“Age is just a number,” as the saying goes – but which number, exactly? Of course, you can count to this year from the one you were born in, but that’s far from the most relevant one.
You’ve likely had one or more double-takes upon learning a new friend was five years older than you thought…. or more awkwardly, the opposite. Was it their face that didn’t match the number? Was it their energy, demeanor, or something even more profound that you couldn’t quite nail down?
Perhaps it was actually their bio age, which measures the health of their cells and DNA instead. It’s no great leap to say your bio age matters more than your chronological one. In the sections ahead, I’ll walk you through what your bio age is and I’ll even tell you how to take your first steps towards lowering it. Or if you’re the impatient type, you can take the Biological Age Self-Assessment right now.
Why Chronological Age Matters Less Than Biological Age
Your chronological (or calendar) age is the one you already know, but it’s also the one that tells you the least. For example, three 45-year-olds might share a chronological age, but it wouldn’t have much to say about their various life expectancies. Health, happiness, and vitality would likely differ amongst all three, possibly significantly.
As we get older, it’s a fact of life that our bodies begin to function less efficiently and slowly collect damage from both internal and external causes. Some of these causes are natural, but many are avoidable.
While one of the 45-year-olds mentioned above might have the average physiology of most people their age, another’s body might be damaged enough to resemble a 53-year-old’s. Likewise, the third might have a lifestyle that gives them the body of an average 39-year-old. Vanity aside, what’s the big reason this matters? According to the World Health Organization, people spend roughly the last 20% of their lives (on average) managing chronic illnesses. By the age of 65, a full 80% have at least one chronic condition, such as heart complications, cancer, or dementia. A substantial majority has at least two. While these might be grim statistics, the younger your bio age, the less likely you are to fall into them – regardless of chronological age.
You can think of it like this: while your chronological age tells how many years you’ve been alive, your bio age shows how your body has largely spent those years. Bio age differs from chronological age in another crucial way – while the latter can only go one direction, bio age can go forward or backward, depending on damage and repair. In other words, with the right tactics, your physiology can grow younger. Really!
What Goes Into A Biological Age?
When determining your bio age, several factors are at play that can either accelerate or reverse it. Here’s just a sample:
Factors That Decrease Biological Age
- Good Gut Bacteria
- Balanced Exercise
- 7-9 Hours of Sleep (for most)
- Meditation/Mindfulness Practice
- A Healthy, Diverse Diet
- Cuddling & Physical Touch (Yep, that’s right!)
Factors That Increase Biological Age
- High Blood Sugar
- Environmental Toxins
- Not Enough or Too Much Exercise
- Certain Medications
- Bad Gut Bacteria
- Excess Stress
What all these factors affect, either positively or negatively, is an epigenetic process called methylation which essentially decides what genes get turned on and what genes get turned off. In my book, Younger You, I explore how this process works (and you can read about its direct link to bio aging right here). What matters most is that as much control as DNA methylation wields over your biological age, our everyday choices wield just as much control over DNA methylation.
How We Got Here
Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn first popularized the link between DNA and biological aging via genetic material known as telomeres. Telomeres gather at the end of our DNA strands to protect them from fraying, but as we age, they get shorter and shorter. That leaves our DNA strands exposed, and the more exposed they are, the greater our chances of contracting diseases. But while telomeres can say a lot about overall health, scientists found that measuring them alone resulted in only a 40% correlation with real age.
Dr. Steve Horvath of UCLA went further, going past telomeres to analyze hundreds of sites on the genome. His studies correlated all that DNA data to .96 of chronological age. What was exciting about this? That missing .04 was not an error – it represented the average difference between chronological age and bio age.
Horvath’s DNAmAge epigenetic clock – also known simply as the Horvath clock – is a complete analysis of methylation across the genome. As a result, the Horvath clock can accurately assess your bio age, even as it changes, by analyzing the methylation patterns across hundreds of specific sites. This makes it an essential tool for studies like mine designed to measure the effects of bio age-altering interventions.
Since the Horvath clock gained widespread use – and became more accessible to non-researchers – advanced tools like the GrimAge and PhenoAge clocks also became available. These second-generation clocks offer specific correlations between DNA and health-related factors such as disease or mortality risk. What began a decade ago with Dr. Blackburn’s telomere observation has quickly evolved into a cutting-edge bioanalysis system. The promise these tests show for not only mapping the factors that age us but learning how to reverse them is suddenly enormous – and enormously exciting.
Put Yourself To The Test
All that research has led us here – to you taking a simple assessment and roughly learning your own bio age. I say “roughly” because this quiz is NOT designed to compete with the Horvath clock for accuracy. It is simply a way to get a better-than-ballpark estimate of how old your physiology really is.
We call this the Bio Age Self-Assessment quiz (or BASA), and it’s a valuable way to highlight what you’re already doing well – along with any habits that could be making you older. No matter what number you get, remember that you can lower it as I teach people in Younger You.
Take the test just below.
What To Do With What You Know
How’d you do? Whatever your result: it’s actionable. The strategies used during my initial study successfully lowered bio age by an average of 3.23 years in participants, and since then, my team has already learned more, as revealed in Younger You. It really is possible to not only extend life but a high quality of life, warding off disease and decline through easy-to-implement diet and lifestyle changes. The resources are all here; now it’s up to you to put them to good use. Age may just be a number, but never forget it’s a number you can choose.
Ready to go deeper? I include the BASA, along with a Medical Symptoms Questionnaire (MSQ) and an easy guide to analyzing your blood work in Younger You – which together give you the most accurate number possible without using the Horvath clock. All three are also a part of the 3 Years Younger Program, which takes the guesswork out of bio age reversal via specialized lab tests, lifestyle coaching, and dietary supplement recommendations.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, and if you do give the Bio Age Self-Assessment quiz a go, please leave a comment below on what you think of your result – I’m always curious to hear from our amazing community!