If you came to our Age-Well Conversation last week (and the recording is here if you missed it) you’ll know that I sit at my desk surrounded by books on ageing: every book that was mentioned during the webinar was within reach! Books – both reading them and writing them – have always been central to our Age-Well Project, so I thought I’d share a few favourites with you here. They’re not necessarily new, but they form the backbone of my ‘longevity library’ and are worth seeking out if you want to go deeper with your own research. Knowledge is power: the more we know about what happens in our bodies as we age, the more likely we are to stay on track with the healthy habits which will help us age well.
Younger You by Dr Kara Fitzgerald
Dr Fitzgerald’s area of expertise is genetics, and how our genes express themselves – ie how they behave – as we age. She looks at the epigenome, the instruction manual for our genes, which becomes less efficient. It’s susceptible to changes in our lifestyle: the healthier the inputs, the better it performs.Technological advances mean that we can measure the ‘age’ of this epigenome, thus assessing the age of our ‘biological’ clock, as opposed to our chronological one.
Dr Fitzgerald and her team have scientifically tested a diet and lifestyle protocol which can reverse a person’s biological clock by over three years in two months. Quite a big claim. And by reducing our bio age, we also reduce our risk for, or symptoms of, the common chronic diseases of ageing – diabetes, cancer, heart disease, dementia. Dr Fitzgerald argues that modern medicine is too fixated on curing one specific issue rather than tackling our overall health. It’s a powerful argument. When the research behind the book was first published I wrote a detailed breakdown of the protocol here.
The End of Alzheimer’s Programme by Dr Dale Bredesen.
This is a great book if your focus is on reducing dementia risk – as mine certainly is. My passion for healthy ageing started when my mum was diagnosed with dementia and I became her carer. I also know I carry a gene, called ApoE4, which increases my risk. So I’m very interested in the work of Dr Bredesen – so much so that I’m about to complete training as a health coach on his programme, so I’ll be able to coach people to reduce their dementia risk, which I’m really excited about.
The protocol described in the book is not dissimilar to that in Younger You: a low-carbohydrate diet, healthy fats, small amounts of quality protein, an overnight fast of at least 12 hours and a lot of vegetables. Both books also advocate good sleep, stress reduction and plenty of exercise. The End of Alzheimer’s Programme also emphasises gut health, unexpected topics like avoiding mould toxicity, and the importance of good dental health. Like us, Dr Bredesen is a keen advocate of brain stimulation, encouraging readers to never stop learning. He says, ‘resist looking at getting older as a time of retirement or mental downsizing: instead consider it a time for growth’. Wise words.
Lifespan by Dr David Sinclair
A deeply science-y read, but probably the most influential book on ageing and longevity published in the last few years. It goes very deep into the science of cellular ageing and argues that ageing is a disease that we can reverse. Dr Sinclair is big on an almost plant-based diet, lots of exercise, hot and cold therapy (eg saunas and cold showers) but the book is really about the science. If you want a deep dive into the epigenome, sirtuins, telomeres and more, this is for you.
The XX Brain by Dr Lisa Mosconi
If you want to understand your brain – and how the female brain works – this book is wonderful. Lots of science and plenty of practical lifestyle tips. Dr Mosconi pushes back against accepted medical science that treats women’s bodies and brains like those of small men! In her introduction she explains, ‘Women’s brain health is one of the most underrepresented and unspoken concerns, one that is constantly glossed over as a result of the male-based medical paradigm. Somehow, in the landscape of things that we’re told a woman should be concerned with, her brain has seldom been one of them’. Well, we should be concerned – very concerned. This book goes a long way to give us the tools to need to understand and care for those brains.
Magnificent Midlife by Rachel Lankester
A very different kind of book, but one that I’ve enjoyed recently. It’s not a science deep-dive but a positive and uplifting reframe of ageing. And that starts with the dedication, ‘To all women who thought menopause and aging somehow lessened them. They don’t. Midlife and beyond is your time to shine.’ The book is a rallying cry, encouraging us to create a new perspective on how we view ourselves as we age. There’s also lots of practical take out about midlife health and mindset without the scientific jargon. Dippable and entertaining, without the overwhelm of many books on the topic.
All of these books are available on Amazon of course, but if you’re thinking about buying one, do consider your local bookshop, who would love your custom!
As we approach the Easter weekend, it’s time to share (as I do each year) the recipes on the blog which seem most appropriate for the season. For me, that means eggs, lamb and, of course, chocolate. Here are some of our favourites: