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“To optimize your wellness after retirement, keep learning”, with Dr. Rishin Shah and Beau Henderson

Keep learning: The more we can challenge ourselves to learn new things, especially when if feels uncomfortable, the better adept we are at handling new situations and life events, like retirement. Read a book, learn a new instrument, or play a new game. Pick something you will enjoy. I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. […]

Keep learning: The more we can challenge ourselves to learn new things, especially when if feels uncomfortable, the better adept we are at handling new situations and life events, like retirement. Read a book, learn a new instrument, or play a new game. Pick something you will enjoy.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Rishin Shah, MD. Dr. Shah is a renowned cardiac and vascular specialist. He has earned three board certifications in cardiovascular medicine, internal medicine, and interventional cardiology and has over 10 years of experience treating cardiovascular conditions. He is the founder of Prime Heart & Vascular, with three practice locations serving the larger Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas communities.


Thank you for joining us! Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Asa first-generation immigrant to the United States, my parents constantly stressed the need for me to excel in education and to be kind to others. My parents moved to the US to give us educational opportunity but there were able to do so with the help of so many family, friends, and kind strangers.

I remember clearly the family doctor who take care of me when I was young. I was one of the few kids who actually liked Dr appointments; I loved that he would talk to me like I was an adult, like I really mattered, and he was very interested in the things I was doing. I think that’s when my love for medicine started. My family doctor perfectly embodied both education and kindness.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I took care of a professional athlete in the hospital after he had a cardiac arrest. He needed a heart transplant to live so he was in the hospital for over a year awaiting a transplant, much of that time spent in critical care. Imagine how hard that must have been for someone who use to be being so active, but he was always really friendly and positive despite the circumstances. Eventually he got his transplant and now he is thriving; living a normal life just like anyone else. I love that story because it shows us how powerful modern medicine is and that despite our circumstances, it’s important to stay positive and not lose hope.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

When I started my medical practice, I knew it was going to involve a lot of paperwork, but I had no idea the complexity of it. Medicare’s application for doctor’s is the most complex paperwork I have ever filled out. First of all, the electronic version which is supposed to make the paperwork “easier” was so complicated I couldn’t figure it out! So, I resorted to the paper version. When I did the paper version I went back and forth with Medicare for months making sure I had crossed my T’s and dotted my I’s. After I had enough of it I had to have my wife help me out too.

Eventually it got completed but it’s funny to me now that someone like myself — an interventional cardiologist — couldn’t figure out Medicare’s paperwork. Funny (or sadly enough) many other doctors have shared the same Medicare complaints to me. I learned that working with the government takes a ton of patience, but it’s worth it in the long run.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Burnout is a real problem in medicine these days given the reduction of autonomy, recognition, increase amount of administrative work, decreasing reimbursements. Historically physicians have not been interested in getting involved in the business aspects of medicine and administration, however this is becoming more and more important. I also think it is useful to think back to when we were med students and interns. Think about the reasons you came to medicine in the first place.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

1. Autonomy: people thrive on trusting them to have autonomy to make decisions and do what is best for the company.

2. Recognition: recognize people when they are doing a great job.

3. Growth: offer the opportunity to have career growth; know the long term goals of your employees and help them achieve those goals.

Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In some cases, retirement can reduce health, and in others it can improve health. From your point of view or experience, what are a few of the reasons that retirement can reduce one’s health?

Retirement can reduce one’s health for a number of reasons — In fact it is often times listed as one of the top ten most stressful events in life. One key factor is having to create a new social network. Our social circle is a huge factor in our physical and mental health and if this is reduced from not having co-workers or work friends, it can be depressing. It can also reduce your health if you have trouble re-distributing your energy to other interests.

If you really enjoyed your work but didn’t have other interests, it might be difficult to pick up a new interest and hobby. People with other hobbies and passions outside of work find retirement less stressful.

Lastly: unfortunately there is no fountain of youth, so retirement is also associated with having to deal with decreased mobility and various medical problems. This may also cause a financial strain if you haven’t saved for it. There are many ways to mitigate this, but we all have to face the music one day.

Can you share with our readers 5 things that one should do to optimize their physical wellness after retirement?

There are many ways to shape retirement into a positive and rewarding experience. Five things people can do to optimize their physical wellness after retirement are:

1. Eat healthy:

There is no greater impact on any health variable than our diet. If you want to have a clean bill of health when you retire, work on preventing medical issues by eating healthy. Exercise plays a big role in our health, too but eating healthy is much more important. For example, cut down on processed foods, cook more, and eat more plants. Stay away from fast food as much as possible.

2. Be active:

The guidelines for exercise levels in the United States are pretty simple: 30 mins every day for 5–7 days per week. This can even just be walking. Yet the majority of Americans don’t even get that. The key is to not overcomplicate exercise — you don’t need fancy shoes, a gym membership, or even special equipment. Just park farther away, take the stairs when you can, or take a walk when you are on the phone. Start somewhere and build from there.

3. Keep an active social network:

Numerous studies have linked loneliness to various physical and mental conditions such as hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, and obesity. Try to have a varied social network if your main network is work; it will be harder to shift your social circle after retirement. Try going to a MeetUp, community or church event, or even start virtually using Facebook. Don’t be afraid to make yourself vulnerable, we all want good friendships.

4. Have a good sleep routine:

Our fast-paced society often devalues sleep. Even worse, we often devalue it by watching TV or doing other activities instead. Getting a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night is essential for our physical and brain health. Studies show only about 1% of the population functions well on less than 7 hours of sleep. If you want to be able to be fully productive in a day, try not to skimp on dreaming.

5. Keep learning:

The more we can challenge ourselves to learn new things, especially when if feels uncomfortable, the better adept we are at handling new situations and life events, like retirement. Read a book, learn a new instrument, or play a new game. Pick something you will enjoy.

As a cardiologist, what insight can you share to help increase cardiovascular health, reduce the instance of heart attacks and related issues?

The most important factors in improving our cardiovascular health are staying at a normal weight and eating healthy. The vast majority of Americans today have obesity and this has a direct link with heart attacks and strokes. It’s shocking how many Americans don’t realize what a normal weight is for their size, so this is one of the first things I go over with patients. It can sometimes be a difficult conversation, but it can be a lifesaving intervention to talk about this. As Doctors, we often prescribe medications, but it’s important to emphasize to patients that taking a medication is the least important thing to do — — the most important aspect to take care of your health is eating healthy and staying at normal weight.

In your experience, what are 3 or 4 things that people wish someone told them before they retired, as it pertains to overall health, wellbeing and cardiovascular health.

1. Prepare for unexpected costs:

Medical reasons are the number one reason for bankruptcy in the United States so having ample saved up not just for day to day expenses, but for healthcare costs is crucial. Long term care isn’t covered by Medicare. Strive to save during retirement as well.

2. Focus on your family and friends:

No one on their death bed ever wished they worked more. They wish for more time with family and friends.

3. Live for experiences not things

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Recently I read “The Obstacle is the Way.” Trials and tribulations will be in your path during your career and life, but from each obstacle or “bad” thing that has happened in our life, we can look from a different perspective and choose to learn something from it. We need to embrace these obstacles as it is one of the best ways toward personal development.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Let Food Be Thy Medicine: teaching and educating people about the food we eat.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Perspective is reality. This goes back to embracing obstacles; try to look for the positive in each situation. There is always something to learn, improve and more!

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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