At the heart of Healthy Aging is Dr. Weil’s belief that although aging is an irreversible process, there are myriad things we can do to keep our minds and bodies in good working order through all phases of life. To that end, he draws on the new science of biogerentology (the biology of aging) as well as on the secrets of healthy longevity– diet, activity, and attitude–that he has gathered firsthand from cultures around the world.
In Part One–“The Science and Philosophy of Healthy Aging”–he explains how the body ages, and he explores the impact of gender, genes, environment, and lifestyle on an individual’s experience and perception of the process of aging. He describes the various would-be elixirs of life extension–herbs, hormones, and ant aging “medicines”–separating myth from fact and clearly delineating the difference between the spurious notions of preventing or reversing the process of aging and the real possibilities of inhibiting or delaying the onset of diseases that become more likely as we age. He writes movingly about the ways in which an acceptance of aging can be a significant part of doing it well, and of recognizing and appreciating the great rewards of growing older: depth and richness of experience, complexity of being, serenity, wisdom, and its own kind of power and grace.
In Part Two–“How to Age Gracefully”–Weil details an easy-to-implement Anti-inflammatory Diet that will protect the immune system and aid your body in resisting and adapting to the changes that time brings. And he provides extensive practical advice on exercise; preventive health care; stress management; physical, mental, and emotional flexibility; and spiritual enhancement–all of which can help you achieve and maintain the best health throughout the lifelong process of aging.
Healthy aging–a book for people of all ages–is Andrew Weil’s most important and far-reaching book yet. Dr. Weil has raised dispensing health advice to an art form. Instead of making his audience feel inadequate or guilty about bad habits, he seems to subconsciously convince readers to do better merely by presenting health facts in a non-threatening way. Healthy Aging is his most scientifically technical book yet (you’ll learn all about enzymes like telomerase and cell division and the chemistry behind phytonutrients like indole-3-carbinol, and the connection between cancer and other degenerative diseases like diabetes) yet by far his most fascinating.
His main mission here is to recommend “aging gracefully,” which he considers accepting the process instead of fighting it. As the director of the country’s leading integrative-medicine clinic (combining the best of traditional and alternative worlds), of course he disuses Botox and the slew of $100-a-jar face creams out there. It’s also no surprise that he focuses on proper nutrition, moderate exercise, and meditation and rest among his “12-point program for healthy aging.” (Triathletes and exercise addicts should take special note of the research linking excessive exercise and ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.) He occasionally references his earlier works, including 8 Weeks to Optimum Health. But the most eye-opening sections are those that discuss the spirituality of aging and its emotional aspects. “Aging can bring frailty and suffering, but it can also bring depth and richness of experience, complexity of being, serenity, wisdom, and its own kind of power and grace,” he writes. At 63, Weil is still a bit shy of senior status, but is aging well indeed, with the legacy of his late 93-year-old mother (who’s touchingly eulogized by Weil in this book) to guide him.–Erica Jorgensen