People always guess that you’re older than you really are. But that isn’t a big deal, right?
Your ‘biological age’ doesn’t always correspond to your real age, and not only is that bad news for your health, people can sometimes tell just by looking at you, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers examined 1,000 young adults at age twenty-six, thirty-two, and thirty-eight. They calculated the participants ‘biological age’ by looking at a number of biomarkers, including: organ function (Kidneys, liver, lungs), metabolic systems, immune systems HDL cholesterol, cardiorespiratory fitness, dental health, cognitive function, and length of telomeres (the protective caps at the end of chromosomes, which have been found to shorten with age).
Some people’s ‘biological age’ corresponded to their actual age, but others aged two or three years for every one; in fact, one thirty-eight year old had the body of a sixty-year-old. The fast-aging participants also had trouble with balance, coordination, and cognitive tasks. More interestingly, people asked to guess the participants’ ages were more likely to guess ‘biological ages’ than real ages.
In other words: you’re as old as you look. In the future, doctors might calculate biological age and give that to patients in lieu of more complex information. Now, though, understand that age-related decline isn’t just something that happens after midlife—it starts in your twenties, and it can be very unkind.