By Marta Zaraska (2020, Appetite by Random House)
Book Review by Joe Casey
Is growing younger an oxymoron? Marta Zaraska, a science journalist whose work has been featured in The Washington Post, Scientific American and The Atlantic, argues no. If your goal is to live to 100, there’s a lot you can do now to tilt the odds in your favor. The Mind-Body connection is a powerful force to leverage in your favor.
Beyond Eating Right & Working Out
We already know how important eating right and getting regular exercise is to longevity. But Zaraska shows how that’s just the beginning. Her review of the science, and her interviews with a number of the principal researchers, shines a spotlight on factors and practices that reduce your mortality risk more than diet and exercise.
Growing Young evaluates two types of interventions that cut the risk of mortality. First, she looks at studies on Food & Exercise and then compares them to the data on Social & Mind Interventions. She has an awesome chart on page 100 that summarizes a ton of studies to highlight findings you may not expect. (In my opinion, the chart alone is well worth the cost of the book). The author focuses on data from meta-analyses in peer-reviewed journals, the “gold standard.” To be clear, this is a matter of “and” not “either-or” – don’t ditch sound diet and exercise practices. You’ll want the power of Food/Exercise and Social/Mind Interventions both working on your behalf. A key point of the book is that many of us may be sorely underinvesting in the Social/Mind Interventions – and she makes a compelling case to begin doing so.
Double Down on The Mind-Body Connection
In an era, where many of us search for the latest quick fix, Zaraska urges people to build the right set of Longevity Habits. She takes on SuperFoods, Supplements, and even Organics, citing research that illuminates the power of marketing over the substance of science. Instead, she unveils the science demonstrating the positive benefits of social connectivity, optimism, life purpose, and volunteering – and the threats posed by loneliness, pessimism, and certain personality traits. And take note: according to Zaraska, the research shows that what boosts longevity the most is a happy committed relationship with a spouse or partner.
It’s Not About You
While the book is based on science, it’s entertaining to read. The author traveled extensively in researching the book and shares some fun stories of her experiences. One of my favorite things about this book is that the author took the time to personally experiment with a number of research findings herself. And at the end of each chapter, she lays out a short list of practical tips to boost longevity.
In the end, perhaps an obsession with eating right and exercising right may be necessary, but not sufficient. We can pay more attention to the mind-body connection, by focusing on and helping others. There’s more power in strengthening key relationships and practicing acts of kindness than any supplement money can buy. Science says.
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Retirement Wisdom is a coaching company that helps people plan for the non-financial aspects of retirement. From time to time we may provide book reviews that cover other aspects of retirement planning. Readers are advised to consult qualified financial and/or medical professionals on those matters.