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It’s easy to use the phrase “we’ll all die someday” as an excuse to neglect your health. But the truth is, it’s really not that easy. Sometimes, if you focus on the right things in the right places, the average American lifespan of 77 years can be more lively and even lengthened. Ask yourself: “Wouldn’t I rather put in a little extra work now than have to deal with the consequences later?” If the answer is yes, then with the help of a few local experts, longevity and anti-aging can be viewed from a different angle, and it may be a bit easier than you imagined. 

Most people think that anti-aging and longevity measures start once you begin to see the signs of aging. But, it’s really about practicing preventive health. 

“There’s primary prevention, which is preventing things from happening in the first place, and there’s secondary prevention, which doesn’t prevent you from getting things, but it helps you detect it early,” says Dr. Cathryn Devons, a geriatric medicine specialist at Phelps Hospital. “For example, exercise, eating well and certain types of treatments can serve as primary prevention, while regularly visiting the doctor and receiving screenings, including mammograms or a colonoscopy, qualify as secondary prevention.”

Amy Hausman, L. Ac., co-founder of Be Well Katonah, an acupuncture and wellness practice, agrees that prevention is key. She says acupuncture and implementing simple daily tasks into your life prepare your body to fight off sickness and brace it for the future. 

“An ideal patient is one who comes in to maintain optimal health and wellness,” says Hausman. 

Non-invasive treatments

At Be Well, Hausman and her co-founder Eliza Hunsinger, L. Ac., practice traditional East-Asian medicine, which means following the four pillars of Chinese medicine: acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, diet and lifestyle. Treatments at Be Well are more holistic than those performed at Western medical offices, and they say acupuncture can treat everything. 

When it comes to facial rejuvenation, the women say acupuncture’s effectiveness has been proven for centuries. For example,  the empresses in ancient Chinese dynasties relied on acupuncture to maintain their status as “fairest in the land.” And while some of these social norms have changed, the efficacy of acupuncture still rings true today. 

“Cosmetic acupuncture helps lift sagging skin,” Hausman explains. 

In fact, these methods serve as the origins of modern-day microneedling, which helps restore collagen in the face and renew tissue. 

Other than cosmetic acupuncture, Be Well uses acupuncture to treat everything from irregular periods to indigestion, and even chronic forms of pain. 

Down the road at The Wellpath, which has locations in Katonah and Manhattan, founder and author of The Wellpath, Dr. Jamé Heskett specializes in aging and wellness medicine. She too uses a holistic approach and focuses on the body as a whole, with one of her guiding principles being circulation and the awareness of one’s body.  

“We use a lot of circulation stimulation treatments like microneedling with platelet-rich plasma that regenerates circulation to reduce aging in the skin,” Heskett says. 

Her practice also utilizes carboxy therapy, an injection of carbon dioxide to increase circulation and, she says, reduce things like scars, stretch marks or dark circles. And they administer treatments that increase cellular turnover to unclog the pores, or laser therapy to regulate the sebaceous glands, instead of jumping straight to antibiotics. 

Exercise and movement

Although the treatments explained above can yield fabulous results, improving outward appearance and inner wellness alone will not help the body heal or rejuvenate to its fullest extent. In order to truly maximize longevity and “age well,” it’s important to implement some simple tasks and regimens into your daily routine that will result in a positive lifestyle change. 

Heskett refers back to the impact of circulation when trying to find highly personalized ways for patients to improve their daily routines. For example, she says that the legs-up-the-wall yoga pose at the end of the day can be highly effective at increasing circulation. Not only does this redirect blood flow back to your heart by decreasing pressure in your legs, but it also stimulates your hormonal pathways. And, she recommends adding a mere 15 minutes of movement a day, which can have major impacts on circulation and wellness. 

Hausman adds that forms of movement, including Qigong or Tai Chi that work with the body’s energy, can be effective exercises for longevity and health as well. She and Hunsinger often recommend simple exercises that can be done at home. 

Devons agrees that exercising often is a great preventive health measure. 

“I’m a big advocate for exercise to get your heart going,” she says. “[Studies] have actually followed people longitudinally and found that exercise can help lower the risk of heart attack and stroke.” 

Eating well

Paired with exercise or any preventive health and wellness treatments, nutrition can have an especially great impact on longevity and health. But what’s important to note is that there is no magic formula that will cure or help everyone and no foods need to be completely cut out of your diet (see page 51 for more details). 

Instead, both Eastern and Western medicine recommend everything in moderation. While some argue that foods like red meat can have adverse health effects, in small amounts, it can actually increase circulation and build your blood. And although sugar in large amounts can increase the likelihood of depression, make you sluggish and increase inflammation, in small, controlled amounts, it’s okay. 

Devons also recommends making healthy swaps, including whole grains instead of white bread, or eating more foods with healthy fat sources like olive oil or avocados, instead of meats that are higher in saturated fats. 

Additionally, Hausman explains that what, or how, we eat should change with the seasons. 

“[Eating raw, cold food] may be good for some people during winter months, especially when the temperature drops below freezing, but from a Chinese medicine perspective, we would say to be careful eating too much cold or raw food in the winter,” she says. 

The reason, she explains, is to nourish the spleen, which can struggle to function properly during colder months. Hausman says the spleen receives the essence of everything the body takes in, which then transforms it into the Chi that flows through the whole body. 

Understanding the why

Heskett urges us to become more aware of our bodies and understand why the things we do work, no matter how big or small. For example, if you start to put your legs up the wall every night, that’s great. But if you don’t know why it’s working, you’re less likely to make it a habit because you’re not motivated by its effectiveness. 

“Awareness gives you a bit of a more critical eye,” she says. 

So whether someone’s trying to sell you something, you begin a new treatment or you add to your daily routine, knowing how your body works and why things can create change will inevitably improve your ability to be well. 

Take collagen products for instance. Over the past few years, there’s been a major spike in sales of collagen supplements, teas, powders, etc. But what do they do? 

“It’s a very simple protein,” Heskett says. “But it doesn’t just go into your body as collagen and get distributed to the places we want it, like your face or nails. It goes into your stomach, gets broken down into individual amino acids, and then gets distributed to wherever those amino acids are needed. The molecule may not ever get reassembled as collagen in your face and nails.”

But at the end of the day, keeping things simple and sustainable when it comes to changing your lifestyle will ensure the greatest outcomes. You can’t go from zero to 100 in a day, and drastically changing your lifestyle rapidly is difficult to do, much less maintain.

Mind-body connection

But the physical aspect of your health is not the only thing that can extend your years on Earth and promote good health. In fact, mental health could be the missing piece to your puzzle. 

“We’re working on the level of the mind, body and spirit and acknowledging that they’re all packaged into one,” Hausman explains. “In Chinese medicine, when we talk about illness we ask, ‘Is it an external invasion or is it an internal invasion?’” 

External invasions are viruses, bacterial infections, etc., while internal invasions stem from our emotions. 

Hausman believes that Western medicine is finally starting to understand this and explains that “how we think and what we feel have a direct impact on our health, and we (those who practice Eastern medicine) have known this for centuries.” 

Hunsinger chimes in, recommending “cultivating more joy into your life” in order to improve mental health, which will improve your overall wellness. 

Devons adds that your mental health can also impact your physical health by weakening your ability to care for yourself or find joy in life. She says that as patients get older, they often get depressed by their solitude. 

“Try to maintain social connectivity,” she says. “Try to get out and meet new people or maybe pick up a hobby.” 

It’s up to us

Hausman says it best: “Thinking the only way we can heal is through someone else is absolutely a myth. We all have the inherent ability to heal.” 

This is not to say that doctors, other health practitioners, and Eastern or Western medicine cannot aid in the healing and aging processes, but more to explain how we all have the power to be healthier and improve our longevity ourselves. 

Heskett agrees.  

“Our bodies have the capacity to rejuvenate themselves as we age if we can just stimulate the pathways of rejuvenation,” she says. 

Sustainable lifestyle changes paired with effective treatments that facilitate rejuvenation is, essentially, the dream team.  

This article was published in the May/June 2023 print edition of Katonah Connect.

Ava Fleisher
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Ava Fleisher is Connect To's star intern and a local high school student. When she’s not writing, you can find her spending time outdoors, reading, or volunteering in her community. When she grows up, she would like to pursue a career in journalism and travel the world.