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A few weeks ago I stumbled across a copy of the book Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever by Bill Gifford. I keep a running list of books related to health and aging, but this one wasn’t on my list and caught my eye. I’m so happy I picked it up. The comprehensive information in the book blew me away. I will summarize a little bit below but I highly recommend picking up a copy.
The author of the book, Bill Gifford, is a journalist who became curious about aging after watching the very different aging trajectories of his great uncle and his grandfather. How could two siblings live such drastically different lives? His great uncle was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and died in his 70’s while his grandfather lived a very active and playful life, still farming into his 90’s when he suddenly passed from an infection.
Bill Gifford decided do a little investigating of his own. Why do we all age so differently? Is there a way to predict how we will age? Do we have any control over how we age?
To answer these questions, he performed a comprehensive review of research in aging. He interviewed the leading experts and even subjected himself to research in the process. The end result was a well-written book packed with evidenced-based practices to age well.
Over the next few weeks, I will write articles that explore the research and practices discussed in the book more in-depth to give you the biggest take-aways. But I will provide a brief summary here as well.
The author covered everything from “anti-aging” medicine, to mobility, to intermittent fasting and cold exposure. Long story short, the medicalized “anti-aging” industry that promotes expensive passive treatments is often predatory (and very expensive). Most of the practices of various miracle medications and injections haven’t been thoroughly vetted by research before being put into practice. In many cases, this led to disastrous results (kind of similar to the recent findings of the adverse effects of steroid knee injections).
So what does give us control over how we age? The author continued his quest to answer this question, which led him to the National Institue of Aging’s Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA). BLSA is the longest-running study of aging in the US beginning in 1958 and continuing to this day. Participants are monitored throughout their life span, undergoing a comprehensive battery of tests every 3 years.
The study has produced much of the information we have on aging today. Researchers were surprised to find such variability in aging. And no single blood marker that was universal among individuals to predict how they would age. They did, however, observe that positive attitudes about aging in middle-aged adults (40’s to 50’s) were strongly correlated with healthy aging. That’s right, research actually found that positive thinking can make a big difference!
The other factor researchers observed that could predict how individuals will age is mobility. Specifically walking speed and balance tests. The more mobile an individual is in their 40’s and 50’s, the better they age. Not just in terms of longevity but also in their quality of life.
Which is great news for you! Attitudes toward aging and mobility have a big impact and are factors that you have control over. It’s never too early or too late to start to improve your aging mindset and take control of your mobility.
Other subjects the book covered include intermittent fasting, cold exposure, and the connection between obesity and aging. Most research indicates that the more we expose ourselves to controlled stress the better we age. And active solutions often give much better results than passive solutions. The author determined the actual “secret” to aging is to use it or lose it.
You can pick up a copy of the book here and walk away with tons of information on aging and fun information to implement in your own life. I’d love to hear your thoughts after you read it!