Doctor offers healthy lifestyle advice based on his own experience
May 24, 2016 12:00 AM
Dr. Robert Drapkin
By Jill Daly / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Many family doctors say they don’t have the time or expertise to advise their patients on diet and exercise.
One Florida doctor — a board-certified internist, oncologist and palliative care specialist — has done his homework and said he now incorporates evidence-based instruction in his treatment of patients and his own life.
“People need to understand how their body works,” said Robert Drapkin, 71, who muscled into this expertise after he began his own fitness regimen at age 50 and saw results he was so proud of that he took up body building.
“Knowledge is the most important thing you need, in order to have a healthy lifestyle. We’re not taught this at school; doctors aren’t taught this in medical school,” he said, adding, “Most people really don’t know what a healthy diet is. They don’t know how their body works.”
So together with 36 years in oncology, he has now spent about 20 years helping his patients find their own path to fitness. He’s also written a book (“Over 40 and Sexy as Hell”) to encourage people to take action to protect their health.
Don’t wait, he said, until you’re in your 50s and 60s or this might happen:
“You go to the doctor, you’re 50, your blood pressure is elevated,” Dr. Drapkin said, “Your doctor says, ‘Take these pills.’ You feel comfortable cause you’re doing what your doctor tells you to. Later, you go to the doctor, your blood sugar is elevated. The doctor says, ‘Here, take these pills.’ You don’t change your lifestyle, you’re comfortable because you’re doing what your doctor tells you to.
“Lo and behold, you have a heart attack, you have a stroke. … Again, it’s ‘Take these medications and you’re a good patient.’ That’s really the crux of the matter.”
Preventing this is possible, he said, by following guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “It says the majority of health problems are due to alcohol, smoking, poor nutrition and lack of exercise.”
Dr. Drapkin reminds people looking to get fit, “This is the race won by the turtle, not the hare.” Here is some of his advice:
• A healthy lifestyle includes at least the CDC-recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, every week, along with strengthening activities twice a week for the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).
• Keeping muscles strong is key, he explains, “when you lose muscle, you’re weaker and you put on body fat.”
• Even if you think you’re too tired to go to the gym, go. You’ll leave the gym energized.
• Interval cardio training works. It’s 15-20 minutes of exercise three times a week.
• Get instruction for weight training. Warm up first.
• Work on separate muscle groups at a time, with a day of rest between them. Dr. Drapkin divides them into pushing muscles (chest, shoulder, triceps), leg muscles (using three machines 5 minutes each) and pulling muscles (back and biceps). Start with light weights, with just enough repetitions until muscles get tired.
• “The real body fat loss comes from the diet …. Diet is a matter of pounds; exercise is a matter of inches. It’s important to do both.”
• Eat simple food, a plant-based diet. No bread, with dairy limited to unflavored Greek yogurt and low-fat cottage cheese. Coffee and green tea extract are OK.
• “With my patients I start them out on a fast, depending on their BMI, about a 900-calorie diet. … it’s mostly protein and intermediate and low-glycemic carbohydrates ... the body will detect your decreased weight, it will compensate by slowing the metabolic rate ... that’s why exercise and diet work together.”
• For morbidly obese patients, he said, appetite suppressants might be helpful. “We know their role, we can take [patients] off as they are able to increase exercise.”
• It’s better to eat the whole fruit than just drink the juice.
• Fiber is important. “Just by adding fiber and decreasing carbohydrates and sugar, you’ll lose weight.”
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