Whether it’s due to corporatized medicine, the fact that private medical practices, the backbone of our medical system, are being purchased left and right by hospitals, or the economies of scale in patient care, studies show that far fewer doctors are going into primary care medicine. Whatever the reason, this is a crisis that is making it difficult to get in to “see the doctor.” In Benicia, there is a practice that offers family care, and although quick appointments aren’t automatic, it’s nice to know that Family Health Center still provides the type of care for families over time not typically found in today’s medical arena. The practice was founded in 1984 by Walter Zaks, MD, and Ken Bowers, MD, and many thousands of patients later, now totals five doctors, including a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy). Here are Dr. Bowers’ suggestions for staying healthy in 2012:

What’s the best way to stay well over the winter? Managing any current health issues or disease affectively. And get a flu shot; it isn’t too late. Benicia has also been impacted by whooping cough the past two years. You can get a whooping cough shot but only in combination with a tetanus shot, which you can get if you haven’t had one for at least five years.

Everyone wants a quick fix, but good overall health and longevity is not going to come in a pill. Managing stress is very important, and so is sleep—six to eight hours a night. Reduce stimulus in the evening and don’t drink caffeine. And exercise! But not too late in the day.

Benicia’s largest age demographic is over 40. Is there anything new or interesting in medicine that will help us maintain optimal health and age gracefully? Well, the short answer is boring. It boils down to what mom used to say: eat right, exercise, drink lots of water and no smoking.

There is some research, backed by big-name institutions like UCLA, into the use of anabolic steroids as the ‘fountain of youth’ or anti-aging medication. Steroids can give you more energy and make you look and feel better. But you have to keep taking them. If you stop the affects go away, just like with diet and exercise. The jury is still out—the problem is it has not been studied and long-term effects are unknown. It will be interesting to see how it pans out.

What’s next for you? I won’t be retiring anytime soon. I enjoy going to work each day as much as I did my first day in practice. And it’s so much more rewarding with the history of seeing families over time; I am very blessed.

Fight Off the Flu*

Get a flu shot: flu season begins in October and continues through May.

• Only 40% of Americans get an annual flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older.

• The timing, severity and length of a flu epidemic depends on many factors, including which influenza viruses are spreading and whether they match the viruses in the vaccine.

• The flu vaccine is designed to protect against three main flu strains that will cause the most illness during the flu season.

Wash hands frequently: frequent hand washing has the potential to save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention. Hum the happy birthday song twice while washing hands in running water with soap.

*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov.