If someone told you that you are aging gracefully, you might take it as a compliment. But Dr. Christiane Northrup, a leading authority in the field of women's health and wellness, definitely would not. In her view, "aging" is a term that should be tossed out of our vocabulary and replaced with the phrase "growing older."
Northrup, a practicing physician and OB-GYN specialist who is also a New York Times best-selling author, has hosted seven PBS-TV specials on women's health.
Her latest, "Glorious Women Never Age!" now airing on local PBS stations, lays out her seven-step program for growing older with strength, a positive attitude, and vitality while embracing the idea that getting older doesn't have to signal a decline in your health or enjoyment of life. She noted that one of her favorite comments on her Facebook page about aging gracefully came from a woman who said she wanted her obituary to read that she'd fallen off her platform shoes while pole-dancing at the senior center and died instantly at age 104.
" 'Glorious Women Never Age' is about ageless living, which is what you'll experience when you engage life without fear that you're going to fail--or fall apart," said Northrup in an introduction to the program. "How you are going to age is your decision. I'm going to teach you seven steps for how to get older without aging. Don't battle aging when you can dance with life!"
Northrup's program, inspired by her recent book "Goddesses Never Age," draws on her own experiences, her clinical work, and an array of research in a variety of fields, including astronaut studies, eldercare, orthopedics, and sexuality. Although her program speaks to women, her advice applies just as well to men.
1. Reframe the term 'aging.' In the PBS special, Northrup describes a study by Dr. Ellen Langer in which two groups of men in their 70s and 80s were taken to a monastery and split into two groups. One was told to live in the present while the other was placed in a setting that re-created the era of their youth, the 1950s, and told to behave as if they were young again. Within one week, the group living as if they were younger not only looked a decade younger but also had test results that showed measurable physical improvements to their eyesight, hearing, memory, and muscle mass.
2. Change your cultural programming. Northrup says milestone birthdays can be a millstone. She cites one study showing that simply having positive attitudes about growing older and looking forward to things can add 7.5 years to your life. Plan for future activities to keep yourself on a positive path.
3. Stop participating in aging. Northrup recommends celebrating the wisdom that comes with growing older and banishing terms such as "anti-aging" or "having a senior moment" from your vocabulary.
4. Enjoy a sweet life while keeping your blood sugar stable. Growing older with vitality requires physical health as well as mental health. While Northrup doesn't focus solely on a specific diet, she stresses the importance of paying attention to your blood sugar.
5. Don't take life sitting down. Besides diet, we all know that exercise is important to staying healthy while growing older. Northrup emphasizes the importance of functional fitness, which means things like getting up to move to music to avoid sitting too long, maximizing exercise with interval training, and doing some basic exercises to improve balance.
6. Develop centenarian consciousness. Northrup reviewed research by Dr. Mario Martinez on healthy 100-plus-year-olds around the world that reveals the importance of being future-oriented, savoring life, and engaging in pleasurable, sustainable rituals such as a standing date with a friend, listening to music you love, or pursuing a creative passion.
7. Develop a subculture of agelessness. Staying connected to a group of like-minded people, which Northrup calls "tribes," and nurturing those relationships helps women--and men, who tend to have more difficulty maintaining close friendships--stay physically and mentally healthy. As she says, "community equals immunity."
Northrup's inspirational show focuses on how changing our attitudes and beliefs about growing older can lead to a healthier and more enjoyable lifestyle as we get older. For more information about her and to find out when you can view her program, visit www.drnorthrup.com.