David Agus has written a new book designed to help readers plan their own health care. (USC Photo/Philip Channing)

If you love to wear high heels or swear by vitamins and supplements, a new book by a Keck School of Medicine of USC faculty physician and researcher suggests that you take another look at your choices.

A Short Guide to a Long Life (Simon & Schuster, 2014) by David Agus expands on his 2012 book The End of Illness, which shared what the author had learned over two decades in medicine and research about maintaining good health.

After readers of the first book asked for a simpler way to assimilate this knowledge, Agus distilled it into 65 short, simple “rules” designed to help readers plan and advocate for their own health care. But Agus also hopes the book will have a broader effect on health.

“It boggles my mind to think the conversation remains stuck on figuring out how to pay for health care rather than diminishing our need for it,” writes Agus, professor of medicine at the Keck School, professor of engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and director of the USC Norris Westside Cancer Center and USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine. “Each one of us can make a difference if we each are part of reducing the overall demand for health care. … When we start living strong, robust lives, we’ll lessen our need for health care, causing the demand to decrease and costs to go down.”

The 208-page book groups the 65 rules into two chapters titled “What to Do” and “What to Avoid,” followed by a chapter titled “Doctor’s Orders,” which offers advice on how to care for your health in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond.

“There is no question of David Agus’ commitment to health and fighting cancer,” said Keck School Dean Carmen A. Puliafito. “As an oncologist, scientist and teacher, he has demonstrated a willingness to look beyond conventional wisdom to help his patients and others find health answers that work for them. It’s an honor to have him among our distinguished faculty.”

Puliafito will discuss the book with Agus, as well as the researcher’s insights into how people can live healthier lives, in the next session of the Dean’s Distinguished Lecturer Series, on Jan. 15 in Mayer Auditorium on the Health Sciences Campus. The series is not open to the public.

“David Agus is among the few individuals who understand deeply the connection between medicine, engineering and technology. It is wonderful to see his deep insights so well articulated and supported,” said USC Viterbie Dean Yannis C. Yortsos.

Advice in A Short Guide to a Long Life includes avoiding vitamins and supplements because of the potential to interfere with the body’s natural mechanism to attack dangerous cells; storing medical data online or on a USB key chain for quick access during emergencies; and wearing supportive, comfortable shoes to avoid inflammation caused by high heels or by going barefoot.

The rules include some controversial recommendations, such as taking a daily statin and considering DNA testing. Agus acknowledged the criticism, saying that his endorsements are based on clinical trials.

“I’m excited and proud [of the book],” Agus said. “It’s a step forward in my evolution as a physician and scientist.”

By Leslie Ridgeway