things they found suspicious. And the bomb did not go off. But certainly, officials there say they could have done mass damage and caused a number of casualties had those bombs gone off.

So stepped up alerts and everybody on alert really around the world and in this country as well just kind of on heightened alert. We're keeping an eye on all this stuff. We'll have the latest for you at 9:00 when we come back.

NGUYEN: Absolutely. There's much more to come, though, because in our next hour, we're live in London with the latest on that investigation that we've been telling you about. Also in Washington D.C., how U.S. officials are reacting to the terror threat.

HOLMES: But first, we want to turn you over to HOUSECALL with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. That starts right now.

SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Thanks, guys. This is HOUSECALL. We've got a great show lined up for you this morning. First up, Deepak Chopra joins us. We're going to be talking about turning your mind into a powerful healer. Then he gives us the secret to, as he puts it, being free of aging.

Later, concerned about climbing rates of childhood obesity, an entire town goes on a diet. We'll tell you how they measured up.

And finally, what you need to know before lighting up your fireworks. Could save you a trip to the emergency room.

We start, though, with one of the pioneers of the mind-body medicine. He's a fantastic man, Dr. Deepak Chopra. He's founded the Chopra Center for Well-being. He's also a best-selling author of numerous books, too numerous to count, on spirituality, health, and healing. His latest book is "Buddha."

And this is a different sort of book for you. First of all, welcome to the show. Thank you for being here.

DEEPAK CHOPRA, DR., MIND-BODY MEDICINE: Thanks, Sanjay. It is different, but it's still, you know, I think Buddha was the first physician. The four noble truths. There is suffering in life like (INAUDIBLE) suffering. There are causes for suffering. These causes can be identified. There's a way out.

And here's the prescription. So I think of him as the original healer. And he went into not only the nature of physical suffering, but the existential suffering that we all have. You know, we're all going to grow old. There's decrepitude. And that comes with old age. And we're going to die. I mean, the biggest fear in the world is the fear of death. And I think all other fear is the fear of death in disguise.

So here's a physician who says, you know, get to a domain of consciousness that is independent of all this.

GUPTA: Right.

CHOPRA: And maybe you'll have a solution.

GUPTA: Speaking of healers, I mean, many people may not know this. I know this, but you're a licensed endocrinologist.

CHOPRA: You know, I'm licensed internal medicine and endocrinology. Licensed in Massachusetts and California. And I keep up my CME credits.

GUPTA: Is that important to you?

CHOPRA: Yes. I also teach once a year at Harvard at the Beth Israel hospital, the update in internal medicine. So it's very important to me to keep up with everything that's happening in my world of neuroendocrinology ...

GUPTA: Sure.

CHOPRA: ...and internal medicine. And also to see how that relates to some of the things we talk about.

GUPTA: I think it's important for our viewers to know that you're doing both. A lot of people know you because of the books.

CHOPRA: Right.

GUPTA: But you are practicing medicine. Lots of e-mail questions came in for you.


GUPTA: We've been querying them. Let's start with Arash in California who has this question. "What natural approach do you recommend for anxiety?" Now we picked this question, Dr. Chopra, because a lot of people ask this sort of thing. Is there a natural approach?

CHOPRA: Yes, of course. Meditation is the most obvious stress reliever. And you don't have to do any fancy kind of meditation. If you sit very quietly for 10, 15 minutes, observe your breath, it will slow down. And everything else will slow down, including your heart rate. Your blood pressure will come down. There's enough studies on meditation now to show that it's very effective for anxiety, but so is massage. So is laughter therapy. So is restful sleep. So are some herbs like Valerian, which are mild kind of analgesics. And so is being in nature. So is having good relationships.

Look at what's causing your anxiety. And don't just treat it superficially because there's an underlying reason. You know, it's not enough to know the mechanisms of illness.

GUPTA: Right.

CHOPRA: Go to the origins of illness.

GUPTA: Well, you know, I know you're a fan of meditation, something you and I have talked about quite a bit. It's also been used to calm busy minds. But what about battling stress and high blood pressure? To find out if it would work, researchers literally went back to school.


SANJAY GUPTA, HOST (voice-over): These teenagers don't look particularly concerned about the things that worry most teenagers, school, dating, and peer pressure. Instead, they're busy acing a new class.

KAMAU PENDERGASS: Meditation makes me feel more calm and relaxed and more able to take stress.

ERIN ROBERTS: It's a chance to escape from the world that's going on around you. It's like a chance to actually get to know yourself without going somewhere.

GUPTA: Kamau and Erin both practice TM by following the transcendental meditation program at their school in inner city Detroit. TM gained popularity back in the '70s.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Slowly open your eyes.

GUPTA: Mantras in the morning, then again later in the day helps quiet a busy adolescent's mind.

JANE PITT, NATAKI TALIBAH SCHOOLHOUSE: When the mind becomes quiet, the body right along with it becomes quiet. And thereby gaining a very deep state of rest.

GUPTA: And that restful state may be good not only for the mind, but the body as well. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's sit comfortably. And let's close our eyes.

GUPTA: Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia found teenagers who had higher than normal blood pressure and practiced TM every day for four months significantly decreased their blood pressure even after the study was over.

MICHAEL ARTMAN, DR., PEDIATRIC CARDIOLOGIST, NYU: The surprise really was that this worked, that just 15 minutes of transcendental meditation twice a day had such an important effect on blood pressure in these children.

GUPTA: Add to that other studies showing higher self esteem, more positive well-being, and less stress and aggression in youngsters who practice TM. Dr. Gary Kaplan, a doctor and advocate of TM as part of the school curriculum, also points out there are few, if any, side effects.

GARY KAPLAN, DR., NEUROLOGIST, NYU: As a physician, I'm prescribing a lot of medications that are powerful. And unfortunately, usually the more powerful the medication, the more powerful the side effects. This is something that you can do on your own.

GUPTA: These students learned for free. But the transcendental meditation program they followed does cost a one-time fee of $2500 and requires no specific spiritual belief.

JOSH MACKENSON: It's pretty much a way to relax your mind that really doesn't take much time. I find it's pretty much better than sleep.

GUPTA: Better rest than sleep? We could all use that.


GUPTA: Now it's interesting to note that this Detroit school paved the way for TM in more classrooms. In fact, since that story originally aired, the practice of TM by school-age children has spread. And by the fall, it will be in 100 schools nationwide. That amounts to more than 10,000 junior and high school students.

You know, it's interesting, Deepak. We talk a lot about meditation. These are grade school students. I mean, can anyone benefit from meditation? Is there anybody who won't benefit from it?

CHOPRA: No. I think anyone can benefit from it. And although TM is a very specific technique, I think, you know, Buddha's practice was mindful meditation, mindfulness, which is observing the breath or observing sensations in your body.

GUPTA: How much of this do you incorporate into your own life?

CHOPRA: A lot. I meditate twice a day every day for a minimum of 20 minutes. But sometimes, if I'm on the plane, I could be in meditation for several hours. I go to the gym every day for an hour and a half, no matter where I am in the world.

GUPTA: Good for you.

CHOPRA: And I'm careful about what I put into my body.

GUPTA: So you're taking care of yourself.

CHOPRA: Yes, absolutely.

GUPTA: We have a lot of questions. I want to try and get to as many as we can in the short time we have.

CHOPRA: OK, sure.

GUPTA: Questions from our inbox. Now Alice from Washington writes this question. "My husband and I have been trying to conceive for about 13 months with no success. I've heard about women who use acupuncture for infertility. Does it work? If so, how?" Is this the type of question that you get often?

CHOPRA: Sure. But as you know, Sanjay, as a physician, there's so many causes of infertility. But one of the most common causes of infertility is anovulation, which means the hormones that are secreted by the pituitary are a little bit out of, you know, balance. Not that they're, you know, too high or too low. It's just the sequential secretion of these hormones.

And that's related to stress. So as soon as you manage the stress, whether it's through meditation or acupuncture or therapy or you know, some kind of toxicity, toxic relationship is going on, as soon as you manage the stress, the anovulation will stop -- will frequently resolve. So that's one cause of infertility that certainly is treatable through non-pharmaceutical methods.

GUPTA: You know, part of the reason I brought up this whole idea that you still are licensed endocrinologist is because, you know, your education, your ground work was rooted in the scientific method. When you talk about these other things, acupuncture, meditation, some of the non-pharmacological therapies, what -- is there criticism that there's not enough science to back it up?

CHOPRA: There used to be criticism when I started out. That was 30 years ago. Now we at the Chopra Center actually give courses to physicians. And the courses are recognized by the American Medical Association for CME credit.

So either if you take one of our mind-body courses, you'll actually be able to get CME credits that help you to renew your license. At the same time, I teach these things. One day, the update in medicine at Harvard Medical School at the Beth Israel Hospital. And there's huge demand for medical institutions to incorporate these techniques because there's more and more scientific validation.

GUPTA: You've seen a real transition in this?

CHOPRA: Oh, absolutely. You know, your -- my field was endocrinology. In the '70s, we were identifying the molecules of emotion. And now we know that, if you produce an internal state of euphoria, you have the simultaneous secretion of things like dopamine, serotonin, opiates, oxytocin. What is so remarkable is that these neuropeptides are also immunal modulators. They modulate the activity of the immune system. So we have a theoretical basis for these techniques.

GUPTA: Right.

CHOPRA: And of course, we have all the experience now of practical outcomes.

GUPTA: That's amazing. Internal state of euphoria. I like that.


GUPTA: Our guest is Dr. Deepak Chopra. Of course, his book is "Buddha," which incidentally "The New York Times" bestseller as well. It's done very well. We have much more with him, including how he thinks you can free yourself from aging.

Then, antidepressants and birth defects. A new study sheds some light on an old concern.

And later, restaurants trim fat. Schools add more green. Nature paths are upgrading. It's a town on a diet. We'll tell you where.


GUPTA: We're back with HOUSECALL. We're talking about the mind- body connection with Dr. Deepak Chopra. He's one of the pioneers in this field. He's author of more than 40 books, including his latest titled, "Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment."

Let's talk about aging now. Nobody wants to get older, I don't think, or at least they don't want to feel older. I want to quote on something that you said I thought interesting.

You can free yourself from aging by reinterpreting your body and by grasping the link between belief and biology, something from your book. First of all, what did you mean by that? I know, by the way, that you turned 60 last year, I think, if I'm correct on that.

CHOPRA: Chronologically. Not biologically.

GUPTA: And you're not a big fan of the way that we measure aging.


GUPTA: You know that as well, but what did you mean by this quote?

CHOPRA: Well, you know, in Eastern traditions, which are now people are becoming familiar with them, the body is seen as a field of energy and information. And it also metabolizes the experience of time.

So let's say your internal clock is fast. You know, you say, I'm running out of time all the time. And that's what you say to yourself all the time. So you're looking at the same watch that everybody's seeing, but it's moving much faster.

Well, you'll have faster heart rate, higher number of jittery platelets with adrenaline and high blood pressure. And if a person like that constantly says I'm running out of time, then one day they're going to have a cardiovascular accident. And they will run out of time.

GUPTA: They'll have a heart attack.

CHOPRA: Yes, a heart attack. And they'll run out of time.

On the other hand, if you say I have all the time in the world, and then when you are intoxicated with love, then time stops for you, that actually influences your biological clock. So you have to reinterpret your life experiences. How do I relate to the experience of time? How do I relate to this body? Do I see it as a field of energy? Can I activate that energy field through yogic practices, reading, (INAUDIBLE)? There are many mind-body techniques.

GUPTA: One of the themes that you stream through a lot of your books, including "Buddha," is love and forgiveness. And you just mentioned getting out of toxic relationships, for example. Does that make a difference? A, in terms of aging, and B, in terms of your overall health? I mean ...

CHOPRA: Yes. When you have the experience of not only love but also compassion, which is a paradoxical thing, because compassion is the suffering with others. See, when you have the experience of shared suffering, which leads of course to compassion, which leads to love, then your body's homeostatic mechanisms, which is self- regulating mechanisms, fine tune themselves. And they know how it works. It's called limbic resonance.

Your limbic brain regulates self-referred, self feedback, and homeostasis in your body. But your limbic brain is very much connected to your emotional life as well. And you know, mammals have emotional lives. They live in close knit nurturing groups called families. And where there's an emotional bond, if the baby's emotionally bonded and feels safe, the baby's likely to be a healthy adult.

But even in adults, if you take care of emotional toxicity, if you make a person feel loved, if you -- for example, there's a study that I can quote where a nurse calls a patient once a week, and post infarction mortality drops very significantly...

GUPTA: Sure, right.

CHOPRA: ...if she calls the patient once a week to say we're thinking of you. We love you.

GUPTA: Just to show that compassion.

CHOPRA: Sure. And you know, of course, the speaker study where women who supported each other in a loving environment with breast cancer, the survival doubled. And they had to stop the study because they didn't want to have a control group.

GUPTA: Just love and forgiveness. I always smile when I see you. You make people feel cared about.

CHOPRA: Thank you.

GUPTA: Dr. Deepak Chopra, of course, has been our guest today. Thank you so much for being with us.

CHOPRA: Thank you. I appreciate it very much.

Coming up, we have some great insights into the power of mind. If you missed any part of this interview, make sure to check out my podcast, where you'll be able to watch our entire conversation. Go to i-Tunes for a free download or click on

Coming up on HOUSECALL, antidepressants and birth defects, is there a link? A new study that's just out. We have the results.

And later, it's that time again. Fireworks are fun to watch. They can also cause a lot of injuries. Tune in before you light up.


GUPTA: We're back with HOUSECALL. Two new studies are offering some relief to pregnant women concerned about taking antidepressants. Researchers find few risks linking a common class of antidepressants called SSRs and major birth defects.

Well, the CDC did report a small increase, about two percent of defects, of the brain's abnormal skull development and a gastrointestinal abnormality. But the CDC, again, emphasized this risk is minimal. Many perfectly healthy babies are born to women taking antidepressants.

In some cases, more dangerous to stop taking the drugs in the first place. Of course, always discuss your options with your doctor.

There's more research on those anti-depressants out this week. And for that and all the medical headlines, here's Christy Feig with "The Pulse."


CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new report says a drug resistant staph infection super bug may be infecting up to 5 percent of all hospital and nursing home patients. This may sound like a small number, but it is 10 times greater than previously thought. The study found at least 30,000 U.S. hospital patients may have the super bug at any given time. That's 46 out of every 1,000 patients. Only certain antibiotics are effective in treating it. Two research teams have linked a popular type of antidepressant drug to bone loss in the elderly. That's according to a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The report found older men and women taking SSRIs had greater bone loss than those not taking the drug. SSRIs account for over 60 percent of antidepressants prescribed in the U.S.

The sobering new study reports chronic illness in children has quadrupled since 1960. The top three chronic illnesses in kids are asthma, obesity, and mental health conditions. Researchers say this should come as no surprise because of poor diet, lack of exercise, and excessive use of visual media, especially television.

Christy Feig, CNN.


GUPTA: All right, Christy, thanks. Coming up on HOUSECALL, an entire town takes on childhood obesity. How? By going on a diet. We'll explain and tell you how they fared. That's coming up on HOUSECALL.


GUPTA: We're back. You know, on HOUSECALL and at CNN, we're determined to help America get healthy. When we hear about an entire town deciding to eat better and live healthier all for their kids, we had to find out how it was working.


GUPTA (voice-over): Somerville, Massachusetts, population 77,000. It's a modern-day town with modern-day problems, including surging rates of obesity.

JOE CURTATONE, MAYOR, SOMERVILLE, MA: A third of our population is foreign-born. So we have our challenge of Somerville's a very dynamic city. And we don't have a lot of land area. So we have to be very strategic in how we encourage active living.

GUPTA: Four years ago, Tufts University nutritionists, along with city officials, put the community on a diet to help its citizens, especially children, keep their weight down. Restaurants offered healthier foods and smaller portions. Bike paths were upgraded. And school menus added more fruits and vegetables. People were encouraged to walk or bike to work. Kids, like Jonathan Lentini, were told to get out and play and watch what they ate.

JONATHAN LENTINI, SOMERVILLE STUDENT: Like what do I think is really good and if it's healthy or not.

GUPTA: And it worked. After studying almost 1,700 Somerville Elementary School kids over a year, researchers discovered children in this Boston 'burb gained weight at a healthy rate. While youngsters their age in two nearby towns gained more. CHRISTINA ECONOMOS, TUFTS, PROFESSOR OF NUTRITION: All children are gaining weight as they grow. And what we want to do to prevent childhood obesity is prevent excess weight gain.

GUPTA: Since the study ended, the city has kept up its healthy attitude. Researchers feel if other communities follow the same steps in Somerville, they too could help their future generations avoid the obesity epidemic.


GUPTA: Now in case you're curious, researchers picked Somerville because it has a large population of minority children and low income families. Good news, looks like they're on their way to making a really good change. Good for you.

Now straight ahead, 'tis the season for fireworks, which can also mean some nasty injuries. Up next, what you need to know so this doesn't happen to you.


GUPTA: Summer is here. And it's the season for picnics, grilling, and fireworks. Now while the commercial fireworks are great to watch, it's the ones that you use at home that have consumer groups concerned.


NANCY NORD, CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMM.: Fireworks are a dangerous product. And we see approximately 9,000 people visiting emergency rooms every year because of injuries from fireworks. Unfortunately, we also see on average about seven deaths a year. We're talking about burns. We're talking about lacerations. We're talking about eye injuries.


GUPTA: Now to avoid those injuries, experts recommend a few things. Never letting children ignite fireworks by themselves. Make sure to light them one at a time. And keep a bucket of water or a hose nearby in the case of a fire or an accident.

We want you to be safe out there. We want you to have a healthy week ahead as well. You don't want to miss our show next week. We're talking about everything from new clothes that protect you, to a surge of injuries caused by a common pair of shoes. Yes, you have to watch that. That plus taking care of an aching back coming up next weekend on HOUSECALL at 8:30 Eastern.

Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news now on CNN.