Cameron Diaz Explores Secrets to Aging Well: 'It's How Well You Live'

The actress delved into the science of aging for "The Longevity Book."

— -- Cameron Diaz is known for her age-defying look on and off the big screen, and now the 43-year-old actress is sharing what she's learned about aging well in her new book, "The Longevity Book."

"As we get older, there are phases of life that we enter into and I was entering the phase of 40. I started getting a lot of questions about, was I scared to turn 40?" Diaz said on "Good Morning America" today. "I started asking...why should I be afraid?

"What I learned is that aging is really about living," she added. "I feel very grateful that I get to turn another year older because not everybody does. Not everybody gets to grow old."

The book taps into scientific research to see how and why the female body ages. Diaz and her co-author Sandra Bark also explore what women should be doing to "maintain optimal health" as they age.

"There's no secret to aging well," Diaz said. "There's a basic way of doing it and it's called living. It's how well you live...how well you take care of yourself. There are five pillars of well-being. It's good nutrition, good movement of the body, good night's sleep, stress release and meaningful, connected, loving relationships."

She continued: “This book…will help women take responsibility for their body...if you don't get ahead of that...then what happens is that you become sickly, and old and broken instead of being full of life until the end of it."

The "Charlie's Angels" star is also sharing an excerpt of "The Longevity Book" here with "GMA" viewers. Check it out below:

I N T R O D U C T I O N

AROUND MY FORTIETH BIRTHDAY, I started thinking about what it means to age. It is a fundamentally human ques­ tion, one we all start to consider at some point. None of us is immune to the passage of time, and one day, when you realize that life just keeps moving forward and there really is no going back—the wondering begins. Poets write poems about it and musicians write songs about it and scientists design experiments to understand it. All of us humans wonder what will happen to us when we get older. I had been living in this body of mine for more than four decades when I started thinking about the changes that might be coming down the road. I have experienced a lot of changes throughout my lifetime, of course, but I found myself unable to stop thinking about how the decades ahead were going to reveal some even more drastic changes—and how I didn’t really understand the aging process, or what it would mean for me. I had seen people I love get old and decline sharply and painfully, and I wondered if that would be my fate, or if I could hope for something better. Around the same time, I was also writing a book called The Body Book, which focused on the foundational aspects of human life. It was full of the kind of stuff I had been learning about over the course of nearly two decades— information about nutrition, exercise, and cultivating strong habits—along with some of the latest scientific insights about overall physical health. I already had intimate knowledge of the ways in which fitness and diet could change my body for the better. Now I wondered: how could I stay healthy and strong in the years to come? We all want longevity, of course. We all want more calendar pages to turn, more time to experience life. But what is a long life without strength, without physical and emotional health and resilience? So I called my writing partner, Sandra Bark, with whom I had written The Body Book, and I told her that I had figured out that our next book would be about cellular aging.

She laughed and said, “Great, an easy one.”

To be clear, there is nothing easy about this subject of aging—not the sci­ence of it, and not the experience of living through it. But easy or not, it will happen, and it is happening right now. We can avoid most uncomfortable truths for a very long time, if we want to, but there’s no denying that this one catches up with us eventually. It’s my hope that with a better understanding of what aging really is—the science of it, the biology of it, the cultural and histor­ical context of it—we can all become empowered to live well in the years ahead.

This is not an antiaging book. I don’t want you to live in fear of aging . . . I want to reframe the way that we, as women, talk about aging.

One thing that I’ve learned about uncomfortable truths is that you make life a whole lot harder for yourself when you pretend they aren’t real. You can waste a lot of precious time and energy trying to make something into what it is not. Once you stop fighting reality, everything becomes a lot easier. Youth is a beautiful part of life, and the discoveries we make when we are young are invaluable. They are the lessons and the memories that we will carry with us as we move into each new phase of our lives. It’s important to keep those lessons close to us, but it’s also important to let go of what no longer is, and to accept and prepare for what is to come.

As babies and toddlers, we were blissfully unaware of the fact that we were zooming ahead developmentally. As adolescents transitioning into teenagers, we were equipped only with the information the adults around us decided to share (for better or for worse), and our understanding of what was around the bend and how to deal with all the crazy changes we’d soon experi­ence wasn’t up to us. This round, it’s our turn. When it comes to the next phase of our lives, the responsibility of preparation is solely ours. We have the opportunity to gather our resources, our abilities, all the wisdom we have gained over the years, and design a plan for healthy aging that will help us stay strong while also making us more aware, more conscious, and more con­nected to ourselves and to one another.

Before we embark on this journey together I would like to offer a dis­ claimer: This is not an antiaging book. I’m not going to tell you how to trick time or reverse the aging process in thirty days. Some books and articles about aging claim that the latest groundbreaking discoveries can show you how to turn back the clock. Others offer strategies for making yourself look younger, or suggest that certain miracle foods or supplements are the newest fountain of youth. This is not that kind of book. This book takes a step back, to examine how the aging process really works and how time will affect us physically and emotionally—because these two components of our health are inseparable.

What you will find in these pages is information and an ideology that I hope will help you find a new way of thinking about aging. I don’t want you to live in fear of aging, or beat yourself up about the fact that your body is doing something totally natural. I want to reframe the way that we, as women, talk about aging. I want to offer a perspective that is healthier and more scientifi­cally accurate than the fear­ and shame­based conversation that permeates our culture.

What I want for you, for me, for all the women I care about—those I already know and those I haven’t yet met, those who are crossing the thresh­ old into middle age now and those who are following behind us—is to be able to approach this subject with knowledge and with confidence instead of sheer terror and a heavier hand with the foundation. And by “knowledge,” I mean having the facts to live better, longer, and stronger. And by “confidence,” I mean having the ability to own our age instead of hiding from it or apologiz­ing for it. I’m not saying that aging isn’t scary. It is. But we can prepare our­ selves now for the changes that lie ahead.

I also want you to feel empowered to participate in the new conversation about aging that is turning up everywhere. From public and private funds for scientific research to articles to podcasts to books like this one—everyone is curious to learn more about how we can age better. Part of the reason there’s such a sudden flurry of interest in how to age well is because this topic of aging is still so new. As you will learn in the pages ahead, at this particular moment in the history of human evolution, our life expectancy is longer than it has ever been. Our relationship with and our understanding of the aging process is still unfolding.

The newness of aging makes the exploration of this topic all the more challenging and all the more thrilling. So when Sandra and I set off on our journey, we went in with open, inquisitive, and studious minds. We talked with researchers and physicians and educators, and visited universities and research centers like the National Institutes of Health (NIH). And to our surprise we learned that although human aging is a relatively new phenomenon, the most scientifically vetted, cutting ­edge ways of staying healthy and strong are actually not very new or complicated at all.

In fact, the best things we can do for ourselves as we grow older also hap­pen to be some of our favorite things to do. Eating good food, developing our muscles, getting a good night’s sleep, loving other people, laughing, relaxing, finding joy in the world. These are the actions and activities that make us interesting people, curious people, strong people. Who doesn’t love a good meal with dear friends, or embracing a loved one? Who doesn’t love to laugh her ass off, or go for a long walk, or have a new adventure? How about taking a few moments to breathe deeply and let the cares of the day slip away? How nice does that sound?

To us, it sounds like a revelation. The best way to age well isn’t to worry about aging. It is to live well.

Today we have a deeper understanding of how our body functions on a cellular level than ever before, and because of that, we can see how things like food, movement, rest, meditation, social connection, learning, and the over­ all enjoyment of life serve to make us stronger and healthier deep within our cells. That’s right—having a laugh has an actual impact on your cells. Spend­ ing time with good friends is beneficial for your cells. All those elements that make life beautiful and wonderful are good for you.

That’s why we wrote this book. To share the science of aging. To provide the information you need to make choices that support your health as you age, which can help slow the rate at which you age, and in some cases, repair damage that has already been done. To help you understand the conversation about aging, which is getting more and more robust each day. We are all aging, you and I, and the sooner we come to terms with that, the more opportunities we can give ourselves to age with health and with joy.

The good thing about this journey is that even though the road ahead is unknown, you’re still traveling in the same direction: deeper and deeper into the depths of you. Along with signs of aging, don’t you see signs of growth? Are you a stronger person than you were a decade ago, more knowledgeable, more in tune with who you are and what you need and who and what you love? Life comes with some sharp curves, and every journey has a few missed turns along the way. But there are also the scenic overlooks, where the horizon sud­ denly opens up, and you can admire the view and appreciate the hard work it took to get there.

Having a laugh has an actual impact on your cells. Spending time with good friends is beneficial for your cells. All those ele- ments that make life beautiful and wonderful are good for you.

Excerpt from The Longevity Book by Cameron Diaz and Sandra Bark. Copyright© 2016 by Cameron Diaz. A HarperWave book, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.