Dr. Robin Miller and Dave Kahn believe dance is essential for health and well-being. [Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta]

Dancing your cares away

We all struggle with happiness is Dr. Robin Miller’s diagnosis.

Health and happiness are partners in the dance of life. If we are unhealthy, we are likely unhappy; unhappy, we are likely unhealthy. Health and happiness are linked absolutely, Miller says.

One remedy: ballroom dancing.

In her latest book, “Healed: Health and Wellness for the 21st Century,” co-authored with Dave Kahn, Miller prescribes what she calls “wisdom, secrets and fun straight from the leading edge” — also the book’s subtitle.

“Healed,” set for a Valentine’s Day release, is divided into four interconnected parts. The first three reveal essentials for a healthy heart, gut and brain.

The fourth and last part presents “hard evidence” of how dancing, specifically ballroom dancing, will keep your brain and body young, improve your social life and love life, and “make you a happier person.”

In this section, the authors present startling research about how ballroom dancing has kept debilitating effects of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s at bay, lowered the risk of dementia and even assisted in the physical rehabilitation of patients suffering from traumatic brain injury.

They write about the growing body of scientific evidence of the emotional and physical benefits of dance.

Miller says that whenever she asks patients what their greatest fear is regarding their health, the answer is fairly unanimous.

“They are most afraid of losing their minds,” she says. “If you gave people a choice between getting cancer or Alzheimer’s, the majority would pick cancer.”

“Dancing, partner dancing in particular,” is a great way to exercise the brain, Kahn says.

The social engagement and interaction as well as the exercise “keep essential parts of the brain highly functional,” he adds.

Miller is the author of “Kids Ask the Doctor” and co-author of “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife and Beyond: A No-Nonsense Approach to Staying Healthy after 50.” She has practiced internal medicine for more than 30 years and is the medical director of Triune Integrative Medicine in Medford. She frequently dispenses medical advice in television and radio spots as well as newspaper columns.

Kahn is a certified personal trainer and the director of Southern Oregon Swing.

Miller, who admits she’s a klutz, literally stumbled on the benefits of ballroom dancing five years ago when she was asked to compete in the “Dancing with the Rogue Valley Stars” fundraiser for Sparrow Clubs.

“I had such a great time and realized how wonderful ballroom dancing could be; after the competition I kept on dancing.”

She signed up for Kahn’s West Coast Swing dance classes and is now hooked on tripping the light fantastic.

In addition to losing weight, building muscle tone, improving her posture and gaining more stability on her feet, Miller found that she was more alert, had more stamina and was mentally sharper.

“Probably the most surprising thing is although I have always considered myself to be a pretty happy person, since I have been dancing I found an even greater level of happiness,” she says.

Miller now dances at least three times a week.

Kahn says that if “if only everyone knew (the benefits of dancing), everybody would do it.”

“Healed” is the result of research Miller and Kahn have done independently in their fields of expertise as well as a team on and off the dance floor. The book cites studies, personal insights and anecdotes gleaned from the lives of patients and clients.

Miller says that “Healed” is the result of years exploring new findings in the fields of genetics and microbiology. Ironically, in her search to find new, innovative ways to treat patients, she also discovered age-old remedies, such as medicinal mushrooms and fish oil, and “fun foods you didn’t know were healthy,” such as coffee and chocolate.

Each chapter begins with a story, which is followed by a section titled “Experts and Evidence” on how best to attack a wide range of medical conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and depression without using pharmaceuticals or, when necessary, limiting such treatments and therapies to small doses.

There are tips for improving one’s sex life, mental acuity and chances of longevity.

Kahn devotes an entire chapter to the “UnDiet” — “which is simply smart eating and moving more,” he says.

“We spend about $20 billion on more than 150 diet options,” he says. “All the choices and all the money doesn’t change the fact that fighting fat through dieting simply does not work.”

He adds that studies have proven that “going on a diet is a guarantee or predictor of future weight gain.”

And, working out at a gym is “just taking our medicine.”

He believes that dancing is the sugar that helps the medicine go down.

“It’s a fairly inexpensive way to get your exercise and doesn’t require a lot of expensive gear.”

Both Kahn and Miller are most passionate about dancing as a key to health and happiness.

They advise “dancing like your life depends on it!”

“The bottom line is, we are all looking for happiness, without our health, we are not happy,” says Miller.

“Dancing brings a level of joy that is indescribable.”

— Robin Miller and Dave Kahn will sign copies of “Healed: Health and Wellness for the 21st Century” from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20, at Wellness Compounding Pharmacy, 522 (address corrected) Crater Lake Ave., Medford.

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