Live Long and Master Aging podcast



Holistic harmony for optimum health

Dr Adrian Heini | Medical Director, Clinique La Prairie


To what extent do genetics play a role in our ability to live a long healthy life? It is one of the many questions that doctors at the Swiss medical spa, Clinique La Prairie consider when assessing someone’s state of health and potential longevity. 

The clinic adopts a holistic approach to wellbeing – balancing the impact of inherited predispositions to certain conditions, the role of epigenetics – the environment we live in – along with lifestyle factors that also have a powerful impact.

To explore these and other issues, I sat down with the clinic’s Medical Director, Dr Adrian Heini, at his office in Montreux, Switzerland.

Video highlight below – full audio interview at top of page

In this interview we cover:

  • The importance of inner beauty and holistic harmony for feeling good.
  • The role of genetics in living a long and healthy life.
  • Clinique La Prairie’s holistic approach to well-being and longevity.
  • The impact of epigenetics, environment, and lifestyle factors on health and potential longevity.
  • Dr Adrian Heini’s role as medical director at Clinique La Prairie.
  • Common genetic predispositions and risk factors considered at the clinic.
  • The importance of lifestyle factors in determining health outcomes.
  • Nutrigenomics and its relationship to nutrition and genetics.
  • The impact of sleep and the importance of sleep hygiene for overall health.
  • How decision-makers struggle with making time for self care

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This episode is produced in association with Clinique La Prairie, the award-winning spa-clinic and pioneering health and wellness destination, nestled on the shores of Lake Geneva in Montreux, Switzerland. Combining preventative medicine with bespoke lifestyle and nutrition plans, Clinique La Prairie offers a holistic approach to living fuller, healthier and longer lives.

TRANSCRIPT – This conversation with Dr. Heini was recorded on August 30, 2023 and transcribed using Sonix AI. Please check against audio recording for absolute accuracy.

Peter Bowes: Dr. Heini, welcome again to the Live Long and Master Aging podcast. It’s good to see you.

Adrian Heini: Good to see you, too. Finally. Yes. Last time was like…

Peter Bowes: A remote conversation.

Adrian Heini: Exactly.

Peter Bowes: Like so many conversations that I’ve had with you and and others here over the last couple of years. But it is good to be here in person. You’re the medical director here. Can you just give me a little summary of what that work involves? 

Adrian Heini: Yeah. So as a medical director of a clinic, a clinic like Clinic La Prairie, that is quite unique. It’s also a little bit a unique task. I’m not only the the supervisor of the good practice of medicine and surgery, but I’m very heavily involved in the development of our longevity tools, our different programs, our nutrition, our supplements. So I’m very lucky to have this very diversified activity.

Peter Bowes: I’m just curious, as a doctor with a long career involved in an organization like this, how does what you practice now, knowing what you know, in terms of the science and the kind of interventions that are used at Clinica La Prairie, how does that differ from how you started out?

Adrian Heini: It’s a long process, accumulating a lot of knowledge that I may have accumulated elsewhere. But being here, I had this privilege to being introduced in an approach that is more holistic and that is also more in line with the recent developments like genetic medicine, like specific nutritional medicine. So it’s really interesting. I mean, I my original training also involved classical nutrition or classical clinical medical nutrition, which helps me a lot as a background. But all that was going on and has been published in the last 30 years. It’s just just amazing.

Peter Bowes: You mentioned genetics genotypes play a big role in what you practice here and how you help people. How do you work in genetics with what most people understand to be general health care?

Adrian Heini: It’s a very good question. I could say it does not dramatically change the approach to prevention or to lifestyle, but the genetic helps us. We look at these different profiles, so it helps us to better understand an individual constitution or a constellation. And on the other side, genetics is never 100%, but it’s probability. So it gives us hints and predispositions that are very helpful in the preventative approach of a patient or of the patient’s diseases.

Peter Bowes: And what are the general predispositions that you would identify? What are you most commonly looking out for?

Adrian Heini: We have designed different profiles according to different programs. So if it’s the more longevity revitalization programs, we look at preventative, cardiometabolic, preventative factors and factors that you know, may have an influence in longevity. So like osteoporosis or the eye diseases or degradation with age, if we do the detox approach detox profile, we look more of genetic variants or differences in the detoxification. But to summarize, what is always very, very interesting and helpful are cardiovascular metabolic risk factors or risk trends in genetics. And what is also extremely helpful are these oxidative protective processes or how the DNA is exposed, DNA damage is exposed or not to free radicals to pollution, because that helps us to to give again, to give recommendations to somebody who is not well protected. It’s more important that he would live in a healthy environment and not to have too much, you know, fried food, that it’s toxic. So it’s quite a large the interest.

Peter Bowes: Yes. The scope is huge. And I think when a lot of people go to see their family doctor, they’re probably used to being asked the question, do you have any family history? If it’s a new relationship between doctor and patient, do you have any family history of heart disease or cancer? And that to some extent traditionally has helped the doctor in terms of looking after that patient with the technology that you have at your fingertips now, essentially, you can go much deeper into that question and focus on how you care for that person moving forward.

Adrian Heini: Absolutely. So we many times we confirm the family history. We go deeper because we discover could be that somebody doesn’t even know that somebody had diabetes. In the family. We discover that there is a predisposition. That’s absolutely right. Again, on the other hand, the family history remains important because even with the best genetic profile or scope, you will not cover everything.

Peter Bowes: And I think a lot of people are still in the mindset that their family history or their genetics, and the two might be slightly different, but but that it’s hugely important for them in terms of what they are susceptible to. But I think it’s and maybe you can explain this. It’s fair to say that we understand now that a huge proportion of our likelihood of succumbing to certain diseases is determined by our environment and how we live our lives. So we’re talking about nutrition or exercise regimes, how much sleep we get. 

Adrian Heini: Absolutely. I mean, that’s that’s what I usually also mention when I interpret these genetic DNA profiles that obviously never changed throughout the life I mentioned. Look, I mean, there may be a bad news that you’re prone to, to diabetes if you don’t pay attention to nutrition. But the good news is that more, way more than 50% depends on the lifestyle, on the environment and on your nutrition. It’s never a fatal fact, you know, to have a predisposition for high blood pressure or diabetes, because the bigger impact always comes from the way we live. Whether you keep your weight, whether you do your exercise.

Peter Bowes: So you practice nutrigenomics essentially, the relationship between our nutrition and our genetics, obviously, lifestyle comes into that.

Adrian Heini: Nutrigenomics is the is the interaction between the nutrition and the genomics. The Nutrigenomics also works with the epigenetic. Epigenetics has really developed incredibly just by the medical science because some chemotherapies, some interventions you do in cancer or diseases, you would first determine the epigenetics and then do adjust adjust the treatment. Now in the in the lifestyle sector, there’s still a lot to be developed. We for example, we work in a partnership with an epigenetic startup laboratory. But we look there at goes exactly in what would be the nutrigenomics. So we would look at impacts. We call it the epigenetic impact, which basically looks at the DNA expression or how the DNA the genes are actually translated upregulated or downregulated. And so we look, for example, at the impact of alcohol exposure in your current life. In your past life, you look at the impact, the epigenetic impact of smoking, which can be the, you know, smoking cigarets now in the past or some some type of pollution. We’re looking at the epigenetic impacts of the fruit and vegetable intake. And we really get interesting results that most of the time they correlate with the history that we get. But sometimes we have very interesting discoveries that we we find an impact of smoking. And somebody has never smoked but has been passively exposed to smoke because the father or the mother was smoking.

Peter Bowes: So we can have a blue print of our lives based on what we know, but the technology that’s available to you now is allowing you to do a much deeper dive. That’s essentially, I think, what you’re saying. And to be able to understand, as you say, what’s happened to us in the past, what’s happening to us now. And most crucially, of course, for the people that you see what’s potentially going to happen in the future. So let’s start at that point. You have this blueprint. You have the technology that gives a very detailed look at an individual. Where do you start with someone to plan their future? Perhaps most people will come to a place like this wanting to change their lives, feeling like they’re not living their best lives. Where do you start?

Adrian Heini: We really, with our holistic and preventative approach, you know, we would always also have the privilege that most of our clients are staying here for a while. So they can basically they can live in life. You know, what is a good lifestyle with a healthy, balanced diet? Low in animal proteins, high in antioxidants. What is an appropriate well adapted exercise training? So we have this privilege to merge the clients in a healthy environment. We have this other privilege that we have the results back relatively fast. I mean DNA and genetic is is not is not easy are not easy analysis. It takes a few days, but before our client leaves the clinic we would have the full set. This really gives us the opportunity to give some sort of a specific individual plan. We would never do like, you know, ten grams of that, ten grams of that. But we give a plan, you know, go in this direction. You always have to keep simple. If you give too many recommendations, nothing will be memorized. So with this, we would then either keep in touch with the client and ideally see the client again after after six months, after one year, or whenever it’s possible for them to return.

Peter Bowes: You use the phrase holistic health, and holistic health is something that I’m hearing a lot about this week. Again, how would you describe that to me? I think a lot of people think of holistic as as just being earthly, as being as being natural. Is there a broader definition as you apply it to your practice here?

Adrian Heini: My interpretation of holistic is just as global as possible. So definitely not to rely on correcting cholesterol and blood sugar only with medication. But to have this approach, that physical activity and nutrition is more important than than the medication, which just as goes even further. So we I think we we have the gain, the advantage to to also give this experience here in the clinic. It’s that there’s the mental dimension has to be considered, the well-being dimension has to be considered. And it’s really all together that makes you basically your health, that the sleep is very important. As you mentioned, it’s extremely difficult to cover everything like in a few days or even in some consultation. But holistic really means that you take into consideration all the different aspects of lifestyle, of health, of disease, of environment and so on.

Peter Bowes: Really what you’re saying is whole body. It’s considering the mind, the stomach, crucially important microbiome, and that you don’t necessarily just focus on one on fixing one part of the body because everything, everything is connected. And you mentioned sleep. I’ve mentioned sleep often asked to list the most important aspects of health for longevity. I would often put sleep at number one because I feel as if you don’t get your sleep right. It affects your nutrition, it affects your motivation to exercise. Everything tends to suffer. What is your best advice to get a good night’s sleep?

Adrian Heini: I agree with you that sleep is very, very central and crucial. Probably one of the big lifestyle diseases besides obesity and lack of activity in the last 100 years because we lost, I think, almost two hours of sleep in 100 years. That’s just amazing. The main message, which is not at all respected if you look around friends and so is just the sleep hygiene. The sleep hygiene means to get into a mood after dinner where the lights are turned down, where at one time you. You stop being in front of the screen, definitely not go to bed with the iPad and so on. It’s really this procedure that we have completely lost in the last 100 years.

Peter Bowes: Does red light therapy help? There’s a lot of focus on the circadian rhythm and the different lights that we experience during the day. Blue light, red light. Is that something that you believe can help us just to get into the frame of mind, if that’s the right expression, to begin our nocturnal part of that circadian rhythm?

Adrian Heini: Definitely. I think getting away from the obviously for the bright light blue is not the best solution, I would say. So red and green is better than the bright light. We think about our, you know, not that very far ancestors. I mean, again, a little bit more than 100 years ago, there was no electricity. So they had just a candlelight and many candlelight is is is a perfect solution. This type of light is very, very natural. And that’s what it was before.

Peter Bowes: It strikes me just listening to you talk, that perhaps what we need in the future is a mixture of the old and the new, a mixture of the more primitive way of living. And you talk about having a candle instead of bright lights, combined with the technology and the science that we understand and progressing with today, that a mixture of the two and not forgetting those old ways of doing things as more primitive, simple ways of doing things could be the best way forward.

Adrian Heini: Yeah, I agree with you. I think that there are many aspects we don’t have to look so sophisticated or so far. We just need to look back in time and we find part of the solution.

Peter Bowes: I’m wondering, one thing is fascinating to me. Being here this week is looking at the the state of the longevity industry, which you are part of. Where do you see it going in the years to come? I think there has been a surge in interest, and I think perhaps Covid is one of the reasons for that. People understanding about their state of health and how that can affect them in terms of dealing with the virus or certainly moving forward with their lives. Do you see things changing in terms of the way that doctors like yourself integrate and work with patients? There has been a tradition of seeing your doctor once a year for ten minutes, if you’re lucky. Sometimes in some countries. What’s the way forward as you see it?

Adrian Heini: Probably even in general medicine, that probably have been some some influences of the pandemic. Definitely in our field, in the holistic, preventative or longevity approach. It helped the pandemic. The virus helped us to go a step further with the help of our scientists. So I’m talking, for example, the immunity. The immunity has a very central role in the defense against diseases and in the aging process. So we knew it before. Now it is been known a little bit more generally, and we have been experiencing our clients who do our immune strengthening revitalization therapy that we we have that was more focused on longevity, but it also helped to get better through the through the Covid complications and diseases. And I mean, it’s quite logical. If you are less sick, then your aging process is slowed down. Unfortunately, even with Covid, it has been published that heavy Covid, the brain aging has been accelerated. So it’s a fact. And so I think yeah, really we have kind of an interesting experience for us that helped us to even improve our longevity approach. 

Peter Bowes: I was wondering about that, whether you changed the way in which you approach aging and longevity. And it’s sad to say that the lifespan, the average lifespan, is actually on the decline we so often hear in conversations, oh, we’re living longer these days. And the fact is that we’re not. And that’s happened in the last couple of years. So have you changed your attitude in terms of the most important aspects of health care and what you can advise people to do? 

Adrian Heini: I think me personally, I haven’t really changed because I already had together with my colleagues here, we had this approach. You know, nutrition and anti-inflammatory aspects of nutrition are important that the immune system is important. But I guess out in the world, you know, that definitely some specialists, some internal doctors, family doctors, they may have listened, you know that. Wait a minute. I mean, nutrition is really important. To have a good immune system is really important because the vaccines with the antibodies, they don’t resolve everything, you know, in a Covid virus or some other virus. So so you need a strong basic immunity, and that’s what we’re working have always been working on since our famous doctor Niehans, who founded the clinic. Yes. I think there are interesting aspects that are definitely helpful for the future, for our clients in general, for the population.

Peter Bowes: Let’s just spend a few moments talking about nutrition. You mentioned there the anti-inflammatory benefits of nutrition. Obviously, depending on what you eat. Could you break that down for me and explain what you mean? Again, it’s something that we often hear that inflammation is a huge problem for many, many people, but I suspect we don’t really fully understand as putting it on the patient side what that means to us physically.

Adrian Heini: Yeah, I mean, it’s clearly quite complex and all the knowledge that exists. Fortunately, we have scientists and biologists who help us also to design our supplements, like the Holistic Healthline, but in general, I mean, somebody who has doesn’t have the means, you know, to take very specific supplements with just with a natural good balance of nutrition, can get quite a long way, can do a lot, you know, like 90%, you know, the other 10%, maybe then the supplement. So, you know, in our nutrition, we clearly saw that in the last 50 or more years there were, you know, too much sugar, too much animal fat and all this is pro-inflammatory. So it’s obvious that we need to cut down on that. And then again, we come back also to something like circadian like the sleep. There’s also a circadian rule for nutrition that in the evening it’s definitely better not to consume much or any animal proteins and to stay on a vegan to like reduce the neurostimulation.

Peter Bowes: So a steak at 10 p.m. probably isn’t a good idea.

Speaker4: Yeah, right. Yes, you could say that. Yeah.

Peter Bowes: And do you also go along with the idea. And it’s certainly something that I’ve been practicing that the earlier you eat in the evening the better. And that’s all foods to give your, your body a time to digest that food before you start the sleeping process.

Adrian Heini: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, it makes sense just from a comfort issue. But there are many studies that show, yes, definitely. It’s better to go half fasted  to bed and to have a good fasting time overnight. Metabolically, it has an advantage for the sleep quality. It has an advantage, has many advantages.

Peter Bowes: I want to talk to you about beauty because a focus, at least in part a place like this is how someone looks. And I suspect a lot of people come here with their face in mind. They want to look brighter, look more alive, look younger, which is fine if that’s what you want to do. But I’m wondering, alongside the medicine and the kind of practice that you’re involved with, how important is the esthetic side of of what some people yearn for? And I’m not dismissing it because I actually think that looking good, feeling good helps you be good.

Adrian Heini: Yeah, yeah. So we have really a broad offer of tools available, as you know, in esthetic medicine, even surgery. But but I think we come back to the holistic approach that is crucial also for the esthetics. And exactly as you say, you know, to really feel good, it’s not enough just to do some, some fix of your outer appearance. And that’s exactly what we try to apply and to teach even our clients. It’s it’s fine to have a fix, but I like to say is that for the outer beauty, you need an inner beauty. You need to be in good health, in good shape, to then make a fine tune the outside. There has to be a holistic harmony, otherwise it doesn’t make much sense for me.

Peter Bowes: So talking of you then just a couple of personal questions here. How do you live your life based on the evidence that you have the best way to live life with longevity in mind? Indeed. Do you think about your own longevity? Do you think about the decades to come?

Adrian Heini: No, I definitely think, you know, as I have passed the age of 60. So it’s it’s I think it’s normal. It’s human to think about. I try to do my best. I’m still more than 100% active, but but I love what I’m doing. So I think it’s it’s part of this positive healthy stress. So I have this healthy stress. And then, you know, I should do more sports during the week time. I know, but I try to do what what I can do. Like for example, now I’m very fortunate that I live at 12 minutes car drive from the clinic. So now as the weather gets better. That I take my e-bike and they’ll come 2 or 3 times per week with the with the e-bike. So I try to integrate, for example, the physical activity, you know, the amount in what I cannot do because I don’t have the time to go to the fitness every day. 

Peter Bowes: It comes down to time.  That word time always creeps into this conversation. How is it possible to advise someone how to make more time for the things that are really good for us?

Adrian Heini: So we deal a lot with very busy entrepreneurs who travel a lot. But I usually tell them if they tell me, look, I mean, I know I should do this, but I don’t have time. It’s like, I mean, you’re a decision maker. You know, many of our clients are decision makers. So as decision maker, you have to make decisions for you and you’re the boss of your agenda. So you just scheduling twice, three times during the week, you’re scheduling some time for physical activity but some time for leisure. And then the weekend, you know, it’s the same the same discussion, but in with more availability. So that’s my message I try to give.

Peter Bowes: I think it’s a good message. Dr. Heini, really good to talk to you again. Thank you very much indeed.

Adrian Heini: Thank you Peter, thank you.

Peter Bowes: The LLAMA podcast is a Healthspan Media production. We’ll be back with another conversation very soon. In the meantime, thanks so much for listening.

DISCLAIMER: This podcast is for informational, educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not offer medical advice. If you have health concerns of any kind or you are considering adopting a new diet or exercise regime, you should first consult your doctor.

The Live Long and Master Aging (LLAMA) podcast, a HealthSpan Media LLC production, shares ideas but does not offer medical advice. If you have health concerns of any kind, or you are considering adopting a new diet or exercise regime, you should consult your doctor.

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