Changing How Westchester Thinks About Health

Through his integrative medical practice in Bedford, Michael Finkelstein, MD, claims to set his patients on the path to “extraordinary health.” In his recent, all-encompassing how-to, 77 Questions for Skillfull Living (Dr. Oz and Andrew Weil, MD, are fans), he outlines the (unconventional) way—emphasizing a holistic, self-managed approach, from spirituality and nutrition to disease-prevention and mental conditioning. 

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How do you meld holistic and conventional healthcare? [Health] is always holistic in the individual’s experience, because their life is unified. The odd answer is when you ask a practitioner how is it possible that you isolate one variable and don’t pay attention to the whole? How is it that you pull out a kidney but you don’t talk to them before surgery about their anxiety? 

So your issue with mainstream medicine is the methodology, not necessarily the tools or treatments? What I do is integrative medicine, neither alternative nor conventional, but both. I help people make the most of everything that could potentially be valuable as opposed to, for some arbitrary reason, ruling in or ruling out, or focusing on one approach only. There are times, like if you have appendicitis, when you want to go to the hospital. A prayer circle at that moment is not the primary approach. 

Where does someone who wants to begin adopting a healthier lifestyle start? With the definition of health. Is it really a matter of getting their blood pressure down? Or is it about the quality of their life? I’m asking them to reflect on things like the meaning and the purpose of their life, whether or not they carry a lot of emotional baggage, and maybe give them ideas on how to let go of that. Nothing here is quick and simple. The upside is they feel better, and then their blood pressure comes down, because they’re focusing on their life.

How can the average person live ‘skillfully’ in today’s world? You start off somewhere. I have 77 questions in this book. Do the easy ones first: Drink enough water. Get outside everyday into some sunlight. Unplug for an hour once a week. People keep adding to their list and moving in this direction, and they get healthier and healthier. You’re still going to get the flu, but you’re going to recover in three days as opposed to three weeks.

So disease is inevitable, regardless? Everybody is going to die. Does that mean everybody is unhealthy? No. As an intern, I sat at the bedside of people dying, and some were in pretty good shape. Their minds and relationships were good, they were happy, they accepted what was happening. We can die either alone and miserable, or connected and in a state of joy—the idea is to get into that level of conditioning now.

Michael Finkelstein, MD, of Bedford

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