When asked how old you are, you are more likely to respond with the number of years since your birth. This is because that’s how old you are chronologically, and it’s the answer most people go with. But there’s another way to look at age, too - biological age.
Have you ever heard the expression “you’re only as young as you feel”? Well, that’s actually somewhat of an accurate statement, and it can be used to help determine someone’s biological age. Biological age is a measure of how well your body is functioning. It takes into account things like how well your heart and lungs are working, how much muscle mass you have, and other health indicators.Your chronological age will always be an easy figure to calculate. However, your biological age is more of a moving target. It can change over time, and it’s not always an authentic reflection of your chronological age.
The distinction between the two can be startling, engaging, and somewhat confusing. Here’s a more in-depth look at chronological and biological age, and how they differ.
The time passed from your birth to the given date is your chronological age. It’s your age in years, months, and days. No matter how old you are chronologically, that number is only goes in one direction - up! Chronological age is the most commonly used way to measure age. It’s simple and straightforward, which is why so many people rely on it. In most cases, chronological age is a good indicator of how well your body is functioning. But there are some instances where it isn’t the best measure. While it is a significant risk factor for chronic diseases, death, and physiological function problems, including hearing and memory loss, chronological age is a poor predictor of an individual’s health, fitness, and well-being. It can also have some negative connotations, since aging is generally considered a bad thing. Constantly fretting about your chronological age can lead to feelings of being less valuable and not as capable, due to the natural physical changes that occur with age. But rest assured, you can be chronologically young and still be very healthy, so it’s an imperfect way to measure age.
The underlying premise of biological aging is that your age results from damage to numerous cells and tissues in your body. Biological age, also known as physiological or functional age, differs from chronological age in that it considers various elements other than the day of birth. Biological age is a measure of how well your body is functioning, and it’s measured by taking several factors into account. Unlike chronological age, which does not change unless you have a birthday party, biological age can fluctuate depending on what happens to you in life. Some things that affect your bio age are how you eat, the amount of physical activity you get each day, your overall health, and your medical history. Having a healthy lifestyle with good eating habits and regular exercise can help slow or reverse some side effects of aging, giving you a younger bio age. The precise figure depends on a variety of biological and physiological development parameters. Here are a few examples of factors that influence the assessment of biological age: ● chronological age ● genetics (how fast your body’s antioxidant defenses kick in, for example) ● lifestyle ● nutrition ● diseases and other conditions Medical practitioners can use these standards and numerous mathematical models to figure out what age your body “acts” like. In some cases, chronological and biological age will be the same. If you live a relatively healthy lifestyle, eat well, and don’t have any significant health concerns, your chronological and biological ages will likely match up or your biological age may even be lower! But in other cases - such as if you smoke, don’t exercise, or have chronic health problems - your chronological and biological ages might be very different. It all depends on how well your body is functioning, and what sorts of risks you’re taking with your lifestyle choices.
Telomeres, inflammatory aging, and DNA methylation, according to research, are essential factors in the aging process. They help determine your biological age by measuring certain markers that indicate the function of your organs, muscles, and other parts of your body.
One way to calculate biological age is to measure telomere length. The nucleotides at the ends of chromosomes are known as telomeres. They prevent chromosomal ends from degrading and fusing with another chromosome nearby. However, this basis has fallen out of favor, scientifically, due to its difficulty in measuring with accuracy and the role of epigenetics.
Franceschi et al. created the term “inflammaging” in 2000 to describe a new dimension to aging research. It states that the aging process has a chronic, increasing pro-inflammatory phenotype. Inflammaging is becoming more and more essential to the understanding of aging and age-related disorders. Academics from several disciplines of study, including vascular and glycan biology, have been drawn to this research, which has had a considerable impact in the last decade.
DNA methylation is critical for embryonic development, genomic imprinting, chromosome integrity, and other processes. Scientists can also use it to measure biological age. Eight thousand samples from 51 different tissues and cells were collected in one study conducted by Steve Horvath to see if it’s an accurate means of predicting age. The chronological and biological ages of most of the tissue and cell samples analyzed were similar.
There are several benefits to knowing your biological age, but perhaps the most important is that it can help you make better decisions about your health. From choosing to exercise more often, to quitting smoking, there are many lifestyle changes you can make to improve your health and longevity. Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of knowing your biological age:
Things like quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and eating a nutritious diet can go a long way in reducing your risk of age-related diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. When you know your biological age, you can better understand where you might need to make some changes in order to improve your health and stay as youthful as possible.
As we get older, it’s easy to become complacent or disengaged. But if you know that you’re biologically younger than your chronological age, you might be more likely to stay active and engaged in life. Things like socializing, learning new things, and staying physically active can all help keep your mind and body young.
One of the biggest benefits of knowing your biological age is that it can help you understand your health more profoundly. By learning about the factors that contribute to aging, such as DNA methylation and inflammatory aging, you can gain insight into what’s really happening inside your body as you get older. This knowledge can empower you to make better health decisions and take steps to protect your long-term well-being.
Finally, knowing your biological age can help you make decisions about preventive care. For example, if you know that you’re at risk for age-related diseases, you might be more likely to get regular checkups and screenings. This can help you catch problems early and get any treatment you need. In short, knowing your biological age can give you a better understanding of your overall health and allow you to take proactive steps to maintain your well-being.
There are several things you may do to improve your biological age. Starting at any age, including 40 and up, can be beneficial.
This may be the most obvious factor when it comes to aging healthily, but it’s also one of the most powerful. By exercising regularly, you can reduce your risk of chronic diseases and improve many aspects of your health at any age. Whether it’s going for a walk or lifting weights, find an activity you enjoy and make time for it each week. Believe us; you will feel the difference.
Along with exercise, eating a healthy diet is one of the best things you can do to improve your health and slow down aging. Ensuring that you get plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats in your diet will help protect against chronic diseases and keep your body functioning optimally as you get older.
Smoking is one of the most harmful habits you can have for your health, and it can even age you prematurely. If you smoke or are around secondhand smoke regularly, quitting and steering clear of it should be a top priority to help keep your body healthy and young. And if you’ve never smoked, that’s great – make sure to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke too.
Stress is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to aging, both biologically and chronologically. Finding ways to reduce stress in your life through exercise, meditation, therapy, or other methods can help slow down aging at the cellular level and improve your overall well-being as you get older.
Getting quality sleep is another crucial factor in aging healthily. When you don’t get enough sleep, it can take a toll on your physical and mental health, and even increase your risk of chronic diseases. Make sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and if you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about possible solutions.
Moderation is key when it comes to drinking alcohol. Too much alcohol can damage your liver, heart, and brain, and even increase your risk of cancer. If you do drink, limit yourself to one or two drinks per week, and avoid binge drinking. This isn’t to say you can’t ever drink alcohol, but rather that you should be aware of the risks and consume it in moderation.
Exposure to the sun and other sources of ultraviolet (UV) light can damage your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer. Some studies have even linked it to premature aging and cognitive decline. To protect yourself, make sure you always use sunscreen when you’re outdoors and wear protective clothing, including a hat with a wide brim.
Mental health is just as important as physical health when it comes to aging well. Conditions like depression and anxiety can take a toll on your mind and body, so it’s crucial to get help if you’re struggling. Therapy, medication, and self-care can all be helpful in managing mental health conditions.
Last but not least, one of the best things you can do for your health as you age is to see your doctor regularly. Getting checkups, screenings, and vaccinations regularly can help catch problems early and keep you healthy as you get older. So don’t forget to schedule those appointments!
Aging is a natural process that happens to everyone, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to slow it down. By taking care of your body and mind, you can age gracefully and improve your chances of living a long and healthy life. If you need some help getting started on your healthy aging journey, contact Afiya Health. Afiya can help you by establishing a baseline for your biological age and overall wellness. Then, we can give you evidence-based recommendations to improve your health and functional status. By measuring your progress over time, we can help you optimize your body’s potential for a longer, healthier life.