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By Michele Dargan, special for the Civic Association -- Brain health, laboratory research, genetics and medical marijuana were the topics that drew over 190 people to the Palm Beach Civic Association’s “Live to be 100 with a High-Quality Palm Beach Lifestyle” forum Tuesday morning.

Getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, managing stress and exercising are all keys to a long life, but genetics and environmental issues also factor into the equation, according to the panel of medical experts who participated.

Photo: Jeff Levitt, Chairman of the Civic Association’s Healthcare Committee

Anita Finley served as moderator of the forum that was held at The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea. Ms. Finley is a gerontologist, radio talk show host, author and publisher of Boomer Times and Senior Life. She questioned each panelist in an interview-style format and left time for a question and answer period on each subject.  

The panelists and their topics were: Daniel Yadegar M.D. medical director, Holistic Integrated Health (HIH) “The Brain - Size Matters!;” Paul Robbins, Ph.D., professor, Department of Molecular Science at The Scripps Research Institute “Extending Human Healthspan;” Elisabeth McKeen M.D., oncologist specializing in breast cancer and genetics at Good Samaritan Medical Center, Conni Murphy, ARNP, genetics counselor, High Risk Genetics Clinic, Good Samaritan Medical Center’s Cancer Institute, “What Your Genes Can Tell You;” Cheri Surloff, Ph.D., Psy.D. neuropsychologist “The Truth about Medical Marijuana.”

Holistic Integrated Health, Good Samaritan Medical Center and Scripps Research Institute are sponsors of the Civic Association. 

Civic Association President Ned Barnes welcomed everyone and introduced Jeffrey Levitt, chairman of the Civic Association’s Healthcare Committee.“Our goal is to improve the level of healthcare available to Palm Beach residents through monitoring local healthcare institutions and educating residents on relevant healthcare issues,” Mr. Levitt said. “Today we’re going to focus on how to live longer and how to live better."

Dr. Daniel Yadegar on Brain Health [HIH Medical Center]

As people get older, their brain starts shrinking, but there are things that can be done to maintain brain health, Dr. Yadegar said. Getting plenty of sleep, eating foods with Omega 3 fatty acids, managing stress, exercising and taking care of your risk factors are all important to maintaining brain volume, he said.  

“So much of medicine has become reactive, but we need to focus a lot more on prevention and being proactive,” Dr. Yadegar said. “As the human population is living longer, brain health is going to be more important. Our memory, our ability to maintain our activities of daily living, our mobility - all those things are very important.”Doing meditation, even for a short time in the middle of the day, and reducing or eliminating caffeine will help improve the ability to go into a deep level of sleep, he said.

Dr. Yadegar advocates taking naps, because our bodies need a break from external stimuli like televisions, computers, phones, and gadgets.Exercise is a key component to good health, because it helps regulate blood pressure and produces an anti-aging hormone, Dr. Yadegar said. It’s good for the heart and good for the brain, he said.

Yoga is especially beneficial because it combines physical activity with meditation, so it’s like getting a two-for-one benefit. 

Regarding diet, Dr. Yadegar recommends eating foods that are high in fiber, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and staying away from saturated fat. 

Paul Robbins, Ph.D. on Healthy Aging [Scripps Florida]

The challenge is to develop the next generation of drugs to target healthy aging, Dr. Robbins said.There’s a new concept in the field of research. Rather than treating individual diseases, we need to treat the root cause of many diseases - which is aging, Dr. Robbins said.

“We’re now discovering that we can treat diseases by targeting aging itself,” he said.  “We want to try to keep people healthier longer, but what works for one person, might not work for others. We’re trying to identify markers for aging and why some people age faster than others.” 

Scripps recently received a grant to study a group of people who have lived to 100.

“The goal is to identify what makes them live longer,” he said. “Clearly, there’s environmental factors, but there’s also genetic makeup… The numbers show that if you’re 65 years or older, you have a 90 percent chance of having one age-related condition and you have a 70 percent chance of having two or more.

”Mice are used most often in research because they mimic many aspects of human aging, Mr. Robbins said. The problem is that not every drug that works on mice will work on humans, he said. 

Dr. Elisabeth McKeen and Nurse Practitioner Conni Murphy [Good Samaritan Medical Center]

Knowing your genetic history and identifying genetic problems helps with leading a healthy life, Dr. McKeen said. One in 200 babies will inherit a genetic disorder where something can be done to improve their lives, she said. 

Ms. Murphy’s job at Good Samaritan Medical Center is to identify families who have inherited a broken gene and figure out what their potential cancer risk may be. The next step is offering them medications, lifestyle modifications, risk-reducing surgeries and enhanced preventative screenings, she said. 

Not all gene mutations pose health threats, Ms. Murphy said. “The importance of analyzing genes is identifying the mutations that are associated with an increased cancer risk or other health concerns,” she said. “We can find plenty of mutations, but not all relate to a change in your health status.”

Dr. McKeen said, “There’s a lot of work being done in cardiology. With cancer, we’ve had the benefit of knowing if cancer ran in families, but it’s been harder to show heart disease, because you might say everyone in the family can have heart disease. Until the human genome project, we weren’t able to identify those genes… It’s important to know your family history. You want to make sure that your teenager isn’t going to die from practicing football.”

Dr. Cheri Surloff – Medical Marijuana [Memorial Healthcare, Miami]

Medical marijuana can help relieve pain in patients suffering from brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, PTSD, and numerous other conditions, Dr. Surloff said. 

It has been difficult to get funding for clinical trials in the United States on the medical uses and effects of marijuana because of the stigma attached to it; while other countries have performed extensive research, she said.

“We still don’t have the federal government and the states agreeing,” Dr. Surloff said. “We do have the voice of reason and people in Florida wanted medical marijuana. These need clinical trials with rigor.”

Dr. Surloff has witnessed patients in their last stages of life who are anxious, agitated, and facing their impending death with fear.

She gave an example of people in nursing homes in California in their last stages of life. Those people were given marijuana and were relieved of their anxiety. They were talking and engaged with friends, laughing and playing cards, she said.

“Why do we die with fear and anxiety or in hospice where we’re given enough morphine that we’re snowed?” she said. “We don’t know the power of what marijuana can provide to us, because our hands have been tied.  

“I’ve had students say to me, ‘I had to go on the streets and get marijuana for my grandmother, because she has cancer and she can’t stop vomiting. Now she’s eating and not vomiting.'"

Civic Association Video [1:50:56]

Live to be 100 with a High-Quality Palm Beach Lifestyle Forum, March 20, 2018 from Palm Beach Civic Association on Vimeo.

Photos by Capehart 

Healthcare Forum Live to 100