Medical guru Norman Cousins, a holistic health pioneer who wrote books on the nature of illness and edited the Saturday Review for 35 years, died Friday of a heart attack, officials said. He was 75.

Cousins suffered cardiac arrest at a hotel in Westwood and was transported to the University of California, Los Angeles, Medical Center, where he died, the hospital said in a statement.Never formally trained in medicine, Cousins was widely acclaimed after the publication in 1979 of "Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient." The bestseller detailed his recovery from a life-threatening form of arthritis through his self-prescribed regimen of positive thinking and vitamin C.

"If you had to put one word to him as an epitaph, it would have to be, `Norman Cousins, humanitarian,"' said a UCLA colleague, Dr. L.J. West. "All people were important to him."

Cousins explored the link between the body and the mind in combating illness and formed the basis for today's holistic health movement.

"I think people have been miseducated about health," he said in an interview last year. "We've been educated to be timid and fearful. We don't understand how beautifully robust the human body is. . . . The fact is that 85 percent of all illnesses are self-limiting; the body will right itself if given half the chance."

Cousins also undertook numerous diplomatic missions on behalf of Pope John XXIII and Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. His groundbreaking negotiations with Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev eventually led to a limited nuclear test ban treaty approved during Kennedy's administration.

Most recently, Cousins taught at UCLA's School of Medicine, where he was an adjunct professor in the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences.

Cousins was awarded the 1990 Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism for his efforts on behalf of international peace and the relief of human suffering around the world.