Biological age, or a measure of how old you are internally, is different from chronological age, or how old you are based on the calendar. Unlike chronological age, biological age can be sped up, slowed down, and in some cases, reversed. 

We’ve been thinking about age in the wrong way.

Many researchers and medical professionals are now suggesting that biological age is a better metric for actual age than chronological age. And age is incredibly important because it's associated with numerous health conditions, like increased risk for numerous adverse health conditions associated with aging. 

Studies show the effects of age-related changes are noticeable before many of us feel, look, or consider ourselves as being old. The early signs of aging can include changes in our senses, like our hearing getting worse or now needing to use reading glasses. You may notice your body composition is changing, too. Many of us will find it harder to maintain muscle mass and lose unwanted weight. Immune function can weaken too – you might get sick more often or stay ill longer, or perhaps you recognize the healing process from an illness, athletic injury, or wound is taking longer than it used to.1 

No matter your current chronological age, there are small changes you can make that will build up over time and support your ability to maintain a lower biological age with every new year. And many of these well-studied preventative measures are affordable, accessible, and easy to implement. 

Follow these six steps to add positive behavior changes to your daily habits and add healthier, happier years to your healthspan.

Step 1: Know your biological age. 

You need a baseline measure of your biological age to know where you're starting. A combination of blood biomarkers analyzed in an appropriate statistical model is an affordable and accurate way to gauge your inner age. Thorne’s Biological Age Test is a blood biomarker assessment of biological age. Using Onegevity's Health Intelligence – driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning – your blood biomarker results and health profile are transformed into actionable reports with personalized recommendations to improve your health.

Step 2. Add movement to your day.

Our bodies were built to move. And when we stop moving, we tend to get more injuries. Purposeful exercise, deliberate movement, and the daily activities of living add up. The benefits of exercise for healthy aging are so well-established that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the following benefits of exercise on their website:2

  1. Helps maintain the ability to live independently
  2. Reduces the risk of falling and fracturing bones
  3. Reduces the risk of dying from coronary heart disease and of developing colon cancer and diabetes
  4. Helps reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and can help reduce blood pressure in some individuals with hypertension
  5. Helps people with chronic, disabling conditions to improve stamina and muscle strength
  6. Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression and fosters improvements in mood and feelings of well-being
  7. Helps maintain bone, muscle, and joint health
  8. Helps control joint swelling and pain associated with arthritis

Most recommendations suggest 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75-minutes of higher-intensity, more vigorous exercise.3 Start somewhere; any exercise is better than none.

Step 3: Sleep tight.

Age is correlated with less and worse sleep, and is also a risk factor for insomnia, restless legs syndrome, and sleep apnea.4 Sleep is critical for the body's ability to rebuild and restore.

During sleep, the body does many critical processes: muscle building, tissue repair, clearing of metabolic waste in the brain, and growth hormone production and release. Poor and reduced sleep is associated with a host of challenges associated with aging – from declining cognitive function (poor memory, brain fog, etc.) to poor cardiovascular health.

Focus on your nighttime routine. Maintain a cool, dark bedroom, and minimize interactions with your cell phone and computer screens, and keep a consistent sleep-wake schedule. 

Step 4: Exercise your mind. 

"Use it or lose it," the saying goes. Active thinking and learning build and strengthen connections between brain cells. This builds cognitive resiliency, allowing your brain to withstand neurological damage and the cognitive capacity declines that naturally occur with age.

Read books and the newspaper, learn a new language, download an app for brain quizzes, or interact with people from different generations. Don't let your mind sit idle.  

Diet can influence brain health. The Mediterranean Diet is tied to healthier cognitive function.5 Older individuals who follow a Mediterranean diet have a 15-35 percent odds of scoring better on tests of cognitive performance.6

Step 5: Be socially active. 

Maintaining positive relationships and social connections as we age is one of the most underrated factors for living a longer, healthier life. Over time, friends, family, partners, and work colleagues change, but it's important to develop connections with those we have in our lives.

According to the Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health, individuals with poor social engagement in later life are at higher risk for depression (and other mental health challenges), heart disease, decreased immune function, and overall earlier death.7

Research shows that as people age, better social engagement is tied to lower levels of inflammation.8 Blood biomarkers of inflammation tend to increase with age, and are also associated with the development of dementia, bone loss, arthritis, fatigue, poor sleep, and other health challenges. Therefore, social relationships are important for happiness and health. 

Step 6: Re-evaluate your life. 

This step is essential. Stop and reflect, and ask yourself, "Am I where I want to be – in biological age, fitness, and my relationships?" In this step, re-test your Thorne biological age, make one new healthy change in diet and exercise, make a new short- and long-term relationship goal, and continue to transform the way you age. Realistically, this reevaluation step should be repeated every six months.

Start today on your journey to living healthier years with a younger biological age. Discover your internal age with Thorne’s Biological Age test and repeat steps 2-6.


References

  1. Jaul E, Barron J. Age-Related Diseases and Clinical and Public Health Implications for the 85 Years Old and Over Population. Front Public Health. 2017;5:335.
  2. A report of the Surgeon General. CDC. Physical activity and health: Older adults. https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/sgr/olderad.htm. [Accessed August 29, 2019]
  3. O'Keefe J, Franklin B, Lavie C. Exercising for health and longevity vs peak performance: different regimens for different goals. Mayo Clin Proc2014;89(9):1171-1175. doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2014.07.007
  4. Frank M. The mystery of sleep function: current perspectives and future directions. Rev Neurosci 2006;17(4). doi:10.1515/revneuro.2006.17.4.375
  5. McEvoy C, Guyer H, Langa K, Yaffe K. Neuroprotective diets are associated with better cognitive function: the Health and Retirement Study. J Am Geriatr Soc 2017;65(8):1857-1862. doi:10.1111/jgs.14922
  6. Valenzuela M, Sachdev P. Can cognitive exercise prevent the onset of dementia? Systematic review of randomized clinical trials with longitudinal follow-up. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry 2009;17(3):179-187. doi:10.1097/JGP.0b013e3181953b57
  7. Research suggests a positive correlation between social interaction and health. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/about/living-long-well-21st-century-strategic-directions-research-aging/research-suggests-positive. [Accessed August 31, 2019]
  8. Friedman E, Hayney M, Love G, et al. Social relationships, sleep quality, and interleukin-6 in aging women. Proc Natl Acad Sci 2005;102(51):18757-18762. doi:10.1073/pnas.0509281102