Letters from Readers
Inspiring review of Akil Taher’s book
It was heartening to read the review of Akil Taher’s book, Open Heart, in your March issue (“Life Positive: A Heartfelt Saga of Personal Transformation”). Like a few other physicians before him (Caldwell Esselstyn and Dean Ornish come to mind—they were Bill Clinton’s advisors after he had a quadruple bypass), he has the courage to shine a light on his profession and point out the inadequacies of drugs and surgeries that, while useful, treat the symptoms rather than the underlying cause. Our healthcare system is such that doctors are trained to spend time on what is reimbursed. It is easier for a doctor to write a prescription than to educate a patient about lifestyle changes. Big Pharma is also happy, given that over $200 billion a year is spent on treating heart disease. But patients are also to blame for keeping the system going. Most patients want immediate results, and would rather take a pill or undergo angioplasty that is paid for by their insurance than give up their steaks, burgers and fries.
Taher’s transformation is inspiring. But while his feats of bungee jumping, skydiving, kayaking, speed biking, scuba diving, conquering Mount Kilimanjaro and other extreme sports are impressive, especially at his age, they are not meant for everyone and should be indulged in only if you enjoy them or they are a part of your bucket list. Studies show that 30 to 60 minutes a day of moderate exercise such as walking, gardening or yoga is enough to maintain optimum health when combined with other lifestyle changes such as stress management and a low-fat plant-based diet. To his credit, the book also has a chapter, “Diet is More Important Than Exercise.” Taher’s reference to his “pilgrimage” as part of a holistic (or whole-istic) approach is also to be commended. Whether it is an actual or virtual trip to Mount Kailash, Jerusalem, Mecca or the Vatican, an important key to improved health is opening your heart to a higher being.
Johns Creek, GA
Response to violence against Asian Americans
On March 16, eight people were killed at three different spas in North Georgia including six Asian women. We are heartbroken by these murders, which come at a time when Asian American communities are already grappling with the traumatic violence against Asian Americans nationwide, fueled by the United States’ long history of white supremacy, systemic racism, and gender-based violence. As we collectively grieve and respond to this tragedy, we must lead with the needs of those most directly impacted at the center: the victims and their families. And during this time of broader crisis and trauma in our Asian American communities, we must be guided by a compass of community care that prioritizes assessing and addressing our communities’ immediate needs, including in-language support for mental health, legal, employment, and immigration services.
We must also stand firm in decrying misogyny, systemic violence, and white supremacy. We must invest in long-term solutions that address the root causes of violence and hate. Working class communities of color are disproportionately suffering from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The Trump administration’s relentless scapegoating of Asians for the pandemic has only exacerbated the impact on Asian business owners and frontline workers and inflamed existing racism. The hypersexualization of Asian American women and the broad normalization of violence against women of color, immigrant women, and poor women make Asian American women particularly vulnerable. In this time of crisis, let’s come together and build just communities, where we are all safe, where all workers are treated with dignity and respect, and where all our loved ones thrive.
Thank you for your support through this challenging time.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice
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