the longevity book; a review

The Longevity Book, By Cameron Diaz and Sandra Banks. Blog photo taken by K.M.F.Toye 2016.

The Longevity Book, By Cameron Diaz and Sandra Banks. Blog photo taken by K.M.F.Toye 2016.

Book 22 of 2016

Cameron Diaz isn’t a scientist, nor does she have a PHD. She isn’t an expert on nutrition, aging or the body. But what I respect about her is that she doesn’t pretend to be. My husband chided me for buying her book, The Longevity Book: The Science of Aging, the Biology of Strength, and the Privilege of Time, and I had to admit that I didn’t know how I would enjoy it. I have always liked Cameron Diaz as an actress and a personality, but I agreed with my husband: while she is extremely fit and beautiful: what expert advice could she possible have… and enough to fill a book, for that matter? I was intrigued, so I took the plunge.

I wasn’t disappointed. As aforementioned, Cameron doesn’t pretend to be a doctor; instead she and her co-writer Sandra Banks investigate the science of aging. They tour around the United States and interview doctors, scientists and experts in their fields. Diaz and Banks are simply the messengers; messengers on a topic that is widely talked about, but not a subject that many people truly know that much about: aging.

As a 32-year-old woman, the science of aging has become more and more fascinating to me. I want to age healthily, gracefully and well. I want to know what’s happening inside my body, and the toll it takes on the outside. I want to know the various changes that happen in my system as I age, and I want to know what I can do to prevent myself from deteriorating at a rapid race. Of course there are so many circumstances that are out of our control, but there definitely are things that we can control.

My interest in aging started when I lived in Korea in 2007 and 2008: the skin care and anti-aging options in South Korea are endless. As a 24-year-old, I hadn’t given much thought to the variety of serums I could apply to my face, and I definitely didn’t think there was a 5-7 step process I could be engaging in until I took a close look at the aesthetics culture in my new city. I also watched every morning as eighty-something-year-old Koreans would go on regular hikes, with their matching canes and backpacks. I looked on in awe as older Korean women walked up several flights of stairs with platters of food on their heads, hunched over, but never complaining, as they delivered meals to our staff room. I began to examine the way younger Koreans took care of their skin, and the way older Koreans never seemed to stop physical labor. It was all so inspiring and interesting to see.

Today, I am meticulous with my skin care regime and am always researching new products. I know the importance of healthy eating, vitamins, and working out. But there is so much more I don’t know. Reading this book helped put some things in perspective for me, and also armed me with more knowledge on the science of aging. Like Diaz, and anyone else who has read this book, I am nowhere near being an expert, but I can confidently say that I feel better about aging because I am educating and preparing myself. We shouldn’t be afraid of aging; we should embrace it. Aging is a part of life.

Since I purchased this book as an audiobook, I wasn’t able to take the notes I usually do, as I was driving while listening most of the time. But I did manage to jot down some interesting pints from the book that I would like to share.

I am very nervous of Alzheimer’s Disease. It is one of the scariest diseases that affect nearly forty-four million people worldwide. I can’t imagine waking up and not knowing who I am, who my loved ones are, and where I live. I can’t imagine my judgement, memory, concentration— and over all brain function — deteriorating, This book discusses the terrifying disease, and Dementia as a whole, and what happens in your brain when the diseases takes over. Diaz also writes about our ‘immunity memory bank’ and how when we go to sleep at night, it’s our brain’s chance to catch up, and our memories are being stored. The chapter on memory and the later chapter on neuroscience are two of my favorites, probably because the inner working of the mind interests me so much.

I also had no idea that I would find microbes so fascinating, either. A lengthy chapter exploring the importance of microbes, as well as prebiotics and probiotics was another one of my favorites, as I am so interested in how to eat well for my head vs. my body. Fermented foods like kimchi (See? Kimchi is another thing the Koreans got right in regards to anti-aging!), yogurt, kombucha and sauerkraut are all the best foods for your microbes/gut. And can you guess what the best diet is for aging well? It’s the Mediterranean diet, which is lots of fish, meat and healthy fruits and vegetables, farm-to-table style. Even a glass of wine every night with dinner is promoted. I was happy to hear that I wasn’t being made to feel bad about not being vegan: instead, meat is key for aging well!

I have learned a lot from this book, and I am so glad I decided to buy it. I learned so much from the case studies, interviews and research that Diaz and Banks referenced, and feel like I am more in tune with what is going on in my body. As a new mom, I am trying to get back a stricter workout routine, and will be really focused on my diet moving forward, as it has taken a back seat since my son was born. I recommend this book as an audio book for those who have trouble sticking with reading books that aren’t page-turning novels, as it was easy-listening and made my drives go by quite quickly. I found myself constantly saying ‘Huh, that’s so interesting,’ during my listen. Drop me a line if you had the same experience, or if you felt differently!

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