My interest in the topic of preventive medicine and healthy longevity started many years ago. As a medical student and young doctor, I started to realise that medical training was more about caring for the sick than healthcare. We were trained – as the great majority of doctors still are – to recognise the signs of diseases and treat established medical conditions (which usually develop over many decades of an unhealthy lifestyle) mainly with drugs or surgery.
During my six years of medical school and five years of residency in internal medicine, we learned almost nothing about the role of nutrition, physical exercise, cognitive training, sleep, and stress-reduction mindful interventions to prevent and treat most of the typical chronic diseases that now overwhelm hospitals. Nobody told us anything about the importance of emotions, compassion, and warm-heartedness in dealing with distressed and fearful patients.
I knew I did not want to be that kind of doctor, merely spending the rest of my life prescribing the latest anticancer or antidepressant medicine, a better wheelchair or incontinence device. But at the same time, I was not interested in embracing alternative medicine either, because its scientific basis was weak on evidence, or had no science at all.
So, with the support of my family, I embarked on a scientific career to explore, with rigorous experiments, the mechanisms that regulate ageing and the interventions that could promote healthy longevity. Over the years, I have discovered that the quantity, quality, and frequency of the foods we eat, in combination with a range of physical and cognitive activities, can be the key to slowing the ageing process and maintaining or regaining our health, strength and vigour.