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Author Lauren Kessler On Staying Vital As We Age

OPB | Sept. 24, 2013 midnight | Updated: Sept. 27, 2013 10:25 a.m.

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Lauren Kessler hypnotized herself, ate superfoods for a week, had a muscle biopsied and zapped her face with lasers to research her sixth narrative nonfiction book, Counterclockwise: My Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate, and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-aging.

Ifanyi Bell / OPB

Kessler, who directs the graduate program in multimedia narrative journalism at the University of Oregon, told Dave Miller on Think Out Loud that maturing baby boomers have sparked a rapid growth in both the science of aging as well as “the hucksterism of aging.”

“I believe that the underlying idea of the anti-aging industry is … false because it’s based on physical stuff,” Kessler told Miller. “There are reasons to stay vital and engaged that have nothing to do with vanity.”

For Kessler, those reasons boil down to staying physically healthy and intellectually and creatively vital. It led her to explore the difference between someone’s chronological age, based on their birth date, and their biological age, based on the age of their body and organs.

“People age rather similarly until age 40 or 45, the research shows,” Kessler said on the show. “And at that point, the biological age and the chronological age begin to really separate, depending on — they say now — 30 percent genetics and 70 percent the choices you make or don’t make.”

Although she largely eschews attempts to look younger for vanity, she did find evidence that looking younger can impact health. “How we think about aging and how we think about our own aging has tremendous biological consequences.”

Listen to Think Out Loud’s full conversation with Lauren Kessler.

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