Mr Keat Ooi Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon

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Tips for Healthy Living and Maintaining Spine Health

By Keat Ooi, Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon

June 2024

Lets explore the insights from a spine surgeon who prioritises healthy living as a way to improve and maintain spine health. We'll also delve into the valuable knowledge shared by Dr. Andrew Huberman, a renowned neuroscientist, and many other resources you can learn from.

Healthy living and how to maintain spine health by keat Ooi

Why am I writing this guide?

Healthy living and how to maintain spine health

Since a young age, I have always prioritised staying active and caring for my well-being.

However, it wasn’t until a few years ago, when I was involved in a severe accident, that I truly began to understand the importance of optimising self-care, not just for myself but also for my role as a devoted husband and father.

During this challenging time, I sought guidance from a fellow orthopaedic surgeon, who generously shared invaluable tips on healthy living, eating, and weight reduction.

At first, I admit I was sceptical, but I kept an open mind and tried the advice.

To my amazement, I found myself efficiently shedding excess weight and experiencing an overall improvement in my well-being. I further immersed myself in online resources and experimented with various techniques.

These positive effects compounded, encouraging me to continue my journey of self-improvement.

In addition to focusing on my physical health, I recognised the importance of mental well-being. I sought the expertise of a psychologist who I have been seeing for nearly two years.

Not suffering any psychological conditions like depression or anxiety, I approached these sessions as “personal training for my mind,” akin to someone honing their physical strength in the gym.

This holistic approach to self-improvement has transformed my life, allowing me to be the best version of myself for my loved ones.

As a result of this,  my colleagues have labelled me the ‘lifestyle surgeon’.

Healthy living and spine health article

What does this have to do with spine health?

You might think that as a surgeon, my preference is to recommend surgery as a solution to most problems. After all there is always a new surgical technique or a new exciting piece of technology at my disposal.

But even with all these tools, I keep coming back to one simple treatment option – losing weight.

Losing weight isn’t easy, but it can do wonders for your health, especially for spine issues. Carrying less weight means less pressure on your bones and joints, which can really help with back problems.

It’s astounding how many chronic spine issues can be mitigated—or even resolved—by losing weight.

This message is one I emphasise in patient consultations, clarifying that my guidance stems from personal experience and is not professional dietary advice.

Sure, I do surgeries when needed, but I’m also all about helping you live a healthier, happier life without needing to go under the knife if we can help it.

So, while I’ve got surgery in my back pocket, I’m a big believer in seeing if we can improve things by managing your weight first.

To draw a parallel with another passion of mine—cars—consider this: a car can be repaired, but if it’s not maintained, it’s bound to break down again. In other words, prevention is indeed the best cure.

Just as a well-maintained vehicle will serve you longer and more reliably, a body that’s cared for through healthy living can avoid the pitfalls of spine issues and the need for surgical intervention.

There are 5 key criteria to achieve this:

The five criteria for healthy living

I will expand on each of these in the future. But for now, here are the headlines.

Dopamine Management: A Surgeon's Challenge

Dopamine; often called the “happy hormone” acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. Regulating this hormone is crucial to keep us happy and healthy and is particularly vital for those of us in high-stress professions. Trust me, this is a big challenge amongst surgeons.

Early in my health improvement journey I discovered Andrew Huberman. He carries a wealth of information and has become a source of personal inspiration.

Huberman’s work offers invaluable guidance here, helping us navigate the complex balance of reward and motivation.

This is a HUGE topic! I plan to expand on this in future blog posts but for now, see my resources section at the end of this article for more information.

Sleep: The Non-Negotiable Foundation

Consistent sleep patterns are essential. Avoid devices and screens late in the evening. Try to go to sleep and wake up at about the same time every day — even on weekends. Your body will struggle to adapt to erratic weekend schedules. Regular sleep timings and adequate duration are the cornerstones of good health.

sleep for healthy living and spine health

The First Light: Harnessing the Power of Sunlight

It has been scientifically proven (1,2,3) that direct natural sunlight is vital first thing in the morning.

Get it as soon as you can, within an hour or so of waking. It’s not just about the light; it’s about the timing and quality: getting it through your office window or you car windscreen doesn’t work.

Early mornings are best, when those damaging UV rays we get here in Australia are at their lowest.

Similarly, complete darkness at night aids in maintaining our natural circadian rhythms.

Exercise: Short Bursts Over Long Marathons

Rather than one lengthy session, shorter, more frequent exercise routines are more beneficial. A daily average of 30 minutes is best rather than say, one 210 minute session. Plus regular activity acts as a natural antidepressant.

I will soon be publishing an article demonstrating my routine, where I show you how I do it.

Nutrition: More Than Just Food Choices

Nutrition is not just about what you eat but how and when you eat. I’m working on a nutrition page that will emphasise starting with protein, moderating carbs, and correctly timing meals.

I will be going into more detail about this very soon!

Consider subscribing to me on Instagram, where I announce updates on new content. For now, there are more resources you can visit just below.

  1. Andrew Huberman – on the complex balance of reward and motivation.
  2. Peter Attia – is a medical doctor with good knowledge of healthy living.
  3. Robert Lustig -is an expert in the bad effects of sugar.
  4. Gary Fettke -is an absolute legend who punches above his weight from his small town in Tasmania.

Coming Soon: How I lost weight and you can too!

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Keat Ooi is a practicing spine surgeon based in Melbourne, Australia. He has a passion for health education and improving the lives of his patients.


**Disclaimer: I am not a qualified dietitian but a surgeon sharing personal experiences in weight loss and healthy living. Always consult a healthcare professional for tailored advice.**

At Keat Ooi Surgery we provide the most advanced individualised care plan that is based on established guidelines, latest research and technological advancement.