Open Future HealthDr Peter Attia - Physician, Body Builder, Man of Ideas.

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This blog is no longer active, but it remains a great resource for ideas.

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Peter Attia, M.D., is a physician in private practice in NYC and CA. His practice focuses on longevity and healthspan. His clinical interests are nutrition, lipidology, endocrinology, and a few other cool things.

Five years at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in General Surgery, where he was the recipient of several prestigious awards, including resident of the year. He also spent two years at NIH as a surgical oncology fellow at the National Cancer Institute.

Dr Peter Attia

Peters approach to longevity

If the question is when and how will I die? That seems more manageable. We actually have pretty good data on that.

When you look at these people who live to be a hundred or more, there's what I call the depressing hypothesis, which is that they all have genetic gifts. For the rest of us, absent those genetic gifts, we're all doomed.

But in fact, we don't see that. We see the opposite. We see that they die of largely the same types of diseases in largely the same distribution that people who aren't centenarians die of.

We're dying from chronic diseases, and these are, almost without exception, preventable — at the very least, delayable — diseases. They're all diseases of civilization.

I think about the eight levers of longevity, Nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress, social support, sense of purpose, drugs and supplements, and physiological reserve.

How do we die?

You have to draw a line in the sand somewhere, so here are the simplifications I'll take. I'm going to limit this to people over 40, a nonsmoker and not going to commit suicide. Suicide is actually a leading cause of death.

With that simplification of the dataset, 70 to 80 percent of all deaths will be due to four diseases or what I really think of as three disease processes.

The first is atherogenic diseases, which obviously includes heart disease and cerebrovascular disease (strokes). The second is neoplasm, cancer, and the third is neurodegenerative disease of which two particular diseases make it into the top 10—Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

None more on the rise than Alzheimer's disease. Heart disease is actually on the decline. Cancer, more or less, flat lined.

Accidental death overall is the fifth leading cause of death, and 80 percent of all accidental deaths are just three types, which are motor vehicle accident, accidental poisoning, and falls.

"Readdressing Dietary Guidelines"

Stern Speakers: Published on 28 Jan 2015

Eight Levers for Better Health and Longevity

1: Nutrition

I don't like talking about nutrition much. I'm not a big fan of religion and I'm not a big fan of politics, and nutrition is like both of those. I don't really care about diet. None of that stuff interests me. I don't care if you're paleo, and I don't care if you're vegan.

So in somebody like me, who exercises a lot, my diet is about a 20 percent carbohydrate, 20 percent protein, 60 percent fat. I try to eat and exercise and fast, in ways that maximise my muscle mass. I do get into ketosis at least once a week, just generally as a result of a fast that I'm doing. I will just continue to consume very very low amounts of carbohydrates, very modest amounts of protein, and high amounts of fat. The days when, for just months and months, I would not get out of ketosis appear to be long gone. I will say this; I actually felt at my best on a ketogenic diet.

I'm really just interested in the biochemistry of dietary choices; given that different people can tolerate these foods in different fractions.


The name of the game if you want to live long, is glucose disposal. Can you maintain a low average level of glucose and a low variance of glucose in the blood. If you can that guarantees a low level of insulin. That challenge is not easy to do. We can't measure insulin in real time. Measuring glucose several times a day, isn't something people like to do.

I've been wearing a continuous glucose monitor for several months now. These are devices that are typically worn by patients with type 1 diabetes, but I think for my interest it's a totally reasonable thing to do.


There's pretty reasonable evidence when you look at the carnivorous societies, they actually have a preference for offal meats.

I think that IGF protein data is interesting. I still don't know that they're entirely conclusive, but I would say this. You're probably better off with excess fat in your diet than excess protein in your diet.

I'm telling my patients that they only need as much protein as is necessary to preserve muscle mass. That's the goal.

2: Supplements and Drugs

I take vitamin D, I take a baby aspirin, I take methylfolate, I take B-12, I take EPA and DHA Omega 3 fatty acids, and I take berberine. I think that's all I take, and you could argue baby aspirin is not really a supplement, but I count it as one I guess.

What do I not take? I do not take a multivitamin, I do not take vitamin A, I do not take vitamin C. I believe that we should aim to get all the nutriments we need from real food.

3: Stress

Bruce McEwen developed the concept of allostatic load a few years back. It's the metabolic cost of maintaining homeostasis. What is the price we pay for the body having to work to respond to these repeated stressors?

If you fail to maintain your body in good health, your body tries to compensate for your lack of attention. There's a cost, in terms of allostatic load. The body has to focus resources on what's urgent at the moment. Things that can be delayed or put off for a while, don't get done. Therefore, the physiological reserve is reduced, the technical capacity of the body is reduced.

It's not just the price, of wear and tear on the body. Now the performance capability of the body is down. If suddenly by accident of illness, it becomes necessary to survive under a brutal amount of stress, the system might fail. That can happen in an instant. Things were fine and then suddenly there is a cascade of changes, that compound and lead to a life threatening crisis.

Transcendental Meditation

There have been good trials of transcendental meditation. Better trials than we see in human nutrition. Obviously the trials aren't blinded, but they've done pretty good things to actually identify the effect of transcendental meditation versus periods of quiet resting. The effects on blood pressure, on cortisol, on glucose, on metabolic factors are marked. I think those results are real.

I do “prescribe,” for lack of a better word, transcendental meditation to all my patients, especially the phenotype that's sort of like me, that probably needs it the most.

4: Exercise

On exercise, the framework has two objectives: glucose disposal and maintaining muscle mass.

A friend at the gym looks at my gym routine. “Why the hell are you doing that?!” - “Is that really necessary? You bike, you swim, and you run. That's a lot, so why do the gym?”

I said, “It is doing something for me that biking, swimming, and running can't do. Those activities don't activate my IIB muscle fibers, and that's something I'm placing a high premium on.” It's very hard to activate the type IIB fiber, and yet if I can get all of those fibers working—type I, IIA, IIAB, and IIB—I'm going to have a much more glucose-hungry muscle, and I'm going to have much more mitochondrial activity.

We are all born knowing how to squat perfectly.

The moment we start sitting we start to lose the hip flexibility necessary to perfectly squat. The good news is you can get it back. I think squats and deadlifts are the two most important exercises.

At rest we have a cardiac output that's modest. So someone my size might pump three or five liters per minute. Meaning as I sit here, my heart is putting three to five liters per minute of blood throughout my body.

A well-trained athlete could get to 30, even more than 30 liters per minute. And you get part of that increase through an increase in heart rate, but a lot of it comes through an increase in stroke volume, which means that the heart has to expand. That can cause heart damage. It's doubtful if increasing VO2 max, is a sensible target for most people.

5: Sleep

We work on a handful of sleep hygiene things. Keeping the room completely dark, keeping the room really cold, not looking at blue light after a certain period of time. If we do need to look at light, using apps that basically can pull the blue light out.

It turns out sleep is pretty easy to fix once the patient buys into why they need to fix it. That's probably the biggest challenge, people are reluctant to set aside time for sleep.

"An Advantaged Metabolic State: Human Performance, Resilience & Health"

The IHMC: Published on 10 Jun 2013

6: Social support

There's this fascinating study that showed that social support is a better predictor of lifespan than body mass index, air pollution, and even smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Making changes to build your social network requires a shift in how we relate to ourselves, how we relate to the world around us, and how we act and behave.

7: Sense of Purpose

If you lose purpose, if you don't have something important to do in the morning, you tend to waste away.

You need a plan, it was never intended that we spend our lives sitting on a beach. The plan should challenge your capacity, should force you to be the best you can be. That will increase your physiological capacity, will build a reserve of strength and resilience, that you might need one day.

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