During the same general session of the 2017 Family Medicine Experience (FMX) at which the AAFP's new Physician Health First initiative launched, keynote speaker Deepak Chopra, M.D., reminded physicians that they have to take care of themselves before they can care for their patients.
Author Deepak Chopra, M.D., tells physicians at the 2017 Family Medicine Experience that everything they do affects their well-being and that the well-being of physicians is directly linked to that of patients.
"Your well-being is directly connected -- how could it not be? -- with the well-being of the patients that you so deeply care about," Chopra said during his Sept. 13 keynote address here.
Connectedness was a theme of the author's message. Everything we do, he said, influences our health because our actions, moods, thoughts, sleep and more affect gene expression.
"The body is literally the metabolism of experience," he said.
For example, Chopra said only 5 percent of disease-related gene mutations are fully penetrant. That means 95 percent of disease-related gene mutations are influenced by what we do and how that activity affects our genotype.
Chopra identified six pillars of well-being: sleep, meditation, movement, emotion, nutrition and biorhythms. Of these, he said getting enough sleep is the most effective way to improve health because it aids in eliminating toxins and affects immunity, memory, weight, decision-making and more.
Sleep disorders are just one result of the "epidemic of stress" in our culture that also has led to more depression, lethargy, panic attacks and other poor outcomes. Chopra said the majority of medications prescribed in the hospital setting are related to just five conditions: pain, anxiety, nausea, insomnia and constipation (which, coincidentally, form the acronym PANIC).
As researchers begin to better understand how human genes are influenced by thoughts, emotions, relationships and environment, Chopra said we can better influence our own health.
"Self-awareness is the key to all of this transformation," he said. "We talk about self-regulation, self-healing, bioregulation, but very few people -- until recently -- have appreciated the fact that physical well-being, mental well-being, emotional well-being and spiritual well-being are all part of the continuum of healing."
Chopra noted our "bodies are a process, not a structure," and said "it shouldn't take a crisis to bring us into self-awareness."
He said primary care physicians are well positioned to understand this concept of connectedness because they are the only doctors who "haven't broken down the body into bits and pieces."
"The body cannot be artificially divided into bits and pieces," he said. "It's a whole activity. That activity includes everything that we call 'life.'"
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