Naturopathic physician Deb McKay is ready to write you a prescription for longevity: Take charge of your own life.
The single most accessible predictor of longevity, she says, is SRH, self-regulated health. It costs nothing.
She knows that many people do not take control of their health, and she believes it’s because they want someone else to be in charge of it, or that their poor health is someone else’s fault.
“Scientists are now saying that lifestyle versus genetics puts healthy lifestyle 90 percent ahead of genetics in longevity,” McKay says. “Epigenetics rates whether your life is active or inactive and can predict your longevity.”
When she asks a person how they want to feel, “it is very personal. Do they want energy -- or pain and sleep problems?”
It may sound like plati-tudes but McKay’s personal journey has traversed chal-lenges with health-related issues – being overweight, allergies, sinus infections, childhood trauma, ADHD, infertility, broken bones, PTSD (post-traumatic stress) TMJ (jaw pain), and chronic back pain.
In 2009, she overcame a rare and aggressive form of uterine cancer with an equally aggressive game plan. “I tried everything,” after being told she had less than a year to live, she says. “It’s good if you can choose an organ you are all done with.”
Thus, her desire to become a physician was “a calling,” she says.
A key to wellbeing (and longevity) are our body’s hormones. Hormone imbal-ance often is the cause of obesity, metabolic syndromes and diabetes. When blood sugar and stress are out of control, the body becomes unhealthy.
McKay, whose practices focuses on hormones and holistic healthcare, says these illnesses are rampant in America. Hormone therapy uses BHRT (bio-identical hormone restoration therapy) that rebalances the body by using the exact hormone molecules our bodies naturally produce – without the dangers of synthetic hormones, she says.
McKay provides hormone consulting to professionals, including members of the medical profession, as well as her lay patients.
The single most common hormone imbalance is low thyroid function, she says. The thyroid hormone is the master regulatory hormone in setting metabolic rate in every tissue of the body. Hormone surges and imbalances are well known at puberty and menopause. However, everyone experiences constant fluctuations. It’s a question of balance and rhythm, as if the human body were a symphony orchestra.
As with all the regulation of all hormones, self-assessment, laboratory test-ing, and professional consultation come into play.
McKay focuses on diabe-tes, particular because of its prevalence in her family.
She believes fructose, found in almost all processed foods, is a major cause of diabetes. It affects the liver much the same way as a person with alcoholism, she says.
“There are almost no pro-cessed foods made without high doses of corn syrup,” McKay says.
“Have you been to an AA meeting?” she asks. “Donuts and cookies. Fructose is laying down fat in your body and you lose appetite control because you lose your response to leptin (a hormone that controls weight) so there is no signal to stop eating. Body fat is possibly the sin-gle most important metric for overall health,” she says. As might be expected, McKay offers weight loss programs.
Of the lab tests that measure hormones, McKay recommends testing for DHEA levels, a test which is available over-the-counter in the United States. In Europe, it requires a prescription. She recommends asking your doctor to test this hormone because low levels can affect longevity. DHEA is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands and naturally becomes lower as we age.
“It is a discussion worth having with your doctor,” she says, although some outside of the naturopathic training may not know much about it. Men, in particular, should not take DHEA without a doctor’s OK, particularly because of its potential side effects.
Steps to better health
For those who like using the Internet for research on better health, McKay rec-ommends two credible websites: Life Extension Foundation (lef.org) and Dr. Joseph Mercola (mercola.com). She advises separating out their aggressive marketing and just read for the content.
In addition, McKay say the key to living a long, healthy life, rather than suffering a steady and slow decline, is to stay active.
“Do something fun, socialize,” she says. “Clean your own home because it counts as moderate exercise. Do your own cooking, gardening and make sure you can stand up without having to use your hands or rock yourself out of a chair. All of this is within your control.”
Exercise cultivates endor-phins as does giving and receiving massages, rocking, swinging, bouncing, and gardening.
Being active does not re-quire triathlons or jogging on asphalt. It means moving the body.
Getting sufficient sleep is another important predictor of longevity. It is not a problem if you wake up at night to go to the bathroom and then fall back to sleep. Sleep becomes a problem if a person cannot get to sleep or when they wake up they can no longer go back to sleep.
Awakening at night can often be traced to eating the wrong things before you go to sleep. It’s a blood sugar thing, McKay says. When your blood sugar crashes, you can’t go back to sleep.
“Sufficient sleep is essential for everyone,” she says. “It affects memory, healing from injuries, fatigue and wellbeing, and your entire immune system.”
She advises experimenting with herbs and teas, going to sleep and awakening at regular times. If that doesn’t work, she recommends taking melatonin, an antioxidant and immune system modulator that’s also used in treating cancer. Experiment with your dosage, she says. Cancer patients take 20 milligrams, but over-the-counter pills come in 10-milligram form.
The goal should be a high-quality life, rather than a long, lingering, painful – and costly – decline.
Her own story
Four years ago, McKay was diagnosed with cancer and given nine months to live.
“I did everything, from attitude to surgery, to chemo, anything that would help me live,” she says. “The part of me that was sarcastic and bitter because of my childhood left me because for the first time in my life I was grateful for every day. Near death will do that to you.”
McKay is trained in counseling, including energy psychology and homeopathy. She serves on the board of Hospice and Palliative Care of Washington County – the only not-for-profit hospice and/or palliative care provider in the region. She’s on the editorial board for the Journal of Restorative Medicine, ac-tive in the Oregon Associa-tion of Naturopathic Physi-cians as well as the Hillsdale area and Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce.
She has been excelling since high school, even winning a National Merit scholarship.
She has edited a number of publications on longevity, a workers’ compensation handbook and speaks on nutrition, hormones and weight loss. She follows a low-carb diet. Her final advice?
“Laughter is a good form of healing,” she says.
Learn more about Deb McKay at drdebmckay.com.