Doctors Share the One Thing They Wish They'd Known Sooner
If anyone knows how to get healthy and stay healthy, it's your doctor. Whether your concern is weight loss, mental health, or just maintaining overall well-being, MDs are your go-to for everything centered around your health. Your expert's expertise was learned over many years of studying and practicing medicine, and because wisdom comes with experience, most doctors know many more health tips and tricks now than they did when they were younger.
To help you get in on this valuable knowledge, we asked 14 doctors about the one thing they wish they'd known sooner. Check out these doctor's own health tips for a healthier you—starting right now.
The Sun Is More Damaging Than You Think
"One key thing I wish I had known sooner was the extent to which sun damage affects aging. One medical study found that up to 80 percent of aging signs are due to photodamage, including effects that aren't obviously associated with a sunburn or UV exposure. (Think wrinkles, sagging skin, hollowing, pigmentation issues, and others.) I only learned this fact when I started my plastic surgery residency. When I was growing up, unfortunately, wearing sunscreen daily wasn't widely practiced, and I only started doing so a few years ago."
— Joshua Zuckerman, MD, FACS
Food Is Medicine
"What I wish I knew sooner is that food is indeed medicine, just like Hippocrates said. What you eat or don't eat has a direct effect on your health and well-being. In fact, there's often a direct correlation with what we eat and the diseases and ailments we suffer from. Knowing this one thing could have saved me lots of time and money in doctors' office visits as I worked to heal my body. I'm now in the best health of my life."
— Dr. Lisa Leslie-Williams, Doctor of Pharmacy
Pay Attention to Your Body
"I wish I would have learned earlier to pay attention to my body's signals for help. Headaches, fatigue, anxiety, and trouble sleeping are all signs that something is off-balance, and I need to pay closer attention to my health. I learned this all in naturopathic medical school, and the lessons have been life-changing."
— JoAnn Yanez, ND, MPH, CAE
Take Time for Self-Care
"My one piece of advice, something I wish I knew and practiced sooner, is one of the more simple things, but it's just as valuable: Everyone should take time for themselves every day and use it to reflect briefly on the day or an experience. I say this is valuable because, with our increasing demands and constant pressures, it's very easy to lose sight of yourself, values, beliefs, passions, and so forth, which can lead to burnout. Burnout has been demonstrated in almost all professions and industries; fortunately, reflection has been correlated with preventing and even helping to reverse burnout."
— Jesse J Kiefer, MD, double-board certified physician in anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
Take Personalized Multivitamins
"As a physician of Internal Medicine, I wish I'd known the importance of taking the right vitamins sooner. Once I found the proper balance of Vitamin D, magnesium, iron, and B vitamins in a personalized multivitamin, I found myself feeling so much more energetic and healthy. I started taking the right vitamins when I noticed my hair was thinning. Taking this combination not only remedied the problem, but helped me feel better, too."
— Arielle Levitan MD, Co-founder of Vous Vitamin
Discover the Underlying Cause of Your Symptoms
"I recently published a book called Quitting by Design in which I mention the thing I wish I knew earlier—which is that the key to health is listening to your body and not treating symptoms without digging into the underlying cause. For example, I was so stressed in a fellowship program that I was having heart palpitations, which caused me to start taking heart medication. Instead, I should have stopped and realized that the heart palpitations were due to anxiety because I was so unhappy in the way I was having to practice medicine."
— Lynn Marie Morski, MD
Healthy Fats are Good For You
"I wish I had known sooner that the dietary advice I'd been taught in school was hogwash. More importantly, I wish everyone had known sooner that the low-fat/high-carb advice we were given would lead to an unprecedented rise in obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. I would have been enjoying all the terrific fats that I now enjoy on a daily basis—olive oil, coconut oil, Malaysian red palm oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, and avocado oil. I would have been much healthier much earlier had I known that the dogma about fat—especially saturated fat—was simply wrong."
— Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, and best-selling author
Eat More Leafy Greens
"I write as a medical doctor who had hypertension and subsequently developed pre-diabetes. I was on course to continue taking more medications, as I had been on two blood pressure medications for 10 years … I felt something needed to change. I did a lot of research about nutrition whilst taking physical activity a lot more seriously, and found that the foods we eat contribute immensely to many illnesses, and we can reverse a lot of medical conditions through the food we eat … Just upping your intake of leafy greens can do wonders for your waistline, your blood pressure, your mental health, the quality of your sleep, and your energy levels. Now, my diet is mainly plant-based, and I have never looked back. [I don't take any] more blood pressure medications, and my prediabetes is reversed."
— Dr. Joe Amagada, MD, FRCOG
Sugar Is More Dangerous Than We Think
"I wish I had known that sugar is one of the most dangerous foods, and high fructose corn syrup is probably causing more ill health effects than previously thought, especially in children. Attention to the gut microbiome is important, and needs more studies and investigations. There is a clear role of the microbiome in inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disease. All of these health tips could have helped me teach my patients sooner the secrets to living a long and fruitful life free of disease."
— Dr. Pradip Jamnadas, MD; Founder, Medical Director, and Cardiovascular Specialist at Cardiovascular Interventions
Get Lab Tests Done Regularly
"I wish I had known the importance of getting diagnostic lab testing done regularly when I was younger. While 'normal' ranges exist for most types of lab tests, there is real value in knowing how your biomarkers compare to yourself at an earlier age. By establishing a baseline and getting lab testing done regularly, you can catch medical problems early on and adapt your eating and lifestyle as appropriate. Fortunately, technology (including Accesa Labs, the company I co-founded) has made it easier to get lab testing done for an affordable cost."
— Chirag Shah, MD
Happiness Comes From Within
"I wish I had known earlier in life that happiness and fulfillment are not determined by academic or professional prestige. They come from doing what you love and building great relationships with those around you. If I had known this sooner, it would have not only been much easier to navigate through my early career, but through my personal life as well."
Magnesium Busts Stress
"Magnesium supports our adrenal glands, which are overworked by stress, leading to combined magnesium deficiency symptoms and adrenal exhaustion symptoms of anxiety, depression, muscle weakness, fatigue, eye twitches, insomnia, apprehension, poor memory, confusion, anger, nervousness, and rapid pulse. Magnesium balances the HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which is a complex set of direct influences and feedback interactions among three components: the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands) and will prevent excessive production of cortisol, which feeds toxic yeast and exacerbates feelings of anxiety. It's important to note that not all forms of magnesium are easily absorbed by the body. Magnesium citrate powder is a highly absorbable form that can be mixed with hot or cold water and sipped throughout the day at work and at home."
— Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, member of Medical Advisory Board for the Nutritional Magnesium Association
Eat More Cruciferous Veggies
"The one thing I wish I knew sooner is how powerful eating one cup of cruciferous veggies daily is for helping your body detoxify itself. [I like] broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, garden cress, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts. One study showed that doing just this results in a 30-50 percent reduction in risk of cancer overall."
— Ann Shippy, MD
Healthy Living Is a Lifestyle
"Healthy living is a lifestyle, not a diet or exercise program you do occasionally. When you eat well and exercise regularly, it becomes a part of who you are, and you'll learn to embrace it. One of the reasons so many fail at losing weight is because diets are punitive and restrictive. If you are someone who routinely watches what you eat, monitors portion size, and exercises, it becomes routine—and your body will crave it. It makes being healthy and staying healthy that much easier."
— Dr. Angela Jones, OBGYN