9 Books to Inspire a Healthy New Year

A selection of great reads for those who want to head off disease and live a robust life.


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How Not to Die: Surprising Lessons on Living Longer, Safer, and Healthier From America's Favorite Medical Examiner By Jan Garavaglia, M.D. (Crown Publishers, $24.95)

Garvaglia is Dr. G: Medical Examiner of Discovery Health TV fame; in the series, she solves real-life medical mysteries. Her collected insights from the morgue, where she sees countless deaths that could have been avoided, offer the ultimate prevention guide. Her advice won't surprise you. "Know your numbers." Your BMI (body mass index), blood sugar level, blood pressure, and lipid profile will have a huge impact on your health. "Listen to your body." And seek medical attention early when you detect something amiss. "Practice good hygiene." Hand washing is one of the best ways to avoid illness. "Drive carefully." Garavaglia notes that a death certificate offers only five choices—homicide, suicide, natural, accident, and undetermined—but that she'd like to add stupidity. "Life is a series of choices," she writes. And too often, people make the wrong ones.

The South Beach Diet Supercharged: Faster Weight Loss and Better Health for Life By Arthur Agatston, M.D., with Joseph Signorile, Ph.D. (Rodale, $25.95)

In this recent addition to the South Beach franchise, cardiologist Agatston has added a metabolism-revving 20-minute-a-day interval workout and body-toning program designed to strengthen core muscles. The exercise instructions are easy to follow, and photos are included. The diet recommendations are more of the same—high-fiber carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; good fats; lean protein, and low-fat dairy—though the book adds new recipes and meal plans.

The Longevity Factor: How Resveratrol and Red Wine Activate Genes for a Longer and Healthier Life By Joseph Maroon, M.D. (Atria Books, $26.95)

It's easy to enjoy a book that extols the virtues of eating chocolate and drinking red wine to live longer, feel better, and prevent diseases like diabetes and cancer. Neurosurgeon Maroon discusses recent longevity research and examines emerging theory that resveratrol, a substance found in the skins of red grapes, is a gene-activating compound with such health benefits as improved memory, coordination, and mobility, prevention of weight gain, and increased energy. Other foods that activate our anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antiaging genes, he notes, include soybeans, pomegranates, apples, and red and black beans. Maroon also devotes a section to the importance of balancing your life as well as your diet, with equal measures of family, work, spirituality, and exercise. Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes Without Drugs By Neal D. Barnard, M.D. (Rodale, paperback, $15.95)

Barnard, a professor of medicine at George Washington University Medical School, shows that people with type 2 diabetes can cut their blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity through simple changes to diet, thus reducing or eliminating the need for medications. The emphasis is on eating vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains, and raw foods, and avoiding animal products, vegetable oils, and nuts. His recommendations are also valuable to people hoping to prevent full-blown diabetes. The Migraine Brain: Your Breakthrough Guide to Fewer Headaches, Better Health By Carolyn Bernstein, M.D., and Elaine McArdle (Free Press, $25)

More than 30 million Americans suffer from migraines. If you are one of them, this guide has lots of practical information to impart, from the best ways to prevent migraines to finding your triggers to drugs and treatments available. Bernstein, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, is the founder and director of her own clinic, the Women's Headache Center in Cambridge, Mass. She also examines alternative preventive strategies such as yoga, biofeedback, acupuncture, and massage.