A Guide To Aging Well

Publishing: A variety of books offer advice on how to live a long, healthy life

Senior Life

July 18, 1999|By Susan Ferraro | Susan Ferraro,Knight Ridder/Tribune

Everybody's doing it -- aging, that is. A century ago, the average American's life span was only 46 years. Now we can look forward to living to be 77, and baby boomers are blasting past 50th birthdays at the rate of 11,500 a day.

Not to worry: Rushing to the rescue of the newly gray -- and filling the best-selling bookshelves -- are experts on age and what science is doing to make it better. Hot off the presses is Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld's guide, "Live Now, Age Later: Proven Ways to Slow Down the Clock" (Warner Books, $24).

"There's no magic potion that will keep you young," says Rosenfeld, the affable New York heart doctor and author of eight previous health books, including best sellers "Doctor, What Should I Eat?" and "Dr. Rosenfeld's Guide to Alternative Medicine."

Rosenfeld's prescription for enjoying every possible minute of long life: "You've got to know things that go wrong as you get older, and you have to intervene as symptoms develop."

"Live Now, Age Later" provides a genial, straight-talking, alphabetical rundown on the ills and annoying side effects of age -- everything from Alzheimer's disease to loss of vision.

Rosenfeld explains what diseases do to the body -- how brain nerves tangle in Alzheimer's, the different causes and very different treatments for stroke, the cellular madness of cancer -- and mentions risk factors.

Lesser problems, which threaten lifestyle, if not life itself, get attention: tinnitus (ringing in the ears), flaky skin, his-and-her menopause moments, and losing your senses -- of smell, hearing, sight.

He's not above scolding: "Only 9 percent of Americans heed the recommendations of the National Cancer Institute and the National Research Council to eat two servings of fruit and three portions of vegetables a day," he writes.

In a chapter called "Libido in Limbo," he reminds you to tell your doctor about all the herbs you take, as well as the medicines that might be undermining your sex drive.

Among the doctor's many insights are these:

* Avoid deodorants and antacids with aluminum, because the mineral may be a factor in Alzheimer's.

* Take Vitamin E to cut prostate cancer risk.

* Those of African, Hispanic or Asian heritage are more at risk for brain attacks (stroke) than are Caucasians, and people are more at risk if they live in the southeastern United States.

* Prolonged sun exposure increases the risk of macular degeneration, the chief cause of blindness in older adults.

* Stress, as well as sun and smoking, can age skin.

* If time and illness have stolen your sense of smell, make sure you have smoke alarms and a gas detector if you have a gas stove.

* Caffeine and nicotine can make tinnitus worse; marijuana can cause it.

Some of Rosenfeld's advice seems to rely on character as well as care: Good health includes "physical things" -- like exercise and staying trim -- but "there is an overriding behavior that is good -- contentment, humor," he says.

Whenever possible, Rosenfeld writes, the best approach to living a good, long life is pre-emptive -- prevent disease before it strikes, and find it early, when it is most treatable. Read up on health -- knowledge can save lives.

And keep asking questions -- Rosenfeld was one of the first "establishment guys," he says, to encourage patients to seek second opinions. That is now an accepted common-sense step for medical consumers, but was a matter hotly challenged within the profession in 1981, when he wrote "Second Opinion."

Finally, sidestep preconceptions about aging that aren't true. Depression has reached "epidemic" proportions in the United States, he says, yet is often overlooked -- especially among the old, many of whom have suffered many losses and who might think feeling bad is almost normal.

Books on aging well

* "Live Now, Age Later: Proven Ways to Slow Down the Clock," by Isadore Rosenfeld (Warner Books, $24).

* "Immortality: How Science Is Extending Your Life Span -- And Changing the World," by Dr. Ben Bova (Avon Books, $24) -- charts the molecular changes of aging, new science that manipulates cells; speculates on how living longer will change society.

* "Why We Age: What Science Is Discovering About the Body's Journey Through Life," by Steven N. Austad (Wiley, $16.95) -- explores what is known (and what is wishful thinking) about slowing or stopping the aging process.

* "Living to 100: Lessons in Living to Your Maximum Potential at Any Age," by Thomas T. Perls and Margery Hutter Silver (Basic Books, $25) -- an engaging, well-documented look at what it takes to live long.

* "RealAge: Are You as Young as You Can Be?" by Michael F. Roizen, with Elizabeth Anne Stephenson (Cliff Street Books, $25) -- lots of science and age-preventing strategies.

* "Smart Aging: Taking Charge of Your Physical and Emotional Health," by Harriet Hodgson (John Wiley, $14.95) -- an upbeat view that charts the physical and emotional demands of aging and gives lots of practical advice: when to have which medical test, what to eat, assessing personal needs for learning and living.

Pub Date: 07/18/99

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