Los Angeles Times

Commentary: Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the secrets to life and happiness that often elude Americans

Sanjay Gupta is a country doctor - not in the sense of the old sawbones who traveled by horse or Model T, healing fevers and bone breaks, but a doctor who travels country by country, learning about best practices in the wide round world of health.

In his new series on CNN, "Chasing Life," Dr. Gupta visits six very different nations to learn their success stories of diet, faith, lifestyle and medical care, from Bolivia, the poorest country per capita in South America, to northern Norway, a very cold Scandinavian success story. Each episode offers a contrast to the United States, where medical technology is top-notch, but both life expectancy and happiness are in decline. Dr. Gupta talks about why that's the case, and what other medical perils - like measles - could be on our horizon.

Q: What does "chasing life" mean? Does that mean youth? Does it mean immortality? Does it mean health?

A: I think it's in some ways chasing an optimized version of ourselves. When we think about health, we think of diagnosing and treating disease. If you're slightly more evolved, you think about preventing disease.

But even that sort of feels like you're swatting at flies, just trying to keep up. It doesn't have to feel like some necessary evil. You (can) think about your health in a way where you feel good, you're working at your optimal function mentally, physically.

And there's a lot of places around the world where people live that life.

Q: Other places practice lifestyles, eat foods - and have for centuries, if not millennia - that show us up a little bit as not exactly top of the heap.

A: I think this is one of the most startling things to me, and I say this as a doctor who thinks there's a lot of great things about our healthcare system.

We're spending trillions of dollars on healthcare in this country. Life expectancy is 23rd, 24th in the world. Life expectancy

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