Recommended Reading: Our Bodies

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

  • Altogether it takes 7 octillion atoms to make you. No one can say why those 7 billion billion billion atoms have such an urgent desire to be you.
  • Our bodies are continuously built and reshaped by the bacteria inside us.
  • Eating one cup of beans or lentils each day is one habit of people who live longest.
  • Poor 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. 

The Body, A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson’s thoughtful questions, clever wit and extraordinary depth of research make The Body, a must read. Here are a few, forever memorable discoveries:

  • If you formed all of the DNA in your body into a single strand, it would stretch ten billion miles, to beyond Pluto.
  • When did we essentially become hairless and why did we retain conspicuous hair in the few places we did? How does armpit hair enrich human existence?
  • In the last 10,000-12,000 years, the human brain has shrunk by the size of a tennis ball. No one can prove we haven’t simply grown dimmer.
  • Yet, the human brain can store 2 hundred exabytes of information, enough for the entire digital content of today’s world!
  • Your brain requires about 400 calories per day. This doesn’t change no matter how much hard thinking you are doing.
  • There are slightly more than 8,000 things which can kill us–and we escape every one of them, but one. For most of us, that’s not a bad deal.

There are plenty more fascinating insights. Buy the paperback or digital edition. The hard cover is a bit heavy to hold and read.

I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong

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. So read it with a grain of salt, but not too much salt so you avoid death from high blood pressure, heart disease or stroke!

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.

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