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BOOK REVIEW: The Age-Well Project – Easy Ways to a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life by Annabel Streets and Susan Saunders

| 5 May 2020 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: The Age-Well Project – Easy Ways to a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life by Annabel Streets and Susan Saunders

Little, Brown Book Group
May 2019
Paperback, $32.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Non-Fiction / Family & Health / Popular Medicine & Health

80% Rocking

The fountain of youth does not exist so what does one do if they want to stay healthy and wise? Enter: The Age-Well Project. This movement is the work of two women who have reviewed scores of material and put it into one handy and digestible tome. Their ethos is simply, “Long may we live”.

This book explains the most significant changes we have made to our everyday lives: there are over 90 short-cuts which research suggests could radically improve our chances of a healthier, happier old age. The results so far? Less stress, better sleep, better behaved guts, defined muscles, more energy, thicker hair, fewer coughs and colds, low blood pressure, consistent weight, and a greater sense of purpose. Will we avoid the diseases of our forebears? We don’t know. But we’re doing our damnedest. And we feel better than ever.

The idea for this volume originated in a series of blog posts by two fifty-somethings. Susan Saunders is a TV producer and Annabel Streets is a writer. Both women were living busy, modern lives caring for their families and putting themselves on the backburner. They had an epiphany after realising that people they knew were being diagnosed with preventable diseases. They set out to discover the right ingredients for a good life.

As we age, our blood pressure often rises, and frequently for no apparent reason. High blood pressure has no symptoms, we can’t tell whether it’s dangerously high or safely low: recent statistics suggest one in four of us has high blood pressure without knowing it.
Yet keeping our blood pressure low is one of the most important things we can do to prevent diseases of old age. Spiralling blood pressure has been linked to premature memory loss, stroke, heart failure and heart attacks. It also doubles the risk of Alzheimer’s, increases the risk of vascular dementia six-fold and can lead to kidney failure and loss of eyesight.

This book is the result of lots of meticulous research – over 500 sources are cited in the text alone. The complete bibliography is posted online because they didn’t want to take up too many pages with references. In the text however, they do include references to 50 books and various websites for those wanting more information. The pair also interviewed five nonagenarians. You can see that a lot of time and effort has gone into putting this together.

While all five [of the nonagenarian SuperAgers we interviewed] are very different, they have several things in common: a distinct sense of purpose and intention; a manifest desire to be cheerfully alive; a history of eating home-cooked food; active lives that include walking, tennis and yoga (for example). In addition, they are all British – and subject to the vagaries of our climate – and they all live in their own homes, giving them a continued sense of independence. In every other way they are different…Regardless of their similarities and differences we hope you find them as inspirational as we do.

There will be people who dismiss this book because some of it is common sense. We all know we need moderation in our diets and to move more. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t useful pearls of wisdom featured here. The health and wellness industry can often have contradictory views on certain topics, for example: coconut oil. It is interesting that the authors offer up both viewpoints. This enables readers to exercise their own discretion and seek out further advice from professionals:

In 2017 the American Heart Association published a ‘presidential advisory’ on the subject, advising against the use of coconut oil…And, to add fuel to the coconut oil fire, Professor Karin Michels, an epidemiologist at Harvard’s School of Public Health, described it as ‘pure poison’. Like the AHA, she took issue with the high level of saturated fat. Many other health experts have argued against this, pointing out that the AHA used outdated research to back their findings and only looked at total fat intake, not coconut oil specifically.
Coconut oil might have a positive role to play in brain health, however. Our brains use glucose as fuel. But if glucose supplies run low, the brain can function on an alternative fuel source – ketones – which are produced in the liver when carbohydrate stores are low. Ketones are also found in MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil, usually derived from coconuts. As we age, the brain becomes less efficient at using glucose. This is particularly true of the Alzheimer’s brain, which can’t use glucose efficiently so is, effectively starving. Studies indicate that supplementing the diet of dementia patients with MCT oil, or putting them on a high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet, has a beneficial effect on brain energy metabolism.

This book does not offer a magic pill as a panacea for health. It offers advice but also says that people should consult their own health professionals. It is practical in its approach, offering up small changes that can be made and built upon. The authors realise that lasting habits do not come from one major overhaul, but through employing smaller, manageable changes over time.

The role of our microbiota in how we age has been a revelation, with several new studies indicating that our microbiomes might play a more significant role in longevity than previously envisaged. The trillions of microbes populating our gut affect every area of our health, from mental well-being to digestion, responding not only to what we eat, but how and when we eat. We’ve adopted a version of intermittent fasting (it’s not as hard as it sounds!) and increased our fibre intake. Rest assured, cheese, red meat and chocolate and still on the menu. As are beer and red wine. What’s not to enjoy?

In terms of content, this volume focuses on four main cornerstones: diet (including some plant-based recipes), exercise, positive attitudes and environments, and maintaining social connections. It is very readable and something that people can dip in and out of, as they take on and learn some new information.

The Age-Well Project is a sharp and focused look at navigating health and wellness, even when we think we are incapable of making such changes. It is now easy for people to access well-meaning advice about health and longevity, but this title stands above the rest because it’s actually based on science. This is a practical, no-nonsense approach that is very informative. This volume certainly has some handy takeaways for everyone and its well-structured presentation means that we can all reap the benefits of good health. Life, be in it!

Category: Book Reviews

About the Author ()

Natalie Salvo is a foodie and writer from Sydney. You can find her digging around in second hand book shops or submerged in vinyl crates at good record stores. Her website is at:

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