How To Determine Your Biological Age
How often have you heard someone say, “You are only as old as you feel.” If you feel younger than your chronological age, this is good news. But what if you feel older? Aches and pains, injuries, fragility, and slowing down are not inevitable just because your chronological age increases. What’s even more important than your chronological age is your biological age. Chronological age is easy to determine, but how can you assess your biological age? Scientists are developing calculators that stratify your risk factors and determine biological age.
Until the last decade or so, aging was not considered a medical condition or disease. It is a natural process that happens to everyone and cannot be reversed. However, that is changing as scientists are making great strides in anti-aging research, raising the possibility that aging can be slowed and potentially even reversed. As scientists, research funders, and government agencies change their mindset about anti-aging, it opens the door for more financial grant support for clinical trials to fund and investigate anti-aging research.
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Lifespan Versus Healthspan
Extending healthspan differs greatly from extending lifespan. Most people do not want to live longer if they will be in poor health. Healthspan is how long you live while in good health. Your healthspan depends on your biological age. Biological age is how old your cells are, which is dependent on genetic and environmental factors they have been exposed to over a lifetime.
What Affects Your Biological Age?
The free radical theory of aging is a controversial theory that has been used to explain cellular aging. It was originally described in the 1950s and proposes that people age because their cells incur accumulated oxidative damage as a byproduct of metabolism.
Numerous studies show that oxidative damage increases with age and that neutralizing reactive oxygen species slows the aging process. However, there are also an increasing number of scientific studies that refute it. Oxidative damage is likely one part of the aging process. Cellular metabolism is complicated and imperfect.1
Unfortunately, we don’t understand cellular metabolism all that well, but researchers are making progress in understanding the side effects of slight changes in metabolism and how to keep these changes from accumulating in their side effects. Cambridge researcher Aubrey de Grey argues that as long as the rate of improvement in therapies stays ahead of the rate of cellular damage causing aging, life will be extended. The benefits of anti-aging therapy for each of us will depend on how much cellular damage has already occurred.
How much oxidative damage contributes to aging is an important scientific discussion, but we can leave it to the anti-aging scientists. What is more important are the factors that affect biological age you can change. Your biological age is influenced by the lifestyle choices you make each day.
How Do You Calculate Your Biological Age?
Online biological age calculators are risk assessment calculators that use algorithms to weight lifestyle factors that contribute to disease and decreased lifespan and healthspan. Blood or urine-based biological age calculators measure markers of metabolic health.
Commonly used markers used in biological age tests:
- Telomere length: Telomeres protect the ends of your chromosomes. Longer is better, but many factors affect telomere length.
- DNA methylation: You inherit your genetic code, but your behaviors and environment can affect how your genes are expressed. This is called epigenetics. DNA methylation controls which genes are expressed and is one example of epigenetic changes.
- Byproducts of metabolism: Byproducts of metabolism can vary throughout the day and are influenced by many factors.
How Accurate Is The Biological Age Test?
To determine the accuracy of biological age tests would require randomized controlled clinical trials. Participants would be randomly assigned to have a test after having an extensive lifestyle and health evaluation. Then they may be reassigned randomly to another test. The results would be compared, and statistical tests would be used to determine the accuracy of the test results. The research is just not there yet.
What Is The Best Indicator Of Biological Age?
Your best indicator of biological age is how you feel and how you live your life.
How Can I Lower My Biological Age?
The best way to lower your biological age is to make any necessary lifestyle changes. The lifestyle factors that contribute to aging have research behind them. You can start making meaningful changes today.
Engaging in regular exercise has many potential benefits, including improving:
- Blood flow to body tissues
- Weight management
- Blood sugar
- Muscle mass and strength
- Cardiovascular fitness
- Reproductive function
- Blood pressure
Most people spend up to three-quarters of their day sitting. Exercise is planned physical activity. While it is essential to your health and to slow the aging process, what we do with the other hours of our day is also important. Research has suggested that people who are sedentary may have shorter telomeres. These end caps on chromosomes that help protect their structure are a marker for aging. Longer telomeres are linked to a slower aging process.2 More research is needed, but physical activity throughout your day can improve overall health and reduce your risk for chronic disease.3
Eating a balanced diet high in whole foods, healthy sources of fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates, and low in simple sugars and processed foods.
When planning your anti-aging diet, choose:
- Lean sources of protein
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Whole, unprocessed, unrefined foods
- Complex carbohydrates
- Healthy sources of fats
- Healthy sources of fiber
- Avoid adding salt to foods
Besides a healthy diet, stay hydrated. All metabolic reactions in your cells require water.
Decreased sleep quality or quantity affects metabolism, increases hunger hormones, and increases inflammation. Sleep is an active process that consolidates learning and memory, restores hormone levels and immune function, and processes waste.
Try to practice good sleep hygiene by:
- Going to bed at the same time each night
- Sleeping in a cool, dark, quiet room
- Turning off technology at least an hour before bedtime
- Engaging in relaxing, stress-reducing activities before bedtime
Tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and premature death. Smoking increases inflammation, which leads to cellular damage. Smoking at an early age and then continuing to smoke is associated with up to a decade of loss of life expectancy.3 Smoking harms nearly every bodily organ and is a major contributor to chronic disease.4
If you smoke, talk to your doctor about smoking cessation treatments.
Chronic stress causes inflammation and increases hormone levels, such as cortisol and adrenaline. Together, these hormones raise your blood sugar. After the stress is resolved, your body needs to restore its glucose reserve, so it causes you to be hungry. Chronic stress increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Reduce stress in your life by:
- Spending time in nature
- Scheduling time for things you enjoy
- Prioritize exercise
Limit alcohol use to reduce blood sugar, blood pressure, and manage weight.
Try to stay within the recommended maximum intake guidelines of 1 drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Biological age calculators are not at a point where you can rely on them to give you useful information. So instead, do a self-evaluation. Based on your overall health, blood and urine test results from your medical appointments, and energy level, is your biological age likely older or younger than your chronological age? Anti-aging medicine is progressing. Watch for news and updates.
Looking to get help with aging? See how Invigor Medical can help today!
- Gladyshev VN. The free radical theory of aging is dead. Long live the damage theory! Antioxid Redox Signal. Feb 1 2014;20(4):727-31. doi:10.1089/ars.2013.5228
- Du M, Prescott J, Kraft P, et al. Physical activity, sedentary behavior, and leukocyte telomere length in women. Am J Epidemiol. Mar 1 2012;175(5):414-22. doi:10.1093/aje/kwr330
- Barragán R, Ortega-Azorín C, Sorlí JV, et al. Effect of Physical Activity, Smoking, and Sleep on Telomere Length: A Systematic Review of Observational and Intervention Studies. Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2021;11(1):76. doi:10.3390/jcm11010076
- Rostron BL, Chang CM, Pechacek TF. Estimation of cigarette smoking-attributable morbidity in the United States. JAMA Intern Med. Dec 2014;174(12):1922-8. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.5219