Have you ever met someone who looks and acts like they are in their 30s, then been surprised to learn they are actually in their 50s? We all know people who seem much younger than they really are, but why is that?
Everyone has a chronological age (how old you are). But, you also have a biological age, which is a representation of how quickly your body’s cellular and molecular functions are deteriorating.
“Your biological age is not always the same as your chronological age,” says Dr. Scott Jamison, physician at PALM Health. “This is because your behaviors, lifestyle habits, thoughts, and environmental exposures all impact the expression of your genes.” Depending on those factors, your biological age could be younger than your actual age, on par with your actual age, or older than your actual age.
For example, someone who smokes, doesn’t exercise, or is constantly under immense stress is likely aging at a much faster rate biologically. Likewise, someone who eats a healthy diet, gets plenty of exercise, manages stress well, and has a positive outlook probably has a biological age on par with or younger than their chronological age.
So, how does this really work?
The effects of your behaviors, lifestyle, thoughts, and environment on your body’s cellular function are called epigenetic changes.
The progression of these epigenetic changes in your DNA is known as the body’s aging process. This can be slow or rapid, and the process occurs at different rates for every person.
According to Dr. Jamison, “Your cells make certain proteins, which function in different ways to keep you healthy. The instructions for these proteins are given by your genes, which are short sections of DNA.”
Over time, your behaviors, lifestyle, thoughts, and environment can actually change the way your genes’ instructions are read. These are the epigenetic changes. When your behaviors are unhealthy or your environment is toxic, the result is that your cells start to make certain proteins differently or, ultimately, lose function and effectiveness.
Think of it this way: your genes are like the recipe book that tells your cells how to carry out their functions, and epigenetic changes are like the handwritten notes in the margins that you use to alter the recipe. Every choice you make and every issue that arises throughout your life, whether it is a nutritional deficiency, an injury, sedentary exercise habits, medication, poor sleep quality, or pollution around you, tweak the recipe.
“However, the good news is that epigenetic changes are reversible,” says Dr. Jamison. And just like unhealthy lifestyle choices, unmanaged stress, consistent negative thoughts, and a toxic environment can cause more rapid biological aging, the converse is also true. Making changes to your lifestyle and sticking to healthy behaviors long-term can slow down your biological aging and keep you young, energetic, and well-functioning.
Why should you care about your biological age? Accelerated biological aging is the top risk factor for developing many age-related chronic diseases. Your biological age shows where your body really is in the aging process and your risk for developing chronic illness such as diabetes, cancer, and memory deficits.
Leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about feeling better right now. When you make an effort to eat cleaner, commit to moving your body regularly, find purpose and inspiration that keeps your outlook positive, and eliminate toxins in your daily life, you are slowing down your aging process and putting your body in a position to continue functioning at a high level down the line.
At PALM Health, we have a new lab test called the TruAge Complete Collection Specialty Lab that can actually measure your current biological age and track how your lifestyle is affecting your aging process, giving you a clearer picture of your overall health and lifespan. But even more importantly, you will get tips and recommendations on how to slow down and reverse your biological age to keep your body as young and healthy as it can be.
As you age chronologically, it’s important to keep your biological age in mind as well. Ask yourself what your lifestyle habits look like, and what factors in your health history might be impacting your longevity. If you are interested in finding support in answering those questions and discussing what you could be doing to mitigate accelerated aging, we have a team of caring experts at PALM Health who can provide the guidance and advice you need to keep yourself feeling younger and healthier than ever.
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