Staying Sharp: Sanjay Gupta Weighs in on Well-Being
Workplace Wellness In a rare window of free time, the prominent neurosurgery expert and CNN chief medical correspondent checks in to discuss stress management and keeping active despite a demanding schedule.
As a husband and father of three, it’s probably safe to say your responsibilities outside the workplace can be stressful, too. Do any of your employers offer benefit programs to help you manage stress?
Both of my employers do offer benefit programs to help manage stress, but the utilization is sometimes only in the single digits, percentage-wise. I think the available programs have to be made widely known and also endorsed by the leadership of the companies.
We were fortunate enough to be able to take our Fit Nation program from CNN to the leaders at Time Warner. They wholeheartedly supported the program, and made it available to employees around the world. We have learned that wellness programs that take advantage of the ability to build communities within the workplace are going to have more success.
Have you found a direct correlation between stress and work productivity? Or do you find that you work better with stress?
I am by no means the expert on this, but I believe there needs to be a healthy balance. Imposing deadlines, and holding yourself accountable can be highly motivating. I do work better when I am teetering on stress, but I have become mature enough to know if it's becoming unhealthy. In those situations, I will take some time off and recharge.
"We have an opportunity to end illness in the United States and recognize that cultures with fewer resources than ours still have longer and more functional life expectancy."
Exercise has become increasingly important as well, and not just for the physical benefits. When exercising, I become aware that I do have some control over my schedule and life that allows me to have this time. That can be de-stressing by itself.
You’re recognized for being so passionate about inspiring people to lead healthier, more active lives—are you as passionate about your own well-being?
Very much so. I am very passionate about my physical and mental well-being. Every day, I will try and break a sweat, and I always find time for some physical activity, whether I am in Nepal or Norway. I find the experience of exercising in foreign countries particularly exhilarating, as an opportunity to see the country in a whole different way. At home, I am the perpetual student, constantly fine-tuning my exercise routines. I plan on doing my fourth triathlon this year in Malibu with our CNN Fit Nation team.
The range of health care benefits being offered to employees has expanded to provide increased access to various forms of medical screening and diagnostic testing. This has proven to be a controversial subject in recent years, with some saying that more testing and more treatment isn’t always beneficial. Where do you stand on this issue?
Testing is a particularly tricky issue, as it involves personal health decisions weighed in the context of societal health decision and all balanced on what might be a misperception of risk. I do think many screening tests have been imperfect and blunt tools. They can be false- positive, leading to anxiety and more unnecessary procedures. These screening tests may also find cancers that would have never cause a problem in one’s lifetime. Those are some of the clear downsides.
However, the idea of simply abolishing screening doesn’t make much sense. Truth is, we need better, and more precise screening tests that continue to find the diseases that threaten our lives before they make us sick.
If you could make one immediate change or improvement to the health care system in the U.S., what would it be?
A few years ago, I would have urged for more insured access to health care. The Affordable Care Act is starting to address that problem. I have realized, however, that having insurance doesn’t equal good health. You probably know people who have terrific health insurance but are still wildly unhealthy. I think wellness and optimization need to be infused into our culture.
Certainly corporate wellness programs should become a big part of any culture, but grade school students should also be learning how to cook healthy meals, and we should incorporate healthy living into our lives as every step in-between. We have an opportunity to end illness in the United States and recognize that cultures with fewer resources than ours still have longer and more functional life expectancy.