Recommended Reading Part 1 of 4: Our Bodies

Continuous learning is a key factor in keeping your health. We suggest fascinating books for your reading list. Here are a few tidbits:

  • Our bodies are continuously built and reshaped by the bacteria inside us.
  • Eating one cup of beans or lentils each day is one of the habits of the people that live the longest.
  • Diet is the #1 contributor to global disease burden, even beyond smoking.
  • There are times it is better not to have doctors try to fix you. 

Each book will change the way you think about the world and yourself. The authors write with wit and lively style. Despite what you may think from the titles, these are fast-paced and hard to put down once you start. Please dedicate regular reading time on your calendar, perhaps by skipping TV for a day each week. It is worth it. 

 

I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yang

Did you know that the bacteria in your microbiome control aspects of your behavior? Hopefully your bacteria encourage you to read this New York Times bestselling book!. Protecting most of them is in your best interest. Even if your bacteria don’t make you get this book, your brain should instead. Discovering the next frontier in medicine is remarkably enjoyable to read. 

The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner

Dan Buettner researched the five places in the world where people live the longest to find commonalities in their lifestyles. The good news is their nine similar habits are easy to adopt. If you don’t have time for the full book, you can read this great summary or listen to his Fountain of Youth Podcast TED talk. 

How Not to Die by Michael Gregor M.D. and Gene Stone

Reward yourself by finding ~30 minutes a day to read each fascinating chapter of this well-researched and well-written book examining the key causes of death and degradation. Fortunately, relatively minor adjustments to your eating habits can improve your lifespan and healthspan. Plus, in each chapter, you’ll discover many surprising facts which bust myths like, “Bananas are healthy because they contain lots of potassium!”

Although we highly recommend How Not to Die, there are a few inaccuracies, perhaps because of the author’s passion for veganism. They are noted in Healthline’s thoughtful and interesting book review.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

If you have elderly parents, close friends and relatives, this is a must-read. If you are elderly, this is also a must-read! If you dislike the word elderly, this is a must read!  Side Note: Did you know that in many Spanish speaking countries, the elderly are referred to as “de tercera edad”, meaning “of the third age”. Let’s hope that by keeping our health, we all make it past middle-aged to that magical third age with a healthy body to enjoy those extra years.  

We are all dying and will die. It is much easier not to think or talk about it. However, there is an unpleasant downside to that. Despite good intentions, families, doctors and modern medicine struggle to do well for many people at the end of their lives. Dr. Gawande’s thoughtful perspective as a medical practitioner and personal experience with his father’s final years provides helpful insights for when those we love have lost their health. After reading Being Mortal, you’ll be much better prepared to help them with their desired peaceful ending and more willing to share your final wishes as well.

Of note, it would be surprising not to cry while reading Being Mortal. It is an emotional topic. Fortunately, catharsis is good for your health.

Recommended Reading Part 2 of 4: The Past, Present and Future of Human Health

Social interaction is a key factor in keeping your health. Here are suggestions of fascinating books covering the past, present and future of humanity for your summer reading. They provide interesting discussion topics with your friends and families, starting with the latest research on how human genes evolved, surprisingly positive current trends and where our future is leading. Here are a few tidbits:

  • Genetics has shown that people are different and these differences cluster according to geography and culture but never in a way that aligns with the traditional concepts of human races.
  • There has never been a better time to be a human being.
  • For the first time in history, more people die today from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists, and criminals combined.
  • By 2030, it is predicted that 17% of jobs will be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) while AI will create 7% new jobs. The net loss of 10% of the jobs will significantly impact society. How should you prepare?

 

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived:The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes by Adam Rutherford

Because of recent discoveries, the scientific understanding of how DNA impacts our bodies, minds and lives has changed considerably. Adam Rutherford elegantly traces the evolution of humanity from the story of what modern genetics tell us about ourselves and our genetic relationship to others. The concept of race does not exist within genetics. If you are considering getting your DNA analyzed, read this book first! It gives you the background to understand the history of your body.

Enlightenment Now by Stephen Pinker

We receive negative news stories every day. They create psychological biases and leave us with the impression that the world is getting worse. Fortunately, the data trends show that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. Reading Stephen Pinker’s positive and eloquent book will increase your own happiness and health too. 

Homo Deus, A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

Described as shocking and entertaining, Homo Deus explores whether humanity will evolve beyond Homo Sapiens and what that future might look like. This book is highly thought-provoking, certainly controversial and forever memorable. By keeping our health, we can see how much of Harari’s vision becomes true.

Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark

The sophistication of AI technology and the rise of greater on-demand computing power continues to conquer areas that were not thought to be programmable. In July 2019, Pluribus AI defeated top Texas Hold’Em Poker players in a multiplayer game of bluffing and limited information.Google’s DeepMind division has been applying artificial intelligence to problems like computer vision and climate change, but there’s still some room for games. DeepMind first dominated the game of Go, then took on seven Atari games including Space Invaders and has moved on to real time multiplayer online strategy game StarCraft II, beating some of the world’s top players in heads-up play. 

Beyond gaming, our future depends on how we adapt to work with and not against benevolent future AI technology. MIT professor Max Tegmark’s book on Life 3.0 is a great place to start your thought-process on your future with AI. Although a few chapters are more suited for a technical audience, it is fine to skim them or have an AI explain them further to you.

Recommended Reading Part 3 of 4: Increasing Healthspan and Lifespan

Reaching middle-age and thinking you’d like to be healthier and live longer? Here are a few tidbits from four fascinating books:

  • Aging is a treatable disease.
  • Caregivers are much more likely to have shorter telomere length, thus are aging faster.
  • One of the oldest medical texts is an Egyptian papyrus from circa 2500 BC. It is a “Recipe for Transforming an Old Man into a Youth.” Unfortunately, the recipe turns out to be a face cream made from fruit and mud, probably not all that different from the pomegranate-and-melon-and milk-infused anti-aging creams Americans spend an estimated eleventy-billion dollars on each year.
  • A few days before his 39th birthday, Meb Keflezighi won the Boston Marathon. 

 

Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To by David Sinclair and Matthew LaPlante (2019)

Sinclair writes, “Once people begin to accept that aging is not an inevitable part of life, will they take better care of themselves?” He believes so, especially once people see aging as a treatable disease.

Sinclair’s storytelling and scientific explanations are riveting, especially his discussion on sirtuins which address DNA stability, DNA repair, cell survivability, metabolism and cell-to-cell communication. When sirtuins are engaged on DNA repair, the rest of their epigenetic functioning is temporarily disabled. During this time, their cells age. Scientists have tested doubling the amount of sirtuins. The results allowed cells to repair DNA and not age.

Sirtuins can be boosted through dietary supplements such as Nicotinamide Riboside (NR). Recent clinical trial results have affirmed that NR is safe. If you are going to read one book this holiday season or give a book as a gift to your friends and family, this should be it. With a longer healthier life, you want your friends and family to be there with you, too.

The Telomere Effect, a Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel (2017)

Telomeres protect the end of your chromosome from deterioration or from fusion with neighboring chromosomes. When your telomeres become too short, your cells either die or become senescent, causing inflammation in your body. This becomes a vicious cycle as innocent bystander cells are damaged, then move to senescence and expand the inflammation. Immunosenescence occurs with aging and is likely your cause of death if you avoid heart attacks, cancer and strokes.

The Telomere Effect covers Blackburn’s extensive research into which lifestyle behaviors cause telomeres to shorten. There are some surprising conclusions. Fortunately, living a healthy lifestyle can repair and lengthen your telomeres. For those who are curious about their telomere length, it can be tested as part of Setting Your Health Baseline by a company called LifeLength.  

Spring Chicken, Stay Young Forever (or Die Trying) by Bill Gifford (2016)

“When I went in for my physical exam, somewhere around forty-three, I learned that I mysteriously gained fifteen pounds and my cholesterol levels now approximated those of chocolate milk. For the first time ever, I had the beginnings of a beer belly, which shouldn’t have been surprising since I love beer, but it bummed me out nonetheless. All of this my doctor chalked up to ‘normal aging.’ She smiled as she said it, as if it were nothing to worry about and no reason to take action.”

Bill Gifford chose otherwise, and his unique and funny personal experience pursuing anti-aging is delightful. If you are a fan of Bill Bryson books, this is comparable. If you resemble Bill at age forty-three, this is a must read.

Play On, The New Science of Elite Performance at Any Age by Jeff Bercovici (2018)

Are you an athlete who wants to compete well beyond your peak athletic prime years? Are you curious how elite athletes like Tom Brady, Serena Williams, Carli Lloyd, and LeBron James continue to excel beyond the expected age for the decline of professional athletes? 

Similar to Bill Gifford, Jeff Bercovici undertook a journey to find out what science and strategies were extending the careers of aging elite athletes. He puts himself through their training with some hilarious results.

Although Bercovici is not able to uncover their full set of secrets, there is enough to make this worthwhile reading.

What Makes Olga Run: The Mystery of the 90-Something Year Old Track Star, and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives  by Bruce Grierson (2015)

Olga Kotelko set 34 age-group world records in track and field events. Grierson and Kotelko explore the physical and emotional factors which allow for athletic success and happiness later in life. Olga’s personal story is uplifting. She’s charming and inspirational. Her nine rules for a long productive life make sense.

Recommended Reading Part 4 of 4: Coming Soon

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