Coming Of Age

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Other simple decisions involve pushing yourself away from the dining table. If you follow the advice given in certain fountain-of-youth books, the authors promise, you will shed pounds as well as years. Elizabeth Somer, a dietitian who has written Age-Proof Your Body: Your Complete Guide to Lifelong Vitality (Morrow), stresses that the most important longevity goal is active-life expectancy, "the maximum number of healthy, disease-free years a person can expect to have." To that end, she gives readers a number of diet and exercise pointers. Readers are advised to replace coffee with green tea once or twice a day in order to reduce the risk of cancer.

Dr. Julian Whitaker, the editor of Health and Healing, and Carol Colman, the authors of Shed 10 Years in 10 Weeks (Simon & Schuster), think that if you're going to be eating, you should concentrate on the essentials. They believe that U.S. government RDAs (recommended daily allowances) of vitamins and minerals are inadequate. Instead, the authors recommend what they have named the ODA (optimal daily allowance) of those vital substances, supplemented with New Age natural nostrums, such as omega-3 oils and ginkgo biloba. Some of their suggestions are old wine in new cooler bottles: potato chips, cookies and cakes are deemed age "accelerators" while fruits and vegetables are reincarnated as "rejuvenators."

Two tried-and-true leaders in promoting healthy eating are coming out with their own fountain-of-youth books. The Zone Diet was a national craze a few years ago. Its creator, Barry Sears, has sold more than 3 million copies of his book The Zone. His latest is The Anti-Aging Zone (ReganBooks), which promises that Zone techniques like rigorous calorie restriction will keep you not only slim but also young. Another widely known health-food guru-cum-radio personality, Gary Null (The New Vegetarian Cookbook), will be publishing How to Live Forever: The Ultimate Anti-Aging Program (Kensington) in February. "Age is only a number," insists Null, who claims his program can eliminate wrinkles, gray hair and fatigue.

The 50-Year Dash
Between now and 2014, about 81 million baby boomers will celebrate their 50th birthday. That may have something to do with the number of books being published about hitting the half-century mark. Any of these books is a perfect milestone birthday gift.

Male writers seem more comfortable in announcing their 50th birthday, in such books as Dave Barry Turns 50 (Crown); The Big Five-Oh! Facing, Fearing, and Fighting Fifty by Bill Geist (Quill) and The 50 Year Dash: The Feelings, Foibles and Fears of Being Half a Century Old, by Bob Greene (Doubleday). The books are all similar: a series of rat-a-tat gags about failing eyesight, flagging libido and fading memories. But contemporaries will relate.

A female variant is Fifty on Fifty: Wisdom, Inspiration, and Reflections on Women's Lives Well Lived (Warner). Author Bonnie Miller Rubin, a reporter at the Chicago Tribune, interviews 50 well-known women, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Jane Fonda and Erica Jong, about their lives and thoughts at the half-century mark. The first impulse is to ask what a 50-year-old celebrity can tell me. A lot, it turns out. As syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman tells Rubin, "You don't make it to 50 without having had your head handed to you." Survival, they say, means hanging tough and following your dreams. And you have to respect a group of women who are willing to publicly acknowledge their dates of birth. It brings to mind Gloria Steinem's famous retort when someone told her she didn't look 50: "This is what 50 looks like."

Pausing for Menopause
For women, midlife generally means an end to their childbearing years: The average American woman goes through menopause at 51, which female boomers are reaching in record numbers. Now they can read as they go. More than a dozen new books on menopause are hitting the market. A particularly good one is the American Medical Association's Essential Guide to Menopause (Pocket), which takes an authoritative, commonsense approach. The material, clearly presented and informative, helps women weigh the pros and cons of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and explains physical symptoms. Another helpful book is Menopause: A Guide to Health and Happiness by Dr. James Huston (Facts on File), which even contains a chapter for men, to help them understand the changes they and their partner are going through.

Hormone replacement is the topic of the moment, and readers can take their pick of numerous books that debate the issue. They include The Estrogen Answer Book by Ruth Jacobowitz (Little, Brown); Dr. Susan Love's Hormone Book (Times Books) and HRT by Dr. Miriam Stoppard (DK Publishing). The Estrogen Alternative by Dr. Steven Goldstein (Putnam) explores the new estrogen substitutes known as selective estrogen receptor modulators, or serms. For the woman who decides against HRT, Stoppard has written Natural Menopause (DK Publishing). Menopause and Madness: The Truth About Estrogen and the Mind by Marcia Lawrence (Andrews McMeel) explores the emotional problems that some menopausal women experience and offers advice on what to do about such difficulties.

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