By Pat Farmer
The Baltimore Sun.
Have you seen Christiane Northrop, M.D., presenting her “Glorious Women Never Age!” on Public Television? This is a good topic for Women’s History Month, but the ideas apply to men as well. I hope I do her presentation justice.
From her website, http://www.drnorthrup.com, we learn that Dr. Northrup is a board-certified OB/GYN physician who practiced for 25 years. Now she is internationally known as a writer and speaker. She knows that our inner wisdom is the key to vibrant health. She said, “When we find the connection between our thoughts, beliefs, physical health, and life circumstances, we find that we are in the driver’s seat of our lives and can make profound changes. Nothing is more exhilarating or empowering.”
According to Dr. Northrup, how we are going to age is up to us. People think that aging is all about our genes. She pointed out that there was a study of a group of men in a monastery who had to act as teenagers, while the control group acted as they usually did. At the end of the study, the “monastery men” looked ten years younger. So, there are factors, such as behavior, which affect aging.
Dr. Northrup recommends that we need to reframe the term “aging,” which we think of as deterioration and decline, words that have a negative impact on our biology. It is all in how we look at and approach aging. One surprising statistic she offered is that people over age 90 are the fastest growing population, increasing 75,000 per year.
Citing the Ohio Longitudinal Study of Aging and Retirement, which showed that longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging, Dr. Northrup says that belief is more powerful than genes. She recommends that we stop participating in ageism, the stereotyping and discriminating against individuals or groups on the basis of their age.” We need to watch our language.
Never say, “I am having a senior moment.” Or “At my age, it is too late to … fall in love.” You can fill in that blank with any statement, but don’t. Instead, refuse the senior discount and keep your age top secret. She recommends, “My biological age is 35 and my wisdom age is 300.” She also suggests that you don’t celebrate milestone birthdays.
Dr. Northrup tells us not look at it as getting older but consider it moving through space. It is an opportunity to increase your value. In our culture, aging is not revered, so prove “them” wrong.
According to an AARP article, the Longevity Economy, composed of and serving people age 50-plus, at $7.1 trillion, is the third largest economy in the world after the U.S. and China. Dr. Northrup believes that marketers are missing the mark. They should be advertising to older adults. For example, automobile advertising targets ages 18 to 24, while seniors age 75 and older buy five times as many cars as the industry target group.
Another step Dr. Northrup recommends is having “a sweet life while keeping your sugar stable.” Stress causes increased levels of cortisol; blood sugar goes up and if the cortisol gets too high, insulin increases and then there is an insulin storm. Watch your sugar intake. Don’t just take your doctor’s word that your blood sugar level is normal; get the number for your blood sugar and your other levels as well. Monitor the numbers and do what you must to optimize them. Say to yourself, I want to be optimal not normal.
Don’t take life sitting down. You need to be functionally fit. Dr. Northrup recommends that we stand up for 10 minutes every hour. We sit 10 to 13 hours a day and sitting increases the risk of dying by 40 percent. To increase your balance, stand on one foot and then the other, as long as you can. You might need to hold on to the back of a chair, until you feel comfortable with this balance exercise.
Fascia, which is “connective tissue fibers, primarily collagen, that form sheets or bands beneath the skin to attach, stabilize, enclose and separate muscles and other internal organs,” should be flexible. We need to stretch our fascia to make and keep it flexible.
Also, exercise makes us smarter. Two 20-minute sessions of aerobic exercise increase the size of the hippocampus in our brain. Dr. Northrup said that the best exercise is “the one you will do.”
We need to develop a “centenarian consciousness.” Pleasure is the key to agelessness. If it not pleasurable, it is not sustainable. The characteristics/activities of centenarians include: all have sex; are rebels, defiant, future oriented; have rituals of pleasure every day; and they don’t want to be around older people. They know how to saver life in the moment. They are not obsessed with age. They often brag and share their good news.
We can co-author each other’s biology, making things better for each other. Behavior is contagious. We need a number of different “tribes” around us. Broaden your horizons; don’t just stick with one group of people.
Following Dr. Northrup’s recommendations, we can all change the way we look at aging and turn it on its head. We need to stand up to life and not take it sitting down. Maybe we should take up dancing the Argentine tango like Dr. Northrup does in her spare time.