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Senior Fitness is a science-based review of how exercise and a vegetarian diet can offset many chronic health problems in seniors.
Recommended for: Seniors...and anyone else wishing to avoid health problems when they get older!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ruth Heidrich, PhD, is a distance runner, triathlete, and vegetarian. She earned a Masters degree in psychology and a PhD in health management. At age 47, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. This prompted her to dig into published research studies to determine how she could optimize her health with exercise and nutrition. This book is the result of that research, which she published at age 70. She is cancer-free, has the bone density of a woman in her early 30's, and has a resting HR of 44. She has won more than 900 athletic trophies and medals. The book's front cover shows the author running at Machu Picchu.
This 219-page book is organized as follows:
- Chapter 1: What Is Senior Fitness?
- Chapter 2: The Right Diet
- Chapter 3: The Right Exercise
- Chapter 4: What Is Aging?
- Chapter 5: Why Diet Matters
- Chapter 6: Exercise: Use It or Lose It
- Chapter 7: Reversing Cardiovascular Disease: Heart Disease and Stroke
- Chapter 8: Stop Cancer in Its Tracks
- Chapter 9: Is Type-2 Diabetes Reversible?
- Chapter 10: Osteoporosis: The Only Way to Prevent and/or Reverse It
- Chapter 11: Arthritis: Diet Does Make a Difference
- Chapter 12: Hypertension and DVTs: Diuretics and Blood Thinners Only Treat Symptoms
- Chapter 13: Obesity: This Epidemic Can Be Controlled
- Chapter 14: Sexy Seniors: BPH, Menopause, and OAB
- Chapter 15: Alzheimer's, Mad Cow Disease, CJD, and Maintaining a Sharp Memory
- Chapter 16: Keeping Your Senses
- Chapter 17: Motivation: How to Get It, How to Keep It
- Chapter 18: Putting It All Together
The primary focus of this book is on the health benefits of exercise and a vegetarian diet. The author applies this perspective to a variety of chronic health problems.
Generally, the Introduction is a part of a book that doesn't get any attention. However, what the author writes in this section is inspiring. She explains that she transformed her body and her life from a 47-yr old woman with breast cancer to an elite and healthy 70-yr old athlete with a resting heart rate of 44 and a VO2max of 66, an astounding value for anyone - male or female - of that age! She promises that you can do it too!
Chapter 1 is titled "What Is Senior Fitness?" but, really, there isn't anything in this chapter specific for seniors. In the first half of this chapter, the author summarizes discussions she had with people seated next to her on a flight. It's interesting, but doesn't offer anything useful to the reader. In the 2nd half, she sets up the rest of the book by explaining that the preferred diet is a vegan diet, and, by casting a negative view on prescription drugs. Certainly, maintaining optimum health with exercise and smart diet, while avoiding the need for drugs, is a desirable goal, but sometimes authors paint with too broad of a brush when they hammer prescription drugs. The author states "sometimes I think that MD stands for 'more drugs' ". This kind of statement seems like an unnecessary cheap shot.
In Chapter 2, the author addresses diet. There are some useful pointers here and the author uses clever phrases: "hearts thrive on plant foods and clog up on animal foods," and, "fiber is to plants as cholesterol is to animals." Then, she states that "there's just as much cholesterol in chicken and fish as there is in beef." To support this statement, she does identify a source, but it's a software program, not a clinical study. The author fails to point out that most of the cholesterol we consume in our diets isn't absorbed. In addition, the amount absorbed doesn't increase in proportion to the amount consumed. There is a case report published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine of an elderly man who consumed 25 eggs per day and still had a normal blood cholesterol level (Kern F, et al. 1991). The explanation here is that the body reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed based on what it needs. This case report was published many years before this book was published; it would have been helpful to readers to explain this nutritional concept. Finally, it seems more logical to fold this chapter into Chapter 5.
Chapter 3 is titled "The Right Exercise." This chapter is disappointing. Instead of explaining the health benefits of the different types of exercise - aerobic, strength, flexibility, balance - the author tells us how she discovered running. Good for her, but not much useful information here for the reader.
Chapter 4 is titled "What Is Aging?" While the author touches on cancer, dementia, and osteoporosis, these concepts are not discussed in detail. Further, she writes about the negative aspects of tobacco and alcohol, which seem out of place considering the title of this chapter. It doesn't appear that the question posed by the title of this chapter was answered.
Chapter 5 is the main chapter on diet and nutrition. Obviously, this is a big topic. This chapter is 30 pages. Generally, there is good info here. The author gives the reader lots to think about. She discusses cholesterol again and summarizes "The Portfolio Diet", a diet that combines multiple cholesterol-lowering foods conceived by Cyrill Kendall, PhD, and David Jenkins, MD. The author wraps up this chapter with a brief discussion about the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico. This population is well-known to have very low blood cholesterol levels. The author appears to attribute this almost exclusively to their diet, while ignoring the benefits of distance running which is a common behavior in their society.
Chapter 6 focuses on exercise. Like Chapter 5, there are a lot of useful tid-bits here, though they seem to be presented haphazardly. Neither here, nor the prior exercise chapter (Chapter 3), provide the reader with "official" exercise guidelines, such as those from the American College of Sports Medicine. Despite the author's extensive research effort to write this book, it's perplexing why she doesn't summarize or even mention exercise guidelines from ACSM.
In Chapters 7 through 16, the author addresses specific disease states. In general, there is some good information in these chapters. However, what the author chooses to focus on sometimes seems haphazard. For example, in the chapter on type-2 diabetes, she doesn't really discuss the relationship between obesity and diabetes, and, she doesn't mention fructose at all. In the chapter on Alzheimer's disease, the author summarizes a study assessing the benefits of 30 minutes of exercise per day in patients with Alzheimer's disease. After 2 years, the subjects who exercised "had less depression and were less frail." Good to know, but how did exercise affect their cognition and dementia?
• Photos & Illustrations: This book contains only 1 photo (an image of the author's wall calendar) and only 1 illustration (a visual acuity chart).
• Tables & Graphs: No tables or graphs are provided.
• Documentation / Accuracy: This book is heavily referenced. The specific research citations are provided at the end. This greatly enhances the credibility of the content, and, is appreciated by those who wish to track down these papers and read them.
What I Liked
Even though this is a science-based book, it is easy to read. Research details are explained in a clear and easy-to-understand manner. Also, the author addresses many specific disease states, but does so succinctly. Even though there are 18 chapters, most chapters are short and to the point. Including the specific research citations at the end is another big plus.
What Could Be Better
The author downplays the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet. Her logic is that the Mediterranean Diet, while healthy, still contains animal flesh (fish), and saturated fats (goat milk, cheese). However, many people don't consume enough omega-3 fats. Because oily fish is the best source of omega-3's, and, because plant sources are poor sources, instructing readers to avoid fish is a recommendation I disagree with. Further, if you do a search on "mediterranean diet" using the National Library of Medicine's search engine Pub Med, you will retrieve more than 4000 published research studies!
While this book does contain useful information, the specific details the author chooses to discuss in each disease state chapter seem a bit random. Further, more precise details need to be provided regarding how exercise is beneficial for each disease state, ie., what type of exercise and how much. After all, "Fitness" is part of the title of this book!
Senior Fitness provides some useful, science-based information. Because of that alone, I like this book. And, the fundamental message - that exercise and a vegetarian diet should be the foundation of a healthy lifestyle - is also to be applauded. But, because the author discusses a variety of health issues pertaining to each disease state, and doesn't focus enough on how exercise can be used therapeutically, I think it would be more appropriate to title this book "Senior Health" instead of "Senior Fitness". Thus, while I think this book contains good info, I can't give it 4 stars.
|Reviewed by: Stan Reents, PharmD
||11/1/2016 11:22:57 AM