How old are you really? Biological age explained.

By October 24, 2017Ageing

You’ve just turned fabulous 40 but your body and mind feel decades older. What’s going on? Your biological age may have the answer.

The human body has two different ages: a chronological age and a biological age. Chronological age is the actual time you’ve been alive, measured in years, months, and days from the date you were born. Biological age is how old you seem. It’s a measure of how well your body functions relative to your age on the calendar.

Your chronological age doesn’t always match your biological age. Ageing rates can vary significantly from person to person, even if you share the same birth year. So this means that your chronological age isn’t necessarily the best predictor of how well you’re ageing. Rather, your biological age could more accurately inform you of how healthy you are, and whether you’re at risk for age-related diseases like high blood pressure or diabetes.

How biological age is measured

A lot of things can determine your biological age and impact your longevity. These include:

  • Your lifestyle. Your exercise and eating habits, stress levels, alcohol intake, level of education, amount of sleep, and sexual and romantic relationships.
  • Your gene-pool. In the same way that certain diseases run in your family, so does longevity. If your family members live well into their 70s, chances are you will too.
  • Where you live. The environment you live in is tied to your habits, safety, the foods you eat, and so much more. For example, if you live in an unsafe area, you’re less likely to go out to exercise. This can, in turn, influence your biological age.

How do you calculate your biological age?

Although there are many measures scientists use to determine your biological age, you can get a quick estimate with these 2 tests:

The balance test

Bend your right leg at a 90-degree angle. Place your hands on your hips. Close your eyes. Try to keep your balance as long as possible. The longer you can stay balanced, the lower your biological age.

  • 70+ secs: Age 20.
  • 60-70 secs: Age 30.
  • 50-60 secs: Age 40.
  • 40-50 secs: Age 50.
  • 30-40 secs: Age 60.
  • 20-30 secs: Age 70.
  • Less than 20 secs: Age 80.
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The reading test

Place the end of a ruler on your cheekbone below your eye. Place a business card on the ruler with the text facing you. Slide it towards your eye until the words begin to blur. Measure the distance at which you can still read the card. This number is your biological age.

  • 0-9cm: Age 20.
  • 9-16cm: Age 30.
  • 16-30cm: Age 40.
  • 30-60cm: Age 50.
  • 60-90cm: Age 60.
  • 90+cm: Age 70.

Make your body younger

Unhappy with your biological age? Here’s how to turn back the clock and feel youthful again.

  • Quit smoking. According to a study published in Scientific Reports, smoking adds two to six years to your biological age.
  • Get at least seven hours of restful sleep every night. Your body needs sleep to naturally repair and rejuvenate itself. The less you sleep, the more rapidly you’ll age. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, avoid caffeine after 4pm, wind down before you hit the sheets, and keep your bedroom cool and dark for a great night’s sleep.
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, wholegrains, legumes, and nuts and seeds to fight harmful free radicals that are known to accelerate ageing.
  • Learn stress-management techniques. Excessive stress places strain on your immune system, messes with your hormones, slows your metabolic rate, and increases your fat storage – all of which are bad news for your biological age. Manage your stress levels and reverse your biological age with mindfulness and meditation. Pilates and yoga are other stress-reducing techniques.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. Regular exercise can improve your mood, brain function, and reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. It can also help you maintain a healthy weight for your height and age. Overweight and obese people tend to look older.