Growing Young – A Book Review


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If there were a fountain of youth, would you drink from it?

If you knew the secrets to “Growing Young” as you age, would you share them?

I’ve learned some legitimate secrets to growing young, and today I’m sharing them with you.

Today, the secrets to growing young. We may never find the fountain of youth, but these secrets will improve your life. Click To Tweet

Growing Young

I don’t write too many book reviews, but I just read a book that deserves some recognition.  The book? Growing Young, How Friendship, Optimism, and Kindness Can Help You Live to 100 by Marta Zaraska. (Amazon affiliate link, I’ll get a small commission if you buy at no cost to you)

What makes it so special?  I read a lot of books (13 in the first 8 months of 2020), and this one stands out. Marta is a science journalist, and Growing Young is a fascinating look at what happens inside the human body.   More importantly, it represents a shift in Marta’s writing.  She’s realized what really matters.

She’s discovered some secrets of youth.

In her earlier work, Marta was focused on nutrition.  In her research “through hundreds of research papers a year and talking with dozens of scientists”, she discovered something important.  In her own words:

“Diet and exercise were not the most important things I should be working on to encourage my family’s longevity.”

Wow, quite a statement from an expert nutritionist.  So, if diet and exercise are not the most important things for longevity, what are?  

Therein lies what makes this book special.


The Fountain of Youth

Growing Young focuses on the things that REALLY make an impact on your longevity. 

What I found interesting was her ability to quantify the impact.  For example, she cites that “exercise can lower mortality risk by 23 to 33 percent”.  Pretty good, right?  But how about this one:

“A strong support network of family and friends lowers mortality risk by about 45 percent”.

Throughout the book, Marta discussing the things we can do which will make real improvements in our longevity.  More importantly, she discusses how much of an impact those things can make.  Finally, she discusses the science behind why they have positive impacts.  

The combination of the acts, the impact, and the science lead to a fascinating read for anyone interested in “growing young” as they get older. 


It’s All In Your Mind

The things that really matter for longevity end up being primarily things involving the mind.  

The first section of Growing Young is titled “The Mind-Body Connection and its Longevity Consequences”.  It focuses on how we age and how the mind and body are interconnected to affect health.  It’s a fascinating look at things like telomeres, longevity genes, mitochondria, the amygdala, serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and cellular aging.  Her discussion on what stress does inside your body is, alone, worth the price of the book.

While I often find scientific writing to be boring and beyond my comprehension, the exact opposite was true with Growing Young.  Marta does an excellent job of weaving in personal stories and examples, then discussing the impacts of various mindsets at the molecular level, and it’s ultimate impact on longevity.  I learned a ton while reading this book, and enjoyed the process.

In Marta’s words, “we should embrace solutions that do work…Changing mindsets, not our medicine cabinets”.  Above all, she says, “taking care of our minds and social lives”. 

Fascinating stuff, this.

The second part of the book is titled “How Your Relationships and Your Mind can Prolong Your Life”.  It focuses on social interactions that affect our longevity, and how our social realities impact our biology and our health.  I found it to be the most interesting section of the book, and her willingness to challenge paradigms was refreshing (“being a bit overweight can add years to your life”). 

She challenges the reader to beware of supplements and does an excellent job of providing overviews of the most common supplements and “superfoods” (tumeric, for the record, “doesn’t stand up to scrutiny”.  “Organic” hasn’t convinced the scientists)  The mix of science and practical advice is fascinating and valuable. 

Each chapter concludes with “A few suggestions to boost your longevity” based on the lessons taught in the chapter.  They’re practical and applicable tips that provide an elegant summary to the preceding lesson. 


One Sentence Which Best Describes Growing Young

In closing, this quote from the book’s introduction does an excellent job of summarizing what Growing Young is about: 

“My goal in writing this book was to help you fundamentally rethink how you approach your health – whether you might be putting too much effort into strategies that don’t work well (supplements, fitness trackers, etc.) and not enough into those that truly matter (you love life, your friendships, your life’s meaning).”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  If you’re interested, you can order the book below (Amazon affiliate link): 

Growing Young has a 4.9 (of 5.0) ranking on Amazon, with 21 of 22 readers rating it a 5.0.  It seems that I’m not alone in finding this book of value.


Conclusion

If you’re interested in longevity, Growing Young will be an interesting read.  Most importantly, the author realized through her research what makes the greatest impact as we grow older, and it changed her mind. It’s refreshing to see someone who’s brave enough to challenge their beliefs and admit when they were wrong, especially when that someone is a renowned nutritionalist.

Of course nutrition and exercise matter, but if you want to know what makes an even bigger impact on your longevity, this book is for you. 

13 comments

  1. Perhaps this explains why we see people who are *not* good with diet and exercise seem to live long lives….

    Thank you for doing the review.

  2. Good morning Fritz. An interesting book review from a guy focused on personal finance and achieving a fantastic retirement life. I have already ordered the book and look forward to reading it. Thanks for the review, an interesting post from you as always. I never know quite what to expect from you every time I read your column. It’s sorta like every morning in my retirement life, I never really know what to expect, and it’s fantastic! Thank you.

  3. Thanks for the review Fritz; looks like a keeper. I’ll look into adding this to my next Amazon order.
    Can’t help relate this & other related studies to the negative impact national lockdown policies have on one’s overall health. Too bad governors don’t heed this advice.

    1. Larry, no doubt there have been many negative health consequences from the lockdowns, difficult to get a “net impact” perspective. Tough balance, I wouldn’t want to have responsibility for it. All we can do is what we can do, keep your focus on the things that make a difference for you.

    2. I’m sure governors are looking at all sides of this pandemic challenge. Some claimed false “victory” too soon, only to backslide weeks later that led to a ton of lost lives. We’ve seen some decline with my 92 yo mother who lives in an “independent living” complex. Due to the persistent level of risk in her area she’s been unable to have visitors until last week — and that’s 1 designated person. I fear that until we are in a much better place with transmission, my mom and millions of others are simply being warehoused. It’s an awful dilemma with many risks no matter the choice.

      Anyway, I’m sure that’s not what Fritz wants us focused on. I’m in my 50s and starting to notice/consume more information about aging. Lately I’ve been working on “mobility” via program with a PT (due to some minor but nagging issues) in addition to some daily reasonable cardio. I will put this book on my amazon or library list to supplement some of my thinking. My parents set a good example of being social and involved in their communities in their retirement. They both could have used more of “keep moving your body” habits, but my mom is 92 and still living on her own, so she must have done something right. 🙂

  4. As I think how long I will live, my focus is not the amount of time I have left but rather the amount of energy and passion I put into the time I have. As I enter my retirement, I want to make sure I apply myself to continue to invest in the people I hold dear and grow as an individual. With the goal being adding to people’s happiness. Always remembering “Mean People Suck” As I grow older, I can only hope during the time I have that I never become mean. I like the idea of living a long life, but really like the idea of living a meaningful one more.

  5. Thanks for the review and recommendation. I’ll ask my library to order it for the collection as I stopped buying books years ago.
    The human body is an amazing device that compensates for all of the variables that it encounters. We ourselves challenge it with poor food choices, sub par nutrients, poor environment, chemical exposure, stress and of course our own thoughts, self talk and toxic relationships.
    Life is a package deal consisting of choices and decisions. Survival and longevity is the result of making good choices, whether it’s food, fitness or relationships. Competitive swimming taught me that a positive focus on thoughts/self talk and visualization are just as powerful as functional fitness training and nutrition.
    We tend to lose this over time as we get diluted with everyday life. Books like these remind us to get back to basics.

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