Your Health is Governed by Your Environment: Prof. BM Hegde (Transcript)

Full text of renowned cardiologist Prof. BM Hegde’s talk: Your Health is Governed by Your Environment at TEDxIITHyderabad conference. In this talk, Professor Hegde breaks down misconceptions about health, and leaves us questioning what health actually means.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


Professor B.M. Hegde – Medical Scientist, Educationist & Author

Well, knowledge advances, wrote Karl Popper way back in 1950s, not by repeating known things but by refuting false dogmas. This is how knowledge advances.

For example, it was said by Ptolemy in the second century that the sun goes around the Earth, which was followed for 500 years, up until Copernicus came and said, no the other way around. So this has been going on like this.

In medicine, and in the area of health, this myth is perpetuating for nearly 2000 years now, from the time of the reductionist science of Descartes.

What is health? There’s a definition by called Alma-Ata definition of health. Health is absence of this disease, that disease, all kinds of diseases.

If you analyze this, it’s just a business definition. Because if you want to know whether you’re healthy or not, it was go for a checkup. And that’s a big business, because you’re checking up the whole population of the world if you really can. Because if you are treating only the ill people, it’s only a few million on a given day.

So that’s not the definition. But Indian system of Ayurveda for thousands of years had a beautiful definition, which simply means, in a sense, if you have enthusiasm to work, enthusiasm to work, mark my words, and enthusiasm to be compassionate, you are healthy.

You can have a disease because all of us have disease. If I now scan all of us for a cancer cell, each one of us will have more than five to 10 cancers already inside, but they don’t become clinical cancers and kill you, they die themselves.

And this is a very important thing. So on a given day, nobody’s totally healthy, which if it means that without disease.

So this definition of health is very convenient, because you can know yourself in the morning, get up and ask: Do I want to go to work today? Or do I have to go to work? If you say… and I have… I want to go to work, you’re healthy.

Do I have to be compassionate? If you say yes, I have to be compassionate, that’s compulsion. I want to be compassionate. And if you want to be compassionate, you’re healthy again.

Now, having said this, I must tell you the myths in the area of health. When you go and see a doctor, the first thing he asked is, did your father have cancer, did the father have stroke, he had a heart attack, you get frightened. If any one of these is positive, you start dying that day, I may get a cancer, I may get a heart attack, I may get this, I may get a stroke.

All this is myth: you and your parents have nothing in common. Because you’re not come from your parents. Actually, this is the Indian thought. Children do not come… belong to parents, they come through parents. But our ancestors are not our parents but the germs.

This world for the first 2000 billion years was run by only germs. And every other planet is like that. And these are the germs which are very compassionate and they donated their DNAs to us to make the first nucleated cell called the zygote that you and I were on the first day we were made in the mother’s womb.

And that one cell has become a colony in you of 120 trillion cells, in association with thousand 200 trillion germ cells. So for every single cell of yours, that’s human cell, you have 10 germ cells, so we are germs.

And this germ theory, propagated by the western medicine to use antibiotics as medicines, is the one that is killing mankind all over the world, because of superbugs.

Now germs are our friends. And germs have brought us here, and we belong to them. So you don’t have to worry about your family history of this disease or that disease. Because there’s a big myth going on saying that your genetic analysis, your genome studies, genetic engineering, stem cell study, preserving your cord blood of your child, preserving your dead body, et cetera, et cetera, is a multi-billion dollar industry. All that is a myth.

What is true today is if you’re healthy today, you’re lucky. If you’re unhealthy today, you’re lucky. There’s nothing that you can do to preserve your health or continuous… but one thing is, health is environmental. Health is not genetic, you’re not inherited from your parents.

Health is purely environmental. In this context, we again talk of and we have been talking about the risk factors: your heart disease, your hypertension, diabetes, body weight, height, weight, mass index, your girth to the abdomen, girth of your… you know, all kinds of things we talk about.

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All this has been again proved wrong, because the largest study, the longest study and the biggest study, which is called the MRFIT study, Mr. Fit study, multiple risk factor intervention trial, which went on for 25 years assured that there isn’t anything called risk factor. Even if you remove the risks by intervention, the risk if anything remains. So even if you either remove the risk factor or not, the risk remains.

But the only thing that can save you is change your lifestyle. This is because lifestyle is the biggest environment.

What is the environment of human body? Human body is, in fact, human mind only. With quantum physics, we have quantum and understanding: matter is energy; energy is matter. For such a few who don’t belong the science stream, I’ll give you a nice article, please read this: matter is not made out of matter. That’s the article: matter is not made out of matter, written by a man who got the Nobel Prize and the alternate Nobel Prize, because he called E=M; energy is matter; matter is energy as a duality.

And the man has written this article, so for you, and in the article, he writes, I quote, he says, “I am just a scientist, like a child playing in the sands the same time. But these Indian sages have called this Advaita thousands of years ago, and he says, that is the philosophy that runs quantum physics. And you are your body is a holographic projection of your mind, which is called your consciousness.

And the mind is not in the brain as we think and as we practice in psychiatry. We give you drugs, when you have some mental problems. These drugs go and affect the brain, where the mind is not there, and the brain gets damaged. So the drugs only damage the brain and do not treat you, as a matter of fact, create more problems.

But what is important is the mind is the environment of the body. I am repeating this, the mind is the environment of the body. So if you have to get any disease to the mind, and to the body, it’s again the mind that affects the whole thing. And if you want to get rid of it, you have to change your mind.

So in short, mind your mind and that will mind your illness and wellness.

Now, what is the most important part of the mind? Your thinking. The most dangerous part of the environment of mind is arrogance, hubris. I… you know I, you all know I. I starts illness, illness.

You’ve just changed that I into We. Wellness. That’s all the difference.

Do you understand the difference between illness and wellness is how you look at yourself. If you think you’re the biggest man under the sun, you are always ill. Remember that. Almost all our politicians have got all kinds of illnesses. You don’t know them; they take so many drugs.

Now you think there is a drug for everything, so why worry? One patient came to me once and said, “Look, Doctor, I want to drink, I want to smoke, but I don’t want to get diseases; give me a pill.”

This is how people think, because they think there is a pill for every ill. But the reality is while there is no pill for every ill, there is an ill following every pill. And this is true because every pill is a reductionist chemical.

And studies have shown when you take a pill, irrespective what pill it is from aspirin to the statins or whatever, it goes inside the system. And the body’s wisdom says oh, this doesn’t belong to me, I don’t know it is a poison. So it must be destroyed, sends to the liver.

So every tablet that you take, every injection that you take, the drug chemical goes to the liver and damages the liver. And today there is an epidemic called non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. It’s a very dangerous disease, there is no treatment at all. The only treatment now they claim is liver transplant.

And all this is because today we have a huge disease called adverse drug reactions, ADR. And the ADR is a leading cause of death in the world. And this is because we think wrongly that the disease can be corrected by correcting the body. The disease cannot be corrected by correcting body.

Disease can only be corrected by correcting the mind. And this was shown in elegant studies. And it’s also shown that the disease is cured by your own system. Remember that. It’s not the outside system, your own system cures the disease. And this is very interesting.

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They did a large study in Oxford University with the collaboration with Oxford, Cambridge, Munich and Hamburg universities led by Oxford’s Professor Bingel. And this study, they showed that a patient has severe pain, the worst pain that you can have because pain is man’s greatest enemy. Yesterday pain was the enemy; today pain is the enemy and in your tomorrow also pain will be the enemy of mankind. And our job is cure rarely, comfort mostly, but console always.

Even a patient with cancer, I can console him. Even a patient with any kind of pain today I can relieve but I was thinking… up until the study came out that we are treating pain. On the contrary what’s happening is this study elegantly showed their patient had severe pain and they were giving him intravenous drip of morphine. Morphine is the best painkiller.

But they told the patient: this is not morphine. What we are giving you is a new vitamin we have found out for you. It will not remove your pain, but your disease will go. And would you believe nobody’s pain? Pain did not disappear. Morphine was going intravenously, if you take a tablet of morphine your pain will go. Then they were surprised.

So they did a crossover study. They ran a saline drip, simple saline drip and told the patient: This is a best result of morphine that we have discovered. And your pain will go like that. And would you believe the pain went like that? They were nonplussed. What’s happening?

So they repeated the whole study with an fMRI, concurrent fMRI. fMRI tells you what the brain is doing. And when they found that morphine was running, but the patient believed, mark my words, believed, because he had faith in the doctor, that is not morphine. When he believed it is not morphine, the brain slept.

When saline was going, and the doctor told him, it’s morphine and he believed the doctor and then pain got relieved, because the forebrain produced such powerful opioids that in no time the pain went. So who treated the pain? Not the drug, but your own brain, your own body, your own immune system.

Similarly, surgery, you think surgery, okay, surgery, something different? No, they did a study, extensive study like this on bypass surgery. And they showed even bypass surgery is a placebo effect. And nothing happens by the surgery. But the placebo effect, the mind says, Okay, I’m treated, I’ve had a bypass surgery, nothing to worry about it.

There is a very nice study called placebo effect in bypass surgery. And the first author’s name is Grabow. Grabow is a very big director of interventional cardiology in Harvard. And this study shows that when a patient was taken to the theater, anesthetized, and when he woke up, he was told you had a wonderful bypass surgery, your surgery was very successful. And he went home and a successful.

One year later scanning showed blood supply had come back to the heart, which means you are treating your own self, which is called the placebo effect.

If anyone is trying to check this paper, this article called placebo effect in Science Translational Medicine, very important diet journal, it’s 2011, is the year. Volume is three, pages 70. And the first author’s name is Bingel… B-I-N-G-E-L, he is a professor of medicine in Oxford.

All this goes to show now that the myth that we are doing everything, and every tablet… every disease requires a pill is all a myth. Having said all this, what is the future? What’s your tomorrow? Now we have to get, as generation of future generation, trained to have a healthy mind.

Today, what’s the training in the medical college or engineering college or IIT? I was asking a girl a little while ago, what are you trying to do? I’m in biomedical engineering, and I’m looking at hospital equipment to see whether we can change that and do something better.

These equipment do nothing. As a matter of fact, some of these equipments are the bane for us. You simply scan people. You know, in the olden days, there wasn’t anything called multiple systems over-eat, patient is fine. Patient is doing well. But the scan shows something. Is there any woman who does not miss a single, Oh, I’m coming out to the ovary and making a cyst in it? No, there isn’t.

But we didn’t know that she had a disease. Now routine screening, everybody had an ultrasound scanning, and they say cysts in the ovary. The doctor will assure you: don’t worry, this cyst is nothing. As you’re turning to go, he says, occasionally it may become a cancer. And that’s finished. You’re dead after that.

Every day you’re thinking, my sister’s become a cancer; my sister’s become a cancer. How many of you suffer from gallbladder stones? Most people, you know, they have died at the age of 100 with full gallbladder full of stones. Nothing has happened to them. But today, they won’t let you: one stone is picked up.

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And then the man says, “Do I get this stone out or leave it alone?”

Then the doctor says, “Oh don’t worry, nothing will happen. But sometimes you know it can come out and block your common bile duct and produce something and pancreatitis and things like that. And that kills you.”

So friends, what we have to do is new generation must be trained. You and I are gone, because you know we are spoiled in this present generation, because up until I went to school, I was supposed to be a genius. I went to school and became an idiot.

Because all our intuition is gone, our questioning is gone, curiosity is gone. We are only fed what is to be fed. This is what the Roman Empire started. Socrates started at educere. Educe means bring out… bring out the best in man. That’s called education,

Swami Vivekananda said education is a manifestation of the perfection that’s already in men. But the educare system said “Teach the child what you want the child to know.” And we are continuing that educare, and you put in stuffing things. And the stuffing in things is not education, we have to bring the best out of child. And that’s why you have to use the child as your best friend. And don’t use the child as a student in the class to be admonished, to be disciplined, and things like that. No, he’s your friend. Leave him alone to do.

I have seen a school called the Primrose school in London, where the child comes and says, today I want to swim, teacher and the child swims. There is a swimming pool, everything is there. The child swims the whole day; doesn’t matter. It gets the attendance.

Another child says I want to paint teacher today. So the paint is provided, everything… Canvas is provided, child paints, and another child says I want to play chess, it plays chess, another set child says I want to go cycling, it goes cycling. And that’s how a child should be groomed.

But ultimately what you have to do is to have a child with a healthy mind, not just a wealthy carrier. Today our aim is only wealthy carrier.

This morning I was seeing the paper. Our students are not now industry… they are not ready for industry from the institutions. They want to train you to fit into an industry, supposing that industry collapses, what do you do? Education is not just training for a job. Education is making a human being out of you. And that’s called education must make a healthy mind.

What is the Healthy Mind? Enthusiasm to work and enthusiasm to be compassionate. Imagine all the 1.3 billion people in India become healthy minded, what will happen? We have so many people to work. Today, even 2% of people don’t want to work. They have to work, that’s a different thing. They don’t want to work.

If 100 people… 100% of people in India want to work, want to work, and 100 people want to be compassionate, where is terrorism? Where is rape? Where is the problem? Where is criminal? Nobody. And even probably, the politicians will change.

So let us create a generation of healthy minds. And if you have a healthy mind, you have a healthy body. And that’s where it is. the usual saying in a healthy body, there is a healthy mind is not wrong. It’s the other way around.

When a healthy mind, and a healthy body, they reside together, diseases disappear. And you become very, very tranquil, very nice.

I’m coming back to where I started. There are a lot of myths in the field of health, and also in the field of diseases. Most of these are our friends, don’t hate diseases, loud diseases, and tell the disease, let’s be friends and my immune system will cure you. And if you develop your immune system, it will certainly cure you.

The whole of Ayurveda is based on this principle. And what does it say: aapthopasevi aarogyam. Treat everyone as your near and dear ones, you will be healthy and the whole world will be healthy and nothing to worry about any anybody.

Thank you very much for giving me an opportunity. It was very nice talking to you.

Resources for Further Reading:

How to Unlock the Full Potential of Your Mind: Dr. Joe Dispenza (Transcript)

Mind the Gap Between Perception and Reality: Sean Tiffee (Transcript)

How Mindfulness Changes the Emotional Life of Our Brains: Richard Davidson (Transcript)

Using Mindfulness to Choose Love Over Fear: Dr. Narveen Dosanjh (Transcript)

Mind Control: How to Win the War in Your Head: Owen Fitzpatrick (Transcript)