Episode 28: What We Can Do at Every Decade to Build and Maintain Better Health with Dr. Vonda Wright
Brief summary of show:
This week on the podcast, I sit down with Dr. Vonda Wright, a double boarded orthopedic sports surgeon, internationally recognized authority on active aging and mobility, and an innovator focused on optimizing personal and professional performance at every age.
This conversation around aging healthily is so important, and Dr. Vonda gives us so much valuable insight into how we can age gracefully and enjoy every phase of our lives.
Listen in as we talk about:
Tips to build physical and mental hardiness at any age
What we can do in every decade to build and maintain better health
Can you reverse the damage you have done to your body?
Dr. Vonda’s top two tips for better health and mobility
She serves as the inaugural Chief of Sports Medicine at the Northside Health System in Atlanta and previously served as the inaugural Medical Director building the 185,000 sq ft UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Pittsburgh PA, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In addition to her surgical practice, Dr. Wright is a media content expert and regularly contributes to national TV shows including “Dr. Oz,” “The Doctors” and the “Today” show. She is frequently quoted in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today and U.S. News & World Report, as well as in magazines such as Maxim, Prevention, Fitness, Runner’s World, Best Life, and Arthritis Today and numerous online publications. She proudly serves on the Sharecare Medical Advisory Board, the Atlanta and Pittsburgh Ballet boards and is President-elect of the American Heart Association Atlanta.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Connect with Dr. Vonda
Ajles membership is open now!https://ajles.life/
Connect with Me
[00:02:10] How to take care of ourselves in every decade
[00:08:51] Can we reverse the damage we have done in previous years?
[00:14:07] Do we really inherit our health from our parents?
[00:16:11] Why movement (not exercise or losing weight) is important
[00:22:54] How to get it 'all' done
Full transcript of episode:
[00:00:00] Natalie: I'm Natalie. Tisdel a journalist who decided enough is enough. I left a career that looked glamorous to do what I was scared of doing, going out on my own. I'm a married working mom of three on this podcast. We're going to talk about issues that really matter. Why am I not sleeping? What's up with that diet everyone's talking about.
[00:00:20] Are my kids falling behind? How do I leave that job and start over? Welcome to the Natalie pistol podcast. I'm so glad you're here.
[00:00:30] Hi, everyone, Natalie here, you know, in our twenties, we live a big life, not thinking so much about maybe our health in our thirties. Well, maybe we do a little bit more. And then in the next few decades, things change and we really. Maybe I need to pay a little bit more attention to the food. I eat, how I exercise, how much I sleep, you know, all of that.
[00:00:50] In fact, there are some very specific things that we can do in each decade of our lives that will help us not only live longer, but what we all really. Live healthier, for instance, in your thirties, did you know that you need to be building bone density? You're about to find out why that's so critical in your thirties and just how to do it.
[00:01:09] My guest today is Dr. Vonda Wright. She's a double boarded orthopedic surgeon. She's also the author of five books. So much from her, and I know you're going to as well. We talk about building physical and mental hardiness at any age and how all of that adds up to a better life. Let's jump into this really great interview with Dr.
[00:01:30] Dr Monda, right. Joining me now. And this is a topic I've been anxious to do. And I finally found you and said, now I get to do the topic Dr. Wright. I'm so
[00:01:39] Dr. Vonda: glad to be with you. Thanks for having me.
[00:01:41] Natalie: Through the years I gave you a little bit of my background in many of my listeners know that I spent many years getting up in the middle of the night.
[00:01:47] And my mom used to say to me, Natalie, you're doing so much damage to your body. Your cells are going to pay the price because you're not sleeping well, but I want to get into. Through the decades, what we need to be doing. I probably did do a lot of damage. I should've listened to my mom rule number one, but what we need to do through the decades to take care of ourselves so that we can live a long life.
[00:02:10] Dr. Vonda: Absolutely. Well, I love the decade approach because when we speak to generally than someone out there is going to be, yeah, that sounds good, but I'm only 20. so if we go through the decades I'm just going to choose a couple priorities. Cause there's so much we can do at every age to really prioritize ourselves.
[00:02:27] But here's one that it is a mindset item that I would really want everybody listening today to really put into their heart and soul. And this is this, you are worth the daily investment in your health. You are worth the daily investment in your health because here's what women do. No matter what roles or hats or shoes as we like to frame, how many jobs we have, we do, we will take care of everyone.
[00:02:57] But ourselves first, whether it's people in our own homes, people are in our jobs. It's when we say yes, when we really mean no, that is taking care of prioritizing someone first. Ladies and gentlemen, you are worth the investment in your health because here's what I know. And you hear it a lot lately. But when I started saying this out loud, 15 years ago, or so people were thinking, oh my God, it's so true.
[00:03:22] Unless you take care of yourself first and fill your own cup, you cannot out pour into other people. So even if you are the most altruistic person in the world and say, yeah, but I got to take care of other people. Take care of yourself first because you are worth it. But what does that mean in your twenties?
[00:03:37] You know, you and I were just talking about this. I have children in their twenties too. And if you do one thing while you're out there having fun and living your youthful, exuberance slather your whole body multiple times a day with the sunscreen, right? I have a daughter in her twenties too, like you do.
[00:03:53] And I'm like, Corey, please. You have beautiful skin preserve it. You know, and sometimes, sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. So there is that, but if you choose one thing, Please do that people in their twenties, but what if you're now in your thirties and I'm going to tell you, I thought when I was in my twenties, that 30 was so old, but I, that is just, you haven't even hit your stride yet.
[00:04:15] And I think millennials understand that it's a time to invest in yourselves because we see that millennial women are not settling down. Out of college. Like my generation did, they're investing in themselves for 10 years or so before they settled down. So while you're investing in yourselves from a orthopedic surgeon perspective, because of course that's what I am.
[00:04:37] I want you to build your bone density. That means get out there, jump around, run, jump off of things. Do stair climbing, choose activities that. Impact. I, sometimes I say, you gotta go bash your bones, but I think people think that means hurt yourself. No, but bones respond to the impact. So please go do that.
[00:04:58] Now is the time to build your bone density. Why is
[00:05:01] Natalie: that in your thirties? I mean, is that it just important in your thirties or is it important as teenagers and twenties and thirties or something happening in our bodies and our.
[00:05:11] Dr. Vonda: It's your last chance ladies and gentlemen, because what bone density you accumulate by the time you're 30 is what you get the rest of our lives.
[00:05:19] It's it's spent maintaining that. So whether you're actually impacting your bones or building lean muscle mass, which actually pulls against the bones to deposit more minerals. Now's the time to do it, but to answer your question, yes, let's do it in our twenties and our teens. We want to be careful about our growth plates.
[00:05:38] So we don't want to overload those, but in our twenties, when our growth plates are closed and definitely in our thirties, it's your last chance. People build a better bone structure because you'll need it the rest of your life and
[00:05:49] Natalie: your 60, 70, 80 year olds. We'll appreciate that because that's, when we start hearing about grandma fell down, she broke her hip.
[00:05:57] She, these things, right.
[00:05:59] Dr. Vonda: Contacts, absolutely grandma when grandma and grandpa fall down and break their hips sometimes from a standing position, 50% of the time, they will not return to pre-fall function, which means grandma has to move out of the house that you've always visited and grandpa will die 30% of the time.
[00:06:19] So. I know it's hard to think that far ahead. In fact, people can't think that
[00:06:25] Natalie: we don't, and that's why I wanted to do. Like we don't when we're in our twenties and tell me if you found differently, we're invincible. We're like, I can do whatever I want. I'm good. I can, you know, go party and eat whatever I want.
[00:06:37] I'm not gaining weight when I eat. I mean, not for everyone, but for the most part, but thinking of those things and creating that mindset at a young age will help you tell me if I'm wrong, not only live longer, but healthier alone.
[00:06:51] Dr. Vonda: Well, here's the, and I'm talking about this a lot lately. In fact, Monday, I'm talking about it in front of a big group of people, the difference between health span and lifespan.
[00:07:00] So if we, if we stop at our thirties and we'll get to our forties and 50 soon, but the. Life span right now, life expectancy right now is 79.8 years. And if you're a woman it's over 80, and if you live in Japan, it's 85 already, but it's high right now, a long time. Comparing that to at the turn of the century when our life expectancy was 40 ish.
[00:07:23] Right? So we've doubled our life expectancy in this hundred years, but here is the. Part B our health span that portion of our lives that we live healthy without a deep burden of illness. It's only 62. So I ask you, unless you accept the mindset change that you are worth the daily investment in your health at every age from 20 30, 40, 50, you get to 62 and you're feeling okay.
[00:07:52] And that's when the ravages of chronic disease first rearing their ugly heads, hypertension, heart disease breast cancer incidents increases all the things we die from in this country. Present to the point where you must address them in your sixties. So what does that mean? 20 years of our lives?
[00:08:10] We're busy, dying, not living. No, not under Dr. Vonda rights watch. Right? So all these things we're talking to you about today are about increasing our health span to match our life span. Right.
[00:08:26] Natalie: That just so important. I want to feel good through my fifties and not like I did damage, which now I know I did getting up in the middle of the night, but let's move into, forties, fifties, sixties quickly.
[00:08:38] But along the way, I want to talk about it. If we can reverse any of the damage that we've done. So, okay. So I got up in the middle of the night. I had poor sleep quality for many years. Can I reverse any of that, but let's go ahead. We'll get.
[00:08:51] Dr. Vonda: Yes. So the short answer is yes. Thank God. Yes. So what are we going to do in our forties?
[00:08:57] Well, people. If you get to 40, which is miraculous, it's a miraculous time of life. Not that you get to 40, but that you get to live in your forties because I call your forties, your critical decade, because you've gotten out of your thirties. Hopefully you've gotten out of your parents' house, if not, no shame, but most of us, by the time we're 40, we were like enough of parents being parented.
[00:09:19] And we're out It is the critical decade to get your health together. If you have ignored it, your whole life now is the time. Get your physical, your first adult physical women. You must get your mammogram. You mal must get your colonoscopy when you're 45. Now's the time when you can get stronger than you ever were.
[00:09:40] If you've ignored your health all through your thirties, don't despair. You have plenty of time in your forties, but you got to get serious now because if you don't get it together, by the time you're 50, it is harder once your hormone levels change. So the forties are critical decades. Get a primary care doctor, get your mammogram, get your colonoscopy, but here's something else we need to do.
[00:10:03] Women start to be peri-menopausal meaning our hormones fluctuate a lot as we approach menopause, which on average happens at age 51. So it is the time to really figure out. What your body's doing? How do you feel about hormone replacement therapy? I recommend everybody in their forties read a book called estrogen matters by Avrum blooming, and Carol Taverness.
[00:10:27] I've had them on many of my own programs. And it's fascinating because I don't know about you. I don't have the time. Interests to read every original study myself. So thank God these people, somebody digested it and put it into language that you and I can digest.
[00:10:43] Natalie: This is such an important topic. So I just want to pause for a second, go back a little bit.
[00:10:47] First of all. I just remember being in my twenties and having kids in my thirties, thinking that is so far out there, like thinking anything about old people, right? Like, and now it's like all my friends and I don't remember my mom going through this. I don't remember. Talking about this as a young person to where it was, oh, that's going to happen to me.
[00:11:11] So now I turned 50 this year. And how does one know, oh, this is me. is it weight changes? Is it mood swings? I mean, when do we, you're telling me, we need to think about this in our forties and be prepared for it. So that's why I want to talk about it now. It's not that far off ladies, no matter where you are
[00:11:30] Dr. Vonda: late.
[00:11:31] Just like you went through menarchy, which is your first period and through puberty, and then you went through the fertility period and you went through, you know, trying to either get pregnant or avoid pregnancy. And that's all we thought about hormones. Menopause is coming. I mean, but the recent. We never heard about it.
[00:11:49] Even as a surgeon, I went through medical school. There was really nothing on it is because our mother's generation didn't talk about it. And it's shrouded in shame instead of standing on a mountain top and saying, oh my God, this is a second spring, which is the way Asian to Chinese culture. This time of life.
[00:12:06] As the second spring, we finally get to do what we want to do. it's hidden. So that's why in this country, we haven't heard about it, but the good news is lots of people like you and me and practically, everybody's talking about menopause now. So I encourage women in their forties. To start listening to podcasts like yours or like mine, or like, you know, there's so many good voices out there talking about what comes next, because you can't avoid it.
[00:12:30] You don't want to avoid it.
[00:12:33] Natalie: I want to feel like this is my second spring. This is fun. This is, and it's not this shock. I'm old now because it shouldn't, it shouldn't be that at all.
[00:12:42] Dr. Vonda: Well, here's my philosophy and I, and I'm trying to pivot the entire language around aging.
[00:12:46] All of my research has been around musculoskeletal aging and I have always talked out against anti-aging because listen, from the minute of conception. To the minute of our death, the most natural process of living is aging. I mean, every moment of our life, 1,440 moments or.
[00:13:09] Today we are aging. So what really matters is not that we're aging. It's how we live. So my mantra is live more in every moment we are going to optimize whatever age we're at. It doesn't matter. I'm 54. You shared that you're 50, I'm 54 and Frank. I have enough candles on my birthday cake to set off the fire alarm.
[00:13:33] So it's not about being anti-aging or what age I am. It's living more, every moment squeezing the life out of life. And I think that's what you're about to
[00:13:43] Natalie: someone told me a statistic once that stuck with me. And yet I don't, I won't give the exact cause I won't remember it, but that hour. And, and how we feel has more to do with our genetics than it does, how we treat ourselves.
[00:13:57] And I have a really hard time believing that because
[00:13:59] Dr. Vonda: I know that's not true. Now tell me the difference. That's the
[00:14:03] Natalie: difference in that. and I felt that my gut I'm like, how can you be?
[00:14:07] Dr. Vonda: So you're born with a blueprint of DNA, which, you know, you inherit half from your father, half from your mother, but that only I'm surprised at that someone told you that.
[00:14:17] In, in my circles, it's estimated that only about 30% of your health and aging is predetermined by your genetics. Everything else is lifestyle. And even the 30% of your genes that predisposes you to certain diseases or what you look like, or how fast you gray can be changed through. Epigenetics, which is, you know, to get a little site methylation of the DNA by your behaviors.
[00:14:45] So for instance, whether or not you eat broccoli and it releases all its cyto chemicals into your body, that is a decision that affects the way your genes are transcribed because our DNA is just a blueprint. What turns on and off is determined by our lifestyle. Largely. This message that I'm saying to you is actually very hopeful versus being pear.
[00:15:11] Very pessimistic. You can control large segments of your health and aging and be healthy, vital, active, joyful across your lifespan. If you believe let's return to the very first statement I made to you, that you are worth the daily investment in your health.
[00:15:28] Natalie: Give me a couple of other things. I love that.
[00:15:30] And I'm really glad for you to set that record straight because your genetics are a little bit, but you can have that hope that you really can make a difference. So give me a couple of other very specific things at any age that we can. To help ourselves. I know you are a big believer as am I in quality sleep, but give me a couple of other things from foods to different types of exercise or whatever you would like to give us.
[00:15:54] Dr. Vonda: So I think the information out there, especially if you believe Dr. Google is really overwhelmed. Right. So I try to really simplify it because I have found in my own life that I can focus on one life change at a time. So I know you're a big proponent of sleep because you didn't get any during your youth and neither did I.
[00:16:11] Right. and you know, we can talk about that at nauseum, but let's talk about one thing you can do. Nutritionally. And one thing you can do from a movement standpoint, and now I'm an orthopedic surgeon. And so I used to rank mobility over smart nutrition. I have found now that I need to pivot that. And the first thing I asked people do is to eliminate added sugar and simple carbs from their life If you go to the cupboard right now and pull off any box and turn it over, you will see a line that says added sugar. Now why in the world does bread need added sugar, but all simple carbs, all white carbs, anything that's processed, easy digestible has a ton of sugar. So I have done this in my own life. I am not asking you to do anything I haven't done, but I am asking you to sugar, detox, sugar, inflames, your body, it clouds up your brain.
[00:16:59] It makes your joints stiff. It can give you. And a variety of other diseases. So if we're going to do one thing, we sugar detox, and I usually lead people in this over a 10 day process at which you will find yourself going to the cupboard, opening it up and staring for no reason at something. Well, that is your sugar addiction looking for sure.
[00:17:23] we will get past that. And by day 7, 8, 9, your taste buds will not even crave it anymore. So that's the one nutritional thing before you do anything else. And so what does it mean for me to not eat added sugar? I eat a lot of green leafy vegetables and lean protein. And you don't even miss it after a while.
[00:17:40] So that's number one. Number two, if you're going to choose one thing to do mobility wise, First, I could tell you all kinds of things to get your heart rate up and to, exercise. I don't even use the word exercise. People hate it so much. So let's, let's go. Even before that, if you're going to choose one thing to do, I'm going to tell you to build your lean muscle mass because fast.
[00:18:02] It's a noxious metabolic, Oregon, that secrets all kinds of chemicals that is, are going to kill you. Even one gram of fat, we find in mice experiments has a huge impact on your entire metabolism. So if we can exchange more muscle for fat. We're going to be great because muscle burns more calories. It keeps us strong.
[00:18:23] it helps produce great chemicals that help us with our longevity and notice, I didn't say go lose some weight. It's not about weight because if you're gaining muscle, you probably won't lose weight because fat weighs a lot less than muscle, but by. Going and lifting things. It doesn't have to be in a gym, but it can be, you can lift children, you can lift chairs, you can lift anything in your house, barrel bags of potatoes.
[00:18:48] We need to build lean muscle mass, and then the rest will follow.
[00:18:52] Natalie: What have you didn't do those things, as you mentioned twenties, and then the thirties, when you really talked about that, say in your fifties, you're like, okay, I've decided I want to turn my life around. I really want to do this. Yeah. Okay.
[00:19:03] To just start cut out the sugar, start lifting.
[00:19:06] Dr. Vonda: Uh, There, number one, there is never an age or skill level when your body will not respond, your body is meant to respond to the positive stress put on it. So the short answer is yes. The long answer is if you haven't done anything for a lot of years, why don't you get checked by your PCP first and make sure you're going to tolerate it then.
[00:19:27] Let's just start. It is not dangerous to cut out sugar and it is not hard to start lifting things around your house. Right. and then there's lots of resources. You're a resource I've written five books about this type of thing. So you just have to start, don't be afraid by geo go. Don't be afraid about that.
[00:19:45] Just do it.
[00:19:46] Natalie: I love it. I'm so motivated by this because for most of my career, you know, I was on television. So I was motivated to fit into those suits that I bought in my twenties. Of course, I know, you know, this, we all do, unfortunately, because it's the society we live in. Is Okay.
[00:20:01] This is funny and I can't believe I'm getting. My daughter was looking for some jeans to wear for seventies day at school. I go digging in a box. I still, I can't believe I'm admitting this. I have kept a pair of blue jeans from my college days because they're my motivation. I mean, I literally kept them.
[00:20:19] I went one day. Um, When I, and I looked at those jeans and I went, why am I doing that to myself? I want to feel good. I don't care if I fit into them, but we do that to ourselves. When actually the motivation should be, I just want to wake up and feel good and have energy and have strong muscles not fit into something.
[00:20:39] Dr. Vonda: Well, I couldn't agree with you more, although I do have to admit that I do have my, the jeans I wore in New York when I was on, in a fellowship when I was in, I was 40 at that time, but I was in the best shape of my life. I do still have that. Because I believe I can get back there, whether or not I actually do the work, but I want to feel good first.
[00:20:57] Right? So, you know, these things I've talked to you about the sugar, the sleep, the lean muscle mass. I'm going to tell you that before I figured out my own menopause journey and added hormone replacement treatment, which is something I decided to do after reading this book, I recommended to you, I would get out of bed and feel really.
[00:21:16] And stiff and brain foggy. But now that I made these small changes, I don't eat sugar. I decided that for me, hormone replacement therapy was the correct thing to do. I have built my lean muscle mass. owe and I sleep. I protect my sleep like you do. I get out of bed. And I feel, I used to say, I feel 26. I feel about 39 right now.
[00:21:41] I mean, I am 54 and I feel really amazing. And I agree with you. That's what said about, I want to feel great every day.
[00:21:50] Natalie: Yeah. I, I completely agree. Let's make that our motivation more than anything because when we're in our 50, 60 seventies, eighties, God-willing, we will just want to feel good and be
[00:22:01] Dr. Vonda: healthy.
[00:22:02] Yeah. I want my body to feel as great as my brain does now that I've totally accepted myself in the that's the beautiful thing about the fifties. I'm like, I am really great the way I am. Don't tell me who I need to be. I get to be authentic and in defined.
[00:22:18] Natalie: I agree with you. Oh, I've learned so much. Can't wait to go back over this and take notes and I'm going to link a whole bunch of the things, including your books to our show notes for people.
[00:22:26] But I have a couple of questions I like to ask everyone. And the first one, so you're a doctor, which by the way, you're in an area of medicine that will not a lot of women go into 6%. That's
[00:22:38] Dr. Vonda: amazing. And that's doubled over my career from three put, so,
[00:22:42] Natalie: okay. So. We'll probably come up here in a second with my second question, but the first question, what's your favorite tool.
[00:22:48] You have a lot on your plate from a podcast to being a surgeon to everything else. What's your favorite tool for productivity?
[00:22:54] Dr. Vonda: Sometimes people do ask me how I get it all done. Yeah, yeah, yeah. There are lots of ways it could be a whole podcast onto itself, but what I tell young professional women is that.
[00:23:05] You do not have to do it all. I delegate a lot of things in my life. If I have one hour free in my life, I would rather hire someone to help me clean my house. Then. Buy a new purse, right? If I have to choose where I spend my money, I am going to choose things that buy me time because I can never get my time back.
[00:23:29] So if I have a tiny bit of money, I am going to find somebody to help me buy more time. And in doing that become more productive.
[00:23:40] Natalie: I love dressed out. I've never heard it defined that way, where choosing to buy the purse versus this, I've heard many people say I'm going to leverage myself like that, but I'm the same way.
[00:23:52] I'm like, I'll go buy what I need at TJ Maxx so that I can hire someone to do some things for me, because. Yes. And that's right. And then my second question is when did you know your purpose? And I'm one who believes that can change throughout our lives, but did you know that at a young age, that you wanted to be an orthopedic
[00:24:13] Dr. Vonda: surgeon?
[00:24:14] No. In fact, my first career in medicine was as a cancer nurse. to shorten the story that really defined my pathway is when I was a cancer nurse in the nineties, nurses got to take care of the same patients every time they were in the hospital. So you, you had deep professional relationships with them.
[00:24:32] And when I was 24, I was a very young woman at the time I was taking care of this woman after six months. She was not going to make it through the night. And you know that when people are not going to make it, but her family was so faithful that not only did I get to know the woman, but I got to know her whole, whole family.
[00:24:50] And on this woman's last night, I knew she was waiting on her family. This family came in and they were dressed in their wedding clothes because the sister. was going to be married that day. So here in front of this 24 year old life, right, I'm standing at the door watching this family. You have a woman who was at the end of her journey and her sister who was at the beginning of her next part of her journey.
[00:25:13] And it just made it so clear to me that life is precious and not guaranteed. And that if I could do. When he's anything. If I was given the gift to tell story, if I was given a gift to help people, if I can motivate people to know that they are worth the daily investment in their health, that I had to do it because life is short, it is not guaranteed.
[00:25:36] And we are worth the daily investment ourselves. And that's what drives me every day to get out of bed and make the proverbial donuts. If you will, I am going to do that purpose,
[00:25:47] Natalie: what a beautiful story. I mean, I got, I got chills. My, my eyes welled up, what a beautiful story.
[00:25:53] And I, I couldn't agree with you more. I love your journey and what you're telling people, and I wish we had more time, but let's do it again. Okay. Let's do it. Let's do we we'll have many more topics to talk about because there are plenty out there where we can inspire people, but where can people find you and learn more?
[00:26:10] Dr. Vonda: Yeah. So I mainly communicate on Instagram. So it's at Dr. Vonda Wright at Dr. Vonda Wright and that's one place. I have a website by the same name, Dr. Vonda Wright, Dr. Vonda Wright, but I've started a new community out of my nonprofit work. My nonprofit is called women's health conversations, but out of that, I've started a new community called ageless life.
[00:26:31] And I've spelled it phonetically, a J L E. Period life because I am so convinced that we can be ageless authentic and indefinable that I want to surround myself by a community of people that believe that, you know, the best is yet to come. So you will find all of that at ageless life.
[00:26:54] Natalie: Wonderful. Well, I encourage people to follow you and I just appreciate your inspiration and your expertise and your passion.
[00:27:01] And I do look forward to talking to you again, really.
[00:27:04] Dr. Vonda: Thanks for having me today.