Good Health by Yourself to Health Town, a journey to sustainable health and peace

Issue : April
 

       Dr. Sant Chaiyodsilp gave a keynote speech in the form of a dinner symposium to the ambassadors who attended the event on the topic of "Health by Oneself, City of Health and Peace" on the occasion of receiving the Elite Plus Award from Mr. Chartsiri Sophonpanich Managing Director  Bangkok Bank and Arthron Techatada, Editor-in-Chief and Managing Director of Elite Creative Co., Ltd. with Mr. Shigeru Aoyagi, Director of UNESCO as a reader of the announcement on April 1  2022 at Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok

 

 

 

Good health by yourself

I'm a heart surgeon. But life changed dramatically when I suffered  from ischemic heart disease when I was 55. Having chest pain during exertion or during stress. The fear of death led me to reject the standard treatment either balloon angioplasty or bypass surgery. I did extensive scientific literature review and found several pieces of evidence that were strong enough for me to do the experiment with myself. I will show you here only two studies.

 

This research was done by Dr. Essie. He is a surgeon at the Cliff Land Clinic, one of the world's most prestigious hospitals for treating heart disease. He conducted research in which 24 patients with debilitated coronary artery disease were tested on a low-fat vegetarian diet. They were then followed up for 12 years, with evidence of changes such as periodic cardiac catheterization and PET scan studies. The outcomes for this group of patients improved dramatically. The incidence of acute myocardial infarction was reduced to zero.

 

Cardiac catheterization images showed that the narrowed blood vessels were cleared. As in this photo, white is the injected color. The normal coronary artery usually looks like this. It is seen as a smooth, round white slit.  The initial diseased part will see as a narrowed, jagged edge, white irregular tube like this. But a repeat catheterization three years later after a vegetarian diet revealed that the artery stenosis had completely disappeared. become normal blood vessels. The same is true for a PET scan . When the arteries are blocked, the dead left ventricle of the heart muscle which can't get blood supply will be seen as a pale color like this. But after several years of eating low fat vegetarian diet, The PET scan was retested and showed that the portion previously believed to be dead came back alife. blood can enter seen in red like this and this part of the muscle is able to contract normally again. The symptoms of congestive heart failure disappeared.

 

This is another study done by Dr. Dean Ornish. He took nearly one hundred people with coronary artery disease randomly divided into two groups. One group lived a normal life. Another group to totally change their lifestyle in four areas:

(1) Change diet to a plant-based, whole food, low fat diet.

(2) Do regular exercise

(3) Manage stress with such activities as yoga, or meditation, or tai chi

(4) Regularly attend a peer support group.

 

After one year, all of them came back for another cardiac catheterization. It was found that the group who changed their lifestyle totally their narrowed coronary arteries became wider opened. The rate of chest pain decreased by 91%. While in the group who carried on with conventional lifestyle the narrowed blood vessels became even more narrower. The rate of chest pain increased by 165% .

 

I used these two pieces of evidence to guide myself. I changed my diet toward low fat plant based, whole food diet totally. And start doing regular exercise. Those were only two things I did in those days. In a few months' time my body got better. Starting with having chest pain from even just walking briskly, to be able to  jog without any pain. I used to regularly take antihypertensive pills and Anti-cholesterol pills. Within a few months I can quit all medications while my blood pressure and blood cholesterol were even better than when I used pills. My shape was better with smaller belly.

 

 

Change career

When I was successful in managing my chronic disease by changing my diet and changing my lifestyle through more food and exercise. I decided to change my working life. I quit  heart surgery. I attended additional training program to be qualified as a family physician. Then I quit hospital life, go to settle at Muaklek and opened the Wellness We Care Center their. My intention is to teach people how be healthy and how to reverse their chronic diseases by themselves by changing their lifestyle. The formality of training is a health camp where people spend a few days there to train themselves essential skill to change their lifestyle.

 

Blue Zone Concept

Since then, I entered the world of lifestyle medicine. I travelled quite a lot and met with many doctors and laymen around the world who have been walking this path. In addition to Dr. Essie and Dr. Dean Ornich, this gentleman's name is Dan Butner. We met in California. At that time, Dan was a National Geography photographer. His assignment was to explore the world, looking for places where people live the longest lives. The practical index is the ratio of centenarians or people who live beyond 100 years in the communities. Dan had done this work in the form of epidemiological research. He himself visit many communities near or far all around the world. At the end of the day, he selected 5 communities or the “Blue Zones” where people live the longest lives. 

1. Barbagia, Sardinia region, Italy . 

2. Ikaria region, Greece

3. Cape Nicoya, Costa Rica

4. SevenDays Adventis Community, Loma Linda , California , USA

5. Okinawa Island, Japan

Dan and his team researched the common factors that make people in these communities healthier than the rest of the world. Finally, they came up with nine common factors:

1. They eat mainly plants as a staple food. eat very little amount of meat if any. In some places, they don't eat meat at all.

2. They eat moderately. Once they achieve like 80% of fullness, they immediately stop eating before feeling full. 

3. They move a lot, move naturally. Mostly walking all days.

4. They live a purposeful life. Everyone knows that today what do day wake up for. Japanese words for this is “ikigai”

5. They have their ways to release stress. Mostly with nature.

6. Most of them drink alcohol moderately. 

7. They are spiritual. Most of them are religious. 

8. They have tight family connection. Mostly large families.

9. They have community culture of caring for each other. Japan has a group of friends called moai .

    These nine verses are called the Blue Zone Concept . Dan wrote a book called “ Blue Zone” to depict his findings, which became a National Best Seller and made him rich. 

 

 

Health Town Project

     Later on, local government leaders in America learned about the Blue Zone concept from Dan. And they came up with the idea.. well, why don't we use this concept to make our district or municipal a healthy city where people can live longer? This is the origin of the Blue Zone Project , which is a project to transform a town or a district into a health town with the goal of making it’s citizen healthtier and live longer. The motto of this health town concept is

Make healthy choices to be an easy choice.”

     The fact is that 90% of the time spent by people will be spent in a neighborhood within a radius of not more than 30 km from their own home. Just make this area easy for the dwellers whenever they want to do or to eat the healthy way. Safe walkways is abound.  Healthy food is everywhere. People will be healthier just by being in a town like that. No need to go through a lot of training or to cultivate new unfamiliar habits.

     According to this health town concepts such town should have:

  1. Make a healthy choice an easy choice
  2. Easy access to PBWF diet
  3. Lot’s of pedestrian walkways
  4. Healthy activities
  5. Places of nature
  6. Caring community
  7. Spirituality

 

     Currently there were 25 cities in the United States that chose to become blue zone towns. Boulder, Colorado is one of the highest rated city. People in this city have a high sense of community. Easy access to beautiful, clean nature. People lead active lives. The city has the highest percentage of pedestrians in the United States. make people's exercise rate high. The rate of smoking is among the lowest. The obesity rate is also low.

 

In Thailand, I am doing an experiment to make the Blue Zone Concept out of where I live in Muak Lek Valley. All of this is still in a very preliminary stage. There isn't much experience to share yet.

 

Stress Management

Let's talk about one more important element of good health.

Since I opened the Wellness We Care Center and have been teaching patients in the camp for many years, I learn that one of the most important elements that drive patients to chronic illnesses is stress. If stress cannot be resolved, chronic diseases cannot be cured. So I gradually brought stress management in as a part of the disease management program.

Initially I follow basic principle of modern medicine that to manage stress is to manage sources of stress outside. For instant if stress caused by the noise, shut down or seal off the noise. If stress caused by other family member, talk to him or her to initiate change. Unfortunately the approach did not work.

The real source of stress is our own repetitive thought. The real key to reduce stress is how to reduce thought. In those day I myself went to attend the MBSR Mindfulness Training Course conducted by the U of Mass. From there I gradually design the stress management course suitable for Thai patients until it now become a Spiritual Retreat where people spent 4 days in the center to learn to use the essential tools to reduce stress.

Let me give you some example of how to manage stress in the retreat I teach.

Stress reduction is the same thing as peace attainment. When we think of doing anything We have to start with what we have. To create peace in this world We must begin by calming ourselves. If our own life is not peaceful It is impossible for us to act as the one who bring peace and happiness to the world. But if our life is peaceful. Peace is contagious. when we are peaceful our family will be also at peace. which it will affect our neighbors, our community, our nation, ultimately the international community will be at peace.

Peace is a verb to be , not a verb to do , meaning we can't try to achieve peace but we can put aside the idea of protecting our identity and let the awareness which is the deep nature of our existence shine forth. This awareness or consciousness has its own peaceful and wakeful nature.

To see a clearer picture Let's first understand the elements that make up our lives. I put it simply that life is made up of four main parts: ( 1) body ( 2) life force ( 3) mind ( 4) consciousness.

The mind and body are bound together to form an imaginary person. Let’s call it identity-1 or ID-1 , for example, a person called Dr. Sant is a set of ideas and concepts which has this body as my own concept of life as another part of it. Both are mixed together to create a person named Dr. Sant.

The ID-1 is our persona or mask. We do have another identity, let’s call it ID-0, which is our ability to wakefully and silently observe things independent from the ID-1.

Since all our thought is created by ID-1. To drop all the thought there must be a change of identity. I mean we have to gradually move from ID-1 to ID-0 more and more.  

Changing identity can be done through meditation. There are many way to do meditation. Today I'm going to introduce to you the simplest form of meditation. Let all of us try it together now.

 

This basic meditation This has only three components:

  1. Relax and smile
  2. Observe
  3. No judge

Well , everyone, let's start practicing. sit in any position But please straight up your body.

 

Start step one, Relax and smile.

Take a deep breath, use the 4-4-8 formula , inhale while I count 1-2-3-4 , hold your breath while I count 1-2-3-4 , and then exhale slowly I count 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.

Also smile. Not because we're amused by anything outside. But smile to relax the body and to allow the life force to radiate from within.

Now let’s do it three breaths. Take deep breath in 1-2-3-4

Hold it 1-2-3-4

Breath out 1-2-3 smile-5-6-7-8

From now on do it yourself 10 breaths, the end point is relaxation and smile.

smile..m relax...x....x

All right, everyone relax already, this time let’s do the second component. Observe.

Relaxed and observe everything that comes into our perception at here and now. Images, sounds, skin sensations. Take note of our thoughts too. What were we thinking just now? Observe it from the outside without medding with it. Aware of a though not thinking a thought. Watch them, see them come and go.

Then comes the third component. No Judge. not contemplating, not judging. This is not an action, it's just an extension of observation. Whether we perceive sights, sounds, touches smell or thoughts, we perceive them as they are. do not think further Don't judge whether it's good or bad. Recognize and accept every stimulus that comes in as it is.

From now on let’ spend another 1 minute, that equals to 10 breathing, to practice meditation that mixes the three component together, Relax and smile, Observe, No Judge. You do it on your own You can close your eyes or open your eyes as you like. I will do it with you.

For those who are meditation enthusiasts, I recommend 7 tools for you for further practice by yourself.

  1. Attention. Focusing on withdraw attention from the thought to pay attention to here and now instead.
  2. Breathing.  It is a good place to park your attention at the beginning of practice. Also it can be used as a cadence for using other meditation tools.
  3. Relaxation. To relax the muscles of the body. And don’t forget smiling.
  4. Body scan. Is the perception of life force through the perception of sensations on our body.
  5. Observation. To perceive everything as it is. Notice the sights, sounds, smells, touches, and most importantly, notice the thoughts, not thinking the thoughts, but aware of the thought.
  6. Concentration Focusing on something selectively, focusing deeper, and deeper, and deeper but with relaxation at the same time. The goal is to prevent thoughts from interfering with attention.
  7. Alertness.  To motivate yourself to stay awake. Like when we walk on a glacier we have to be vigilant because the ice on the surface can collapse at any moment. We can only do this if we accept that life is only now. The next moment, what will appear, we don't know yet. it's a miracle It is the separator of the two lifestyles. Traditional is to live in thoughts that might be fear or hope if they are thinking about the future. Or it might be gladness or regret if it's a thought about the past. But this neither. It's an awakening to accept whatever comes to the present. No hope. No fear. Just acceptance anything coming in.

All these seven tools you put in your toolbox that you always carry with you. Whenever you need which tool you open the box and take that particular tool out. No need to use all the tools in descending order.

 

world peace

Many of us here are the ambassadors from many countries. It means that you are directly responsible for contributing to world peace. But now a day some places in the world are at war.

We all know that war is a result of the difference in our identity. We view ourselves as separate identity from other. Our family from other family. Our nation from other nations. Within this separated identity, we create concepts of who we are. Some concepts that we hold we don’t even understand it with usual logic or a cause-and-effect way of thinking. Never mind, we built it into our belief. And we hold our belief so firmly that we are ready to defend it with our lives. If the beliefs of other people, other nations, were not the same as ours, it became a war

To create peace in the world It has to start with what we have in hands. Starting from within. If in us there is turbulence, unrest, it is impossible for us to help calm down this world. On the contrary, the more we try, the more messy the world will be

You ask me how we an create peace in the world? I replied that we should start practice using the seven tools I have just mentioned so that we can calm ourselves down from stressful thoughts. Let every morning we wake up and smile first. Then we smile at everyone who has come into our lives all the day. Peace is contagious. When we smile, peace will spread from us to others.

The mechanism that it spreads out was not just a facial mimicry mechanism. For those of you who have never heard of it. A group of researchers in Berlin had conducted a research called the Emotional Contagion trial, which proved that the mechanism of transferring emotions from one person to another without speaking is through inadvertently mimicking or imitating the facial expression.

But I'm going to explain that is not the only mechanism that spreads peace from us to others. The much bigger mechanism is that when we successfully used all seven tools to put all our negative thoughts down, we will become conscious, which is the true essence or core of who we are. Here, besides being peaceful, wakefull and creative  which is the nature of consciousness, It is also the power of compassion that unites the core of all beings together. Whoever step over the outer identity to reach this deep self, there will be a feeling of oneness with other life automatically. Just like a mother who feels that her children are the one with her own life. with this sense of oneness, peace within us will automatically spread. This is how once we achieve peace in ourselves, it will also induce peace in this world.

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to summarize what I said so we will have some time for Q&A.

 

Firstly, we can make ourselves healthier and reverse our own diseases by changing our lifestyle in four areas:

(1) a low-fat, plant-based diet;

(2) exercise.

(3) manage stress;

(4) social support connection.

 

Secondly, we can build a community or city or health town, where residents become healthy just by living there by

(1) Create safe pedestrian walkways and exercise venues.

(2) having a lot of accessible healthy food source

(3) Create many natural area for recreation.

(4) Create many get together activities where residents can easily attend.

 

Thirdly, we can create inner peace through meditation . In the simplest way, there are three key elements:

( 1) Relax,

( 2) Observe,

( 3) Not Judge.

For those who want to meditate more deeply, I recommend 7 tools :

( 1) Attention

( 2) Breathing

( 3) Relaxation & smile

( 4) Body scan

( 5) Observation.

( 6) Concentration,

( 7) Alertness

 

Fourthly, To make peace in the world is as simple as creating peace in our hearts with 7 tools first, until we can smile every morning. and smile at everyone all day. Then world peace will gradually arise.

Ladies and gentlemen Let me finish this talk here. And I'll be happy to answer any questions if any.

 

 

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