Age is only a number ... and you can change it

Your years might attach you to one decade, but your body could be a lot younger

The Middle Ages

March 18, 2007|By Linell Smith | Linell Smith,Sun Reporter

Were you born in 1957? Expecting another "signature" birthday?

If so, there's some good news. If you floss your teeth regularly, don't talk on a cell phone while driving, eat lots of fruits and veggies and devote major time to the treadmill, your body may be turning 40 instead of 50.

Increasingly, scientists and aging specialists believe some of us really are as young as we feel, at least when you're talking biological age.

Consider it the fitness factor.

"The chronological age is the most common way to define age, but not the most accurate," says Sean Leng, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "Obviously, two 85-year-olds are not the same. Some 80-year-olds out there playing golf don't need us [doctors] very much, while some people in their 60s already have problems like heart disease and cancer and may even be in a nursing home."

Leng says many factors, such as lifestyle, eating habits, genetics and medical history contribute to a person's physiological age.

"You can make a strong argument that sensible exercise, particularly resistance weight training, may be the closest thing we have to a fountain of youth," says Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise.

"No matter how much we exercise and train, we can not arrest age-associated decline, but we can change the slope so that it occurs much more gradually," he says. "The net effect could be that when you're in your 70s, you may have the physiological functioning capabilities of someone in their 50s - with a much higher quality of life."

That magic can happen in your 40s, too. When Leng recently took a body age analysis test at his health club in Columbia, the 43-year-old physician was delighted to discover his "real age" was only 37 or 38.

The American Council on Exercise recently published a list of some of the more popular health tests used to determine a person's physiological age. They include expert-administered "vital age" tests and RealAge, an Internet questionnaire that determines body age after you supply lifestyle information, such as how often you floss, along with more standard answers about blood pressure and your family's medical history.

For a test to help determine your physiological age, try real

Ways to make your real age younger

Take your vitamins

Quit smoking and avoid passive smoke

Know your blood pressure

Reduce stress

Floss your teeth

Be active

Wear your seatbelt

Fill up on fiber

Monitor your health

Laugh a lot

Become a lifelong learner

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