This is an article Kathleen wrote for Natural Awakenings magazine.
Agelessness: Engaging in and experiencing life without fear of falling, failing or falling apart.
In a nutshell, that’s the philosophy of visionary women’s health expert Christiane Northrup, M.D., of Yarmouth, ME, author of Goddesses Never Age.
“We’re long overdue for a paradigm shift about how we feel about growing older,” says Northrup. “You can change your future by adopting a new, ageless attitude that will help you flourish physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. We don’t have to buy into modern medicine’s promotion of the idea of the pathology of aging. ”
One of Northrup’s primary admonitions: “Don’t tell anyone how old you are. The last birthday that counts is your 25th, when you could rent a car without the signature of an adult. Any other birthday means nothing.”
Our Western society fosters a belief system that we will become decrepit, frail and mentally feeble at a certain age.
“When my mother turned 50, her mailbox suddenly became full of ads for adults diapers, walkers and long-term care insurance,” Northrup quips.
Her point is well taken. How ridiculous is it to imagine vibrant, healthy and gorgeous and yes, sexy Sandra Bullock, Johnny Depp, Chris Rock or Brooke Shields—all 50 or more — as the targets of ads for Depends?
We’re living longer, working longer and many of us are staying young longer. So is 60 the new 40?
There’s lots of evidence that says, “Yes.” Centenarians are the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population. In the 2010 census, there were 53,364 people over the age of 100, an increase of 40% over the census of 1980. (BTW, 82.8% of those over 100 were women.) National Institutes of Aging projections say that number could increase tenfold or more by 2050.
What we think of as “old” has changed. Sixty is now middle age, according to researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, who add that we are in general leading longer and healthier lives.
Baby Boomers are the generation that refuses to buy into the mythology of aging. Many Boomers bristle at being called “senior citizens” and they especially dislike being called “elderly.”
They’re backed by science. Stem cell biologist Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., author of Biology of Belief, best known for prompting the concept that DNA can be changed by belief, for good or bad. (He’s currently a visiting professor at the New Zealand College of Chiropractic in Auckland.)
Lipton explains that we all have billions of stem cells designed to repair or replace damaged –and aging — tissues and organs. “(These cells) are profoundly influenced by our thoughts and perceptions about the environment,” Lipton explains. “Hence our beliefs about aging can either interfere with or enhance stem cell function, causing our physiological regeneration or decline.”
“Yes, we are destined to grow older, but decrepitude and what we call aging is an optional state,” Northrup adds. “But our genes, our nutrition and our environment are under our control far more than we think they are.”
“Words are powerful,’ she concludes. “Don’t talk yourself into believing your brain is turning to mush just because you are over 40!”
So how to we take control?
“Manage the Four Horsemen of the Aging Apocalypse,” says nutrition and longevity expert Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., Los Angeles-based author of The Most Effective Ways to Live Longer.
Bowden says the aging process, including disease, loss of physical or mental function or the general breakdown of systems is caused by one or more of Bowden’s Four Horsemen:
- Oxidative damage (literally rusty cells)
- Glycation (excess sugar, metabolic syndrome)
“The four of them, collectively, can damage cells and DNA, wear down organs and systems, deeply damage the vascular pathways that deliver blood and oxygen to entire body and even shrink the size of your brain,” Bowden explains.
While it may seem like a tall order to make lifestyle changes that vanquish the Four Horsemen, Bowden says they can be broken into “manageable chunks” by employing “weapons: whole foods, nutrients, stress reduction techniques, exercise, detoxification, relationship improvement, that actually do double duty, battling more than one of the four processes that can effectively shorten your life.”
Think of rust on a car bumper. That’s what free radical oxygen molecules do to cells. Over time, they damage cells and cause aging from within. “Oxidative damage plays a major role in virtually every degenerative disease of aging, from Alzheimer’s to cancer to heart disease and diabetes, even immune dysfunction,” says Bowden.
His recommended key to destroying free radicals: A diet rich in antioxidants, including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy fats, nuts, and grass fed meats and dairy products. Avoid environmental free radicals, especially toxic chemicals, by eating organic food as much as possible and especially avoiding pesticides and herbicides sprayed on crops.
This is a big one. Long-term inflammation is a “silent killer,” that flies beneath the radar, unnoticed, damaging blood vessel walls. Like oxidative damages, inflammation is a factor in all the degenerative diseases associated with aging, says Bowden.
Bowden’s key to quench the fires of inflammation: First, get a C-reactive protein (CRP) test to determine the levels of inflammation in your body. A CRP level over 3.0/mg/L indicates a high risk of a heart attack. Anti-inflammatory foods like onions, garlic, leafy greens, tomatoes, beans, nuts and seeds are all scientifically proven to reduce chronic inflammation.
Glycation is the result of too much sugar, which glues itself to protein or fat molecules, leaving a sticky mess that creates AGEs—advanced glycation end products — that damage all body systems and are culprits in those dread diseases of aging.
Bowden’s key: The obvious answer is to minimize sugar and simple carbs, anything made with white flour or white rice. Also avoid fried foods and any foods cooked at high temperatures that actually skip the glycation production in the body and deliver deadly AGEs directly from the food. He also advises taking 1,000 mg of daily to prevent glycation.
While stress might seem like a different category, the long-term effects of physical, mental or emotional stress are tremendously damaging to the human physiology. Sustained exposure to the stress hormone cortisol can shrink parts of the brain, damage blood vessels, increase blood sugar levels, heart rate and blood pressure and contribute to chronic inflammation with all of its deadly effects.
Bowden’s recommendations: “Stress management is not a luxury,”
Bowden warns. Stress management in its many forms, including meditation and breathing exercises is part of the program. Deep restful sleep is an important component as are ending toxic relationships, having a nurturing circle of friends and family and gentle exercise like yoga or tai chi.
Overall, Bowden adds, “Rather than thinking of anti-aging, I strive for the concept of age independent. I admire former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who resigned from the court at the age of 90 because he wanted to play more tennis.”
Bowden offers the concept of “squaring the curve,” which means that instead of a long downhill slope for poor health and finally death,
“I look at a long plateau of health and a steep drop-off to the end.”
“If you don’t have some kind of spiritual foundation, literally, God help you,” says Northrup.
She’s quick to add, “God isn’t confined to a book or a church or mosque or synagogue. Divinity is the creative loving, vital flow of life force that we’re all part of and connected to. Our bodies are exquisite containers meant to embody, not deny our spirits.”
Among the elements of spirit Northrup recommends are touch and pleasure. Yes, sex with the right partner can be part of it. Research shows that those who have the most fulfilling sex lives live the longest, according to researchers at the University of California at Riverside’s Longevity Project.
Pleasure means much more, says Northrup. It can mean the exquisite taste of a pear or the sound of an angelic symphony, the kiss of sun on skin, the laughter of a child, spending time with friends or creating a pastel landscape.
“When you experience pleasure, God comes through you become aware of your divine nature, you’ll find that joy comes to you in ways that are unique to you,” she says.
Connection with the natural world is an essential element of agelessness, she says: “The human body evolved to walk on the earth, drinking its water, breathing its air and basking in its sunlight.
Finally, Northrup says, “Agelessness is all about vitality. Taking all the right supplements and pills, or getting the right procedure doesn’t the prescription for anti-aging. It’s ageless living that brings back a sense of vibrancy and youthfulness.”
We could live to be well over 100 years old and, as Northrup likes to paraphrase Abraham Hicks of The Law of Attraction fame, “Wouldn’t you rather have your life end something like this: Happy, healthy, dead. Isn’t that a lot better than being sick, decrepit and frail for years?”