How Lifestyle and Habits Affect Biological Aging

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Biological age, also called physiological age, is a measure of how well or poorly your body is functioning relative to your actual calendar age. For example, you may have a calendar or chronological age of 65, but because of a healthy and active lifestyle (avoiding longevity threats like tobacco and obesity), your body is physiologically more similar to someone with a chronological age of 55. Your biological age would, therefore, be 55.

There are several ways that you can determine your biological age, but none are definitive or truly accurate. However, there are certain health factors that could give you years back on your average life expectancy.

Lifestyle

Healthy habits can have a significant impact on your longevity and biological age. These include:

  • Exercise habits
  • Eating habits
  • Stress levels
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Level of education
  • Amount of sleep
  • Sexual and romantic relationships
  • Tobacco use and exposure to other environmental toxins

Heredity

Another major contributor to biological age has nothing to do with your habits. Heredity, or your gene pool, is also partially responsible for your biological age. Just as specific diseases run in families, longevity does also. The Adventist Health Study shows that with optimal lifestyle habits (e.g., no tobacco or alcohol use, regular exercise, vegetarianism, effective management of stress) people generally have an average life expectancy of about 86 years. Anything above that suggests a genetic component. If you have family members who have lived longer than 86 years, chances are you'll live a long life too.

Location

Another important factor influencing biological age is where you live. It's no secret that the environment and culture you live in is connected to healthy habits, but it's also tied to your safety, the foods you eat, and so much more.

For example, studies have shown that people living in an unsafe neighborhood are unlikely to go outside to exercise. They're also less likely to find shops selling fresh fruit and produce. Perhaps even more significantly, they are likely to experience high levels of stress.

A Word From Verywell

While not an exact science, the concept of biological age can incorporate objective measures like resting heart rate, blood pressure, and visual acuity, as well as more subjective criteria like ease of performing daily tasks, muscle strength, and general mobility.

Thus, knowing your biological age is the same as knowing how healthy and strong you are—and whether you are at risk for life-threatening illnesses, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

What if your biological age is higher than your chronological age? Now is a great time to make positive changes that can make a positive difference. The goal is to put a focus on those habits that lower age expectancy and turn them into healthy habits that add to your life.

Start by addressing some of the issues you can change right away. For example:

  • If you haven't already, quit smoking.
  • Add more fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and water to your daily diet.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene by turning off screens and relaxing an hour before you turn in at night.
  • Get more exercise by walking or starting a fitness program.
  • Learn techniques for stress reduction and management, such as meditation or deep breathing.

If you follow all or even some of these basic suggestions, you may be on your way to biologically being younger than your chronological age.

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  1. Sebastiani P, Perls TT. The genetics of extreme longevity: Lessons from the New England centenarian study. Front Genet. 2012;3:277. doi:10.3389/fgene.2012.00277

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