What's Your Real Age?
When I use the term “anti-aging,” I’m not talking about living forever. The real goal is to function at peak capacity throughout life, feel great, and be able to do all the things that make life worth living. Regardless of your chronological age, you want to be biologically young.
You already know your chronological age—even if you'd rather not admit to it. But do you know your biological or functional age?
How Old Are You Really?
Although there is no universally accepted yardstick for biological or functional age, experts have identified several biomarkers of aging that can be measured by a physician. These include muscular strength, exercise tolerance, vision and hearing, blood pressure, vital capacity (lung function), heart size, and laboratory tests of DHEA, glucose, lipids, and creatinine clearance (kidney function).
There are also some do-it-yourself tests of functional age. These tests are mostly for fun, so get the family involved and see how people of different ages score.
If you've ever been bested by your children or grandchildren in a videogame, you know that reaction time slows down as we age.
To test yours, take the falling-ruler test. Have someone dangle a ruler from the end, holding it at the 12" or 18" mark (depending on the size of the ruler). Position your thumb and middle finger about 3-½ inches apart at equal distance on either side of the bottom of the ruler (the 0" mark).
As the other person drops the ruler, without warning, catch it between your thumb and finger as quickly as possible, and note where you caught it. Repeat three times and average your scores. Averages generally go from the 6" mark at ages 20–30, to 10" at ages 40–50, and 12" or more at ages 60 and above.
I was in a restaurant recently when I noticed two couples at an adjacent table passing around a pair of reading glasses—none of them could make out the menu without them. (I’ve started using them myself, so I can relate.) As we age, the lenses of our eyes stiffen and lose their ability to accommodate, or change shape, and this interferes with near vision.
To test your visual accommodation, hold a piece of paper with writing on it at arm's length and slowly move it toward your eyes until the print begins to blur. (If you wear glasses for distance, you may use them, but do not use reading glasses.)
For the average 21-year-old, the blurring point will be about 4 inches from the eyes; at age 30, 5½ inches; at 40, 9 inches; and at 50, 15 inches. By the time you're 60, your arms may not be long enough to bring it into focus at all!
One of the most visible markers of aging is the skin. Loss of connective tissue in the skin contributes to the sagging and wrinkling that are characteristic of aging.
A reliable test of skin elasticity is to pinch the skin on the back of your hand between your thumb and forefinger for 5 seconds, then see how long it takes to return to normal.
This will take less than a second for most people under 30, and 2–5 seconds for those ages 40–50. However, by age 60, traces of the skin fold will remain for an average of 10–15 seconds, and by age 70, 35–55 seconds.
Static balance is the process by which we maintain an upright posture while standing.
Age-related changes in the complex interplay between sensory, nervous, and motor systems are one reason why older people are more prone to falling. When your eyes are closed, the differences in static balance between young and old are exaggerated (older people are more dependent on vision for balance), so this test is one of the most dramatic of all biomarkers.
Stand on a hard, uncarpeted floor, barefoot or in low-heeled shoes. Close your eyes and lift one foot (the right foot if you are right-handed, the left if you are left-handed) about 6 inches off the ground. Do not move or hop about to maintain your balance—just stand there with your eyes closed. (Have someone nearby to time you and help you if you start to fall.).
See how long you can stand on one leg before putting your foot back down. Repeat two more times and average your scores. The mean score at age 20 is 30 seconds; at age 30, 25 seconds; age 40, 15 seconds; age 50, 10 seconds; age 60, 7 seconds; and age 70, 5 seconds.
Lung function also declines with age. There are several tests of lung function, but one you can do yourself is the match test.
Light a match and hold it about 12 inches from your mouth. Inhale deeply, and with your mouth open wide (do not pucker up as you normally would to blow out a candle) attempt to blow it out. Bring the match forward gradually and repeat until you are able to extinguish the flame.
Most 20- to 30-year-olds can do this at a distance of more than 10" from the mouth. For ages 40–50, the average is 7–8", and for 60–70 years, it is 5" or less.
Improve Your Scores
Have fun with these tests, and remember that the results are only broad indicators of where you are right now. If you’d like to improve your results and give your body the tools it needs to fight aging head on, there are a number of steps you can take.
First, boost your antioxidant levels using glutathione and supplements such as vitamins A, C, and E, which fight free radical damage.
Natural hormone replacement is another great option, as restoring your body's levels of hormones to those of a young adult helps you take a giant step away from the aging process. Resveratrol, a phytonutrient found in the skins and seeds of grapes, peanuts, and a handful of other plants—as well as in red wine—has also proven helpful because it mimics caloric restriction and helps turn back the clock.
In addition, diet, exercise, and other lifestyle modifications positively influence your “real” age.
Making these adjustments can really make a difference in all biomarkers of aging. I suggest that you record your results today, implement an anti-aging program of your own, and take these tests again in six and 12 months. Don't be surprised if, despite the passage of time, your functional age gets younger.
Resources and Recommendations
- Suggested doses of the supplements mentioned above are vitamin A (as beta-carotene), 20,000 IU daily; vitamin C, a minimum of 1,000 mg per day; vitamin E, 300–400 IU per day; and resveratrol, 100 mg once or twice a day with meals.
- You can purchase supplements containing glutathione, but they are expensive and not particularly effective at raising blood levels. On the other hand, good old vitamin C does a credible job. N-acetylcysteine (600–1,500 mg), lipoic acid (100–200 mg), and whey protein (use as directed) are also quite effective.
- Natural hormones require a prescription. To find a physician with expertise in bioidentical (natural) hormones, contact the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) at worldhealth.net.
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Meet Dr. Whitaker
For more than 30 years, Dr. Julian Whitaker has helped people regain their health with a combination of therapeutic lifestyle changes, targeted nutritional support, and other cutting-edge natural therapies. He is widely known for treating diabetes, but also routinely treats heart disease and other degenerative diseases. More About Dr. Whitaker
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