We all know people who seem to be much younger than their age, while others look and act much older than their true age indicates. Why does this happen? The answer is that we all have two “ages”. One is our chronological age, our age in years from the date of our birth, while the other is our physiological age, which is our age as estimated by our body’s health and life expectancy. How we age depends on a number of things including genetics, lifestyle choices, and mental attitude, and these are what can influence your physiological age.
A person may be 49 according to their birth certificate, but thanks to leading a healthy lifestyle and being happy, they may only have a physiological age of 41. In contrast, another person may only be 41, but due to a poor lifestyle which includes smoking, drinking, sun exposure, and lack of exercise, in physiological terms they may be a decade older than they really are.
Your chronological age cannot change, but there’s plenty you can do to influence your physiological age. And this is where the RealAge Test can help as a guide. Devised by the American longevity experts, Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz, the RealAge Test involves answering a series of questions that look at your lifestyle choices, daily habits, diet, state of health, and family history. Information from the questions can be used to determine if you are biologically younger, older, or the same as your birthday age i.e. your chronologic age.
The test is based on a medically valid standard, which was developed by reviewing 25,000 medical studies identifying 125 different factors that can influence rate of aging. The test is free, and can be taken online; all you have to do is register with the website, go through the questions honestly, and submit the completed questionnaire. After taking the test, you are sent a detailed report with personalized recommendations, health and wellness information, and suggestions to help you improve your “score” and make your RealAge younger.
I have taken the RealAge Test three times. The first time was as a new 40-something, for an article I was writing on anti-ageing. I was happy with the result, posting a physiological age 32.4, when my chronological age was 40.1. The second time, however, I took it was while researching the first edition of this book. Age 44 at the time, I had a few new health issues which I knew would likely influence the result. One is slightly elevated cholesterol, which had affected my diet, the second was having had a skin cancer removed, which had affected the amount of sun exposure I was getting, and the third was a joint problem in both shoulders, affecting my exercise regime. Although my chronological age at the time was 44.3, my RealAge score turned out to be 36.9 – still good.
The most interesting element, however, was the recommendations I received regarding my calcium intake, and my exercise level. My calcium intake was a little low because I was avoiding dairy foods as a result of my cholesterol problem, and this needed to be addressed as it was putting me at risk of osteoporosis in late life. My strength training had also suffered because of my shoulder problems, which was also adding to my osteoporosis risk. The result prompted me to seek the advice of a sport physiotherapist to see what I could do to improve my upper body strength training, without irritating my shoulders, and look at ways to improve my calcium intake without contributing to my cholesterol woes.
I have since taken the test a third time to update this book at age 50.6. This time my RealAge score was 45, not quite as good as I hoped, but some of the recommendations were interesting. Among them were, in the health environment, that I should keep in touch with my doctors more often and have more regular checkups because I had asthma as a baby, and to ask my doctor about taking daily aspirin because of the family history of heart disease. And when it came to diet, I needed to eat more grains, and more fruit. The truth is that everything you do today contributes to how healthy you are tomorrow. It’s not about living with a ‘my body is a temple’ attitude, just doing the right things most of the time for your mind, body and soul.
This is an extract from Joanna E. Hall’s e-book 40 and Still Fabulous: The Next Chapter. Buy the book here.