Many people remark that they feel younger than their years, and this could be true! Biological age is a measure of your physical and cognitive function as you age. This differs from chronological age, or how many years you’ve lived on the planet. Having a higher biological age, especially in comparison to your chronological age, can increase the risk of age-related diseases. Luckily, there are a range of supplements, apps and trackers to measure, and hopefully lower, your biological age.
What happens with aging?
It has been shown that as we age, specific hormone levels decrease while others increase. The hormone that decreases are DHEA (boosts the immune system and brain function), estrogen, progesterone and testosterone (sex hormone that also helps build muscle, bone and connective tissue. In addition, it keeps us mentally alert and protects us from heart disease) and human growth hormone (stimulates bone, nerves, muscles, skin and organs to regenerate.
The hormones that increase as we grow older are insulin (increases blood glucose levels, predisposing us to diabetes) and cortisol (stress hormone, leads to weight gain, decreased immune function, increased inflammation and ongoing pain).
There is no doubt that aging is not caused by just one factor. It is the result of multiple processes occurring simultaneously .
Biological vs chronological age
While useful for celebrating birthdays, chronological age is not an accurate measure of health. This is because it knows no difference between two people born in the same year. As we all know, people age very differently. Two 65-year-olds may not only look different but also have drastically different health statuses. For example, they could have different physical and cognitive functioning.
Biological age, however, measures the difference in health status between two people born in the same year. Unlike your chronological age that is fixed to change every birthday, your biological age is more fluid. Changing to healthy lifestyle habits, for example, can lower your biological age. Knowing your biological age is also a useful tool in assessing how these changes effect our health. Crucially, it can do so before any diseases arise.
Counting your biological age
Measuring your biological age is a little more complicated than just counting the candles on your cake. Luckily, there are more and more companies emerging in this new and exciting field, all working on different ways to count your biological age. Common methods include using blood tests and lifestyle questionnaires that form ‘biological clocks’ to measure your true age. This can provide a fairly accurate biological age. But how can you use this information to improve your health?
To delay, or even reverse, aging we must first understand what drives the aging process. To do so, we can look at the nine hallmarks of aging. These explain the microscopic processes that go on within our cells that amount to aging. One of these hallmarks is mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell, providing energy. However, as we age, they begin to dysfunction. This dysfunction can be caused by free radicals and oxidative stress, the enemies of healthy aging.
Common symptoms of oxidative stress include:
- Chronic inflammation
- Low energy
- Poor sleep quality
- Brain fog
- Poor physical recovery
How do I lower my biological age?
If you took a test and found out that you’re more of an octogenarian than a millennial, you might need to get your body age adjusted. Here are some simple ways to begin lowering your body age :
Eat healthier: A better diet can reduce your bad cholesterol, decrease blood pressure, improve cognitive function and help you feel better. In turn, this can help lower your biological age.
Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fresh (non-processed) meats and good fats (such as what’s found in walnuts and macadamias) are the basics of a healthy diet. Excluding the foods you don’t need, like sugary snacks, and increasing the nutrients you do, like those found in vegetables, will make for a cleaner, healthier diet.
Its never too late to start making positive changes in your diet. It might be challenging in the beginning, but you’ll thank yourself later.
Get enough physical activity: Even if you are no longer as flexible, fast, or strong as you once were, regular exercise still has many health benefits. Its benefits are strengthening muscles and bones, increasing the body’s ability to hold and transport oxygen, improving mood and reducing depression and anxiety risk.
How much exercise do I need to help decrease my biological age? According to the Australian Government’s recommendation, 50 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week. Furthermore, muscle-strengthening activities are suggested for at least two days every week.
Don’t forget that seeing a health professional is essential if you plan to make significant changes to your fitness routine.
Minimise your stress: While some pressure is necessary to keep motivated, excessive stress strains our immune system, messes with our hormones, slows our metabolic rate and increases our fat storage.
Practices like meditation, guided imagery, prayer, massage, tai chi, chi-ball method, Pilates classes and yoga are always ways to reduce stress.
Get regular health check-ups: Many degenerative diseases can be manageable or avoidable through early detection. If you are over 40, you should regularly see your health professional for checks of your blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol to name a few.
Look after your mental wellbeing: Your mind’s health can play a massive part in your body’s age. Your mental motivation and interaction with others can drastically change how you approach life and its challenges.
In the same way, we go to a doctor or a physio for a check-up, going to a trained counsellor, therapist, or psychologist can help us find answers or provide strategies to achieve better mental health.
It may seem complicated, but there are simple ways to ensure you’re taking care of the basics.
- Establish or stay connected with your social circle: Whether it’s your friends or family, ensuring you’re interacting with people you trust and love can help provide comfort, solace, and support when needed.
- Get a pet if you can or spend time with someone else’s: Having a pet can significantly impact your emotional health. Pets can provide structure, organisation, motivation to exercise and emotional support.
Get enough sleep: There is no doubt about the damaging effects of sleep deprivation. You can ensure you get a good night’s sleep by sleeping and waking up at the same time each day, avoiding caffeine after 4 pm, relaxing in the half hour before bed, and making your bedroom a pleasant place to sleep.
Do without TV and keep the room dark and cool, which helps facilitate sleep. Ensure you get at least 7 hours of restful sleep per night.