Wellness Series: A Discussion with Dr. Nicola Finley, Integrative Physician at Canyon Ranch Tucson

Healthy habits are key when it comes to heart health, however, I wanted to go a little deeper so I reached out to Dr. Nicola Finley of the integrative wellness team at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, AZ.
And, since February is Heart Health Month, it’s a good time to think more about wellness as I know it’s been on my mind, too.  Managing weight and stress are important, however, there’s more we can do to create a healthier lifestyle and we’ll explore that in this next installment of my wellness series with the experts at Canyon Ranch.
Let’s meet Dr. Nicola Finley.

Dr. Finley is a graduate of George Washington University School of Medicine and Brown University.  She also completed the Fellowship in Integrative Medicine program at the University of Arizona.
Dr. Finley is a specialist in internal medicine and has been with the integrative wellness team at Canyon Ranch since 2013.

DMA:  What inspired you to go into Medicine/Integrative Health?
NL:   I decided to change the focus of how I practice medicine to integrative medicine after realizing the traditional way of practicing wasn’t allowing my patients to achieve optimal wellness.  I used to see at least 20 patients a day in the office in my prior practice.  In the past, I felt rushed seeing patients and I didn’t have the time to fully understand all the factors influencing their health.  Now, at Canyon Ranch, I have the time to hear the patients’ stories.  I now can understand how their health is impacting their lives and how their lives impact their health.  I also enjoy focusing in on prevention through lifestyle approaches and stress management.  As a physician, I feel that I’m making a more significant impact by taking a holistic approach and by being a partner with my patients to help achieve wellness.
DMA: What do you think is one of the best ways to maintain good health and wellness? Any tips to share?
NL:  One of the best ways to maintain good health is to exercise. The key is to find a form of exercise that the person will enjoy.  Exercising reduces the risk of heart disease in many ways like lowering the blood pressure, increasing blood flow in the arteries and improving cholesterol numbers.  My tip is to move daily.  By making movement a daily habit, it becomes second nature – it’s part of a person’s daily routine.  Every amount and form of exercise count towards moving daily as there’s a cumulative effect.  If someone is not motivated to exercise, then find a friend/family member to exercise with.  Many people will follow through when there’s someone else depending on them.
DMA: If you weren’t working as a physician, what would you be doing?
NL:   If I wasn’t a physician, then I would be a school teacher.  I was inspired to enter the field of medicine so I could make a difference in the health of my patients.  And, teachers make a difference in the lives of their students.  Students are successful when they have teachers that make learning fun and believe in their students.  That’s the type of teacher that I would be.
DMA:  At Canyon Ranch, how do you assist guests with their health?
NL:    At Canyon Ranch, I work with guests with one-on-consultations that are usually 50 minutes long.  I assist with whatever health concern they have – high blood pressure, diabetes, achieving a healthy weight, reviewing lab abnormalities and offering a 2nd opinion.  Some guests have specific symptoms and I offer management suggestions from an integrative medicine viewpoint.  Other guests don’t make doctor’s appointments in their hometown so at Canyon Ranch they will have a physical exam with treadmill stress testing and lab testing.  Other guests, will make an appointment with me as we offer testing that’s not easily found elsewhere.

DMA:  What’s the future of Integrative Health? Do you believe we’re closer to seeing more doctors practice Integrative Health and treat the ‘whole’ person; body, mind and spirit?

NL:  It seems like there’s a trend of more physicians incorporating integrative medicine into their practice of medicine.  More and more patients are requesting integrative medicine physicians.

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DMA: What type of diet/nutrition do you recommend for a healthier heart/overall wellness?
NL:   For a healthy heart, I recommend a Mediterranean diet.  It’s a plant based diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables.  Also, there’s a high intake of fish and olive oil.  There’s minimal red meat and moderate whole grains.  Another important aspect of a Mediterranean diet is the social component – sharing a meal with others.  Talking over a meal slows us down which allows us to know when we’re full so we’re less likely to overeat. Also, it minimizes social isolation. That’s the idea of the importance of the family meal.

DMA: Do you recommend any ‘go-to’ herbs/supplements when it comes to heart health/wellness?

NL:  I embrace the concept of food as medicine so I don’t have any specific supplements that I recommend for heart health.

DMA:  What is most rewarding to you in your field?

NL:    The most rewarding aspect of my job has been working with guests in the area of female sexuality.  It’s a topic that many physicians and patients don’t discuss often.  I incorporate the topic of sexuality and intimacy as a component of wellness.  This is one part of wellness that many guests want to discuss but don’t have a physician to discuss this with.  It’s been rewarding to me to have a positive impact in this area of wellness.

DMA:  What do you do for fun, relaxation, etc.?

NL:     I love to dance!  Dancing allows me to exercise while having fun.  Both the music and the dancing allow me to relax.  It’s a great way for me to manage stress.  Also, I enjoy the sense of community with the other dancers in the class.  One of the perks of working at Canyon Ranch is being able to exercise there.  So, I’m often in the Zumba and DJ dance classes there.

Tip:  Consider a session with Dr. Nicola Finley on your next visit to Canyon Ranch in Tucson, AZ.

Photo credit: Canyon Ranch

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