Be Younger Than Your Age

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Have you ever wondered why no two people age the same way? This may not be noticeable when people are in their 30s, but chances are it’ll be more obvious when they reach their 40s or 50s. The reason could be that they have differing rates of aging.

There are two types of aging: chronological and biological.

Chronological age refers to a person’s birth years. A 40-year-old person’s chronological age is 40. However, biological age refers to the “age” of a person’s body. For example, this same 40-year-old person could have a biological age of 35 (i.e., they are aging slower than their chronological age) or 45 (they are aging faster).

Biological aging is largely the result of interplay between lifestyle choices, health status, and genetics. Genetics is believed to account for only 20-30% of biological aging, meaning lifestyle choices and health status have a bigger effect on rate of aging. Some researchers suggest that people who follow optimal health behaviors (e.g., no tobacco or alcohol use, exercise regularly, eat a plant-based diet, manage their stress, etc.) should be able to live an average of 86 years. Years lived beyond that is likely due to genetics.

A review of 156 studies on factors related to biological aging identified some common themes. For example, physical activity and exercise slow biological aging, while alcohol and tobacco use accelerate aging. Having a high percentage of body fat, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) also accelerate aging.

Essentially, stress and inflammation created by negative health habits and illnesses cause our bodies to age more quickly.

Understanding that exercise slows aging should be reason enough to get moving if you’re not yet motivated. Exercise stimulates repair and maintains the health of your body’s cells, strengthens the heart, improves blood circulation and insulin sensitivity, boosts your metabolic rate, and fights inflammation.

While specific foods or diets don’t directly affect biological aging, diet does affect your risk for disease, which in turn affects biological aging as noted earlier.

A study compared the health differences between 22 pairs of twins. One twin in each set was randomly assigned to eat a vegan diet (no animal products including eggs and dairy) while the other twin followed a standard omnivore diet (which includes meat products and vegetables/fruit). Since twins share similar genes, any impacts on their health would more likely be due to their respective diets, rather than their genetics. After just eight weeks, the twins assigned to eat a vegan diet had lower LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose and other health conditions related to cardiovascular disease.

Don’t believe that your health, including the rate that you age, is out of your control!

For starters, just move more. Walk around the block. Find an online workout routine that interests you. Join a hula class. Go for a swim a few times a week.

Next, start and stick to regular appointments with your doctor. They can assess your health, make lifestyle recommendations, refer you to appropriate specialists (such as dietitians, mental health, or physical therapists), or recommend programs to make your healthy lifestyle choices easier, from food choices to tobacco cessation.