Have you ever seen your friends’ photos on Facebook, talking about how they got x age on their photos? These age predictor sites and apps are such a time-suck yet intriguing, and feed into the idea that some of us look older than our age, while others look not a day older than 18. Ugh. (And yes, I tried
lots of a few photos. I got mostly 23, 24, which isn’t really convincing but pre-tty flattering nonetheless.)
Now a study led by researchers at Duke University proves that what we observed with our own eyes is in fact, scientifically true. They took biomarkers (biological measurements) from about a thousand 26-year-olds, then took measurements again at age 32, and then finally at 38. The biomarkers included: kidneys, the liver, lungs, metabolism, immune system, cholesterol, cardiovascular fitness, the length of telomeres (which indicates DNA damage due to aging), dental health, and blood vessels behind your eyes. (They really left no stone un-turned!). These were used to determine the biological age of the participant, as opposed to the chronological age.
And here’s what they found: The 954 participants’ biological age ranged from under 30 to almost 60. If you’re thinking “OOOOhhh noooo!! I knew I shouldn’t have gone out last weekend!!”, here’s the okay-news. Most of the people did age at an approximate rate of one year per year, which seems fair. However, the sobering news is that even if you score a biological age of 40 (just 2 over your chrono age), you’ve aged 1.2 years per year over the 12-year period (between 26 and 38). And to add salt to injury, these researchers asked college students to guess the ages of the participants, and it turns out your internal age is very directly correlated to how young you look on the outside.
The actual good news is that only 20% of aging is attributed to your genes. You can affect your aging through various external factors. Wouldn’t you like to be one of the lucky ducks who aged at a rate of zero years per year? Sounds good to me!
Adopt these simple habits to stay young and feel young!
1. Take up dancing.
Want to stay smart and sharp forever? Put on your dancing shoes! According to a now-famous study published on the New England Journal of Medicine, dancing was by far the most effective activity for reducing the risk of dementia, at 76% reduced risk. That’s more than crossword puzzles (47%) or reading (35%). Bicycling, swimming, and golf had no reduced risk–so if the music is good, just dance!
2. Eat nuts.
Another brain-helper you should think about is walnuts. Studies show that eating walnuts (rich in omega 3 and polyphenols) reduces inflammation and protects the brain. As pure anecdote, I was recently surprised when my cousin told me she’s eaten at least 4 walnut halves every single day for over 20 years–and she looks about 15 years younger than her actual age. That was pretty motivating!
But if you’re not a fan of walnuts (or their prices), consider incorporating peanuts to your routine. A recent study showed that peanut eaters had lower risk of death from any factor, and especially heart disease, than non-peanut eaters.
3. Drink less alcohol.
I know, I know. What is the point of being/staying young if you don’t let loose and have fun once in a while? That’s a very philosophical question. But alcohol taxes your entire system, builds toxins in your liver, and dehydrates your skin. So proceed with caution.
4. Exercise regularly.
According to a recent study by the University of Maryland researchers, senior athletes report fitness age that are often 20+ years less than their chronological age. The average senior athlete’s age was 68, and average fitness age was 43. Fitness age here is measured slightly differently than biological age above, but it’s basically the same concept.
5. Practice proper sun-care routine.
Here is how to protect against photoaging and sun damage.
6. Have a young attitude.
You are as young as you choose to be, at any age. I think it’s amazing to: keep your long hair after a certain age; challenge yourself to new physical activity; continue re-inventing yourself in your career; have a vibrant social life and romantic relationships, whether you’re 30 or 50 or 80. So keep reading new books, going to foreign places, falling in love, doing yoga–and most of all, do what makes you happy.
What’s your secret to staying young?
More anti-aging articles: Natural Beauty – 5 Tips to Look Younger
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Photo: Vincent Jarousseau via Flickr