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Getting old is a term that’s not high on popularity polls and has even been the subject of nightmares for many great men. Everyone wishes for their fountain of youth to never run dry. However, youth is a gift of nature that comes attached with its stop clock. Which brings us to the all-important question — Are you really as old as you think you are?

Perhaps not. When explaining age, scientists use two definitions — chronological age and biological age.

Understand the Chronological and Biological age:

Chronological age is the time passed from the time of your birth. Every birthday you celebrate marks the progression of your chronological age. However, individuals with the same chronological age vary widely in health and the kind of feats they achieve in their daily lives. For instance, someone who is 50 might have the dexterity of a 30-year-old. They could climb flights of stairs with ease or have no trouble with vision in low lights. This concept of functional age is what scientists call Biological age. It defines how your biological system is ageing. So at a specific chronological age, one’s biological age can be younger or older.

How to Measure Biological Age?

Being functional in nature, biological age measures the ageing process in terms of various components such as functional impairment, disease, and morbidity.

In recent times, scientists have identified “Biomarkers” that govern Biological age. These can be broadly categorized into Molecular biomarkers– based on genetic material like DNA, RNA etc or Phenotypic biomarkers based on clinical parameters like blood pressure, grip, muscle strength, lipids etc. Scientists have made remarkable breakthroughs in assessing the biological age through these markers.

One popular method of biological age quantification in the molecular biomarker category is the Epigenetics clock. Epigenetics clock or DNA methylation age ( DNAmAge for short) is a biological process by which methyl groups are added to the DNA molecule. Methylation can change the activity of a DNA segment without changing the sequence. In an adult human being, the rate of methylation correlates with age for a specific site. This concept is used to create the epigenetic clock. Scientists have used the epigenetic clock to determine tissue age, lung age etc. Another popular biological age quantification method is through telomeres. Telomeres are protective caps on your chromosome and are maximum at the time of birth. As cell division happens, based on the number of generations, the size of telomeres starts to reduce. The reduction in size correlates with age and has been linked with associated diseases like diabetes, alzheimers, hypertension etc. Thanks to the remarkable understanding scientists now have about aging, we also have many other approaches to determine biological age.

Unlike chronological age, biological age is something you can control and reverse. Today biologically you might be 45 and the very next year, you could very well be 5 years younger. This is possible because we now have greater understanding of cellular and molecular mechanisms that govern aging. The rate of senescence can be reversed or, at least slowed through simple ways.

Aristotle once said, “you are what you eat”. Even after centuries this stands true. Diet plays an important role in your aging process. Just like fueling your vehicle with the wrong fuel can be detrimental to the engine, an unhealthy or wrong diet can expedite one’s aging process. Diet rich in antioxidants, beta carotenes, omega-3 and polyphenols are known to keep one’s body young.

Inclusion of 30 minutes of exercise each day is extremely important for your cellular regeneration and repair. Mild cardio exercises will also help one better adapt to aging. Apart from diet and lifestyle, stress plays a crucial role in aging related processes. Stress can damage your body and make you feel older than you really are. Pent-up emotions and anger need to be released in a healthy manner. Research shows activities like Yoga, meditation or even deep breathing goes a long way in keeping one young and energetic.

Sleep is another crucial aspect that decides how fast you age. sleep deterioration has been linked to such conditions as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and stroke. More than quantity it is the right quality of the sleep that helps you to stay young. Deep curative sleep not only slows down the aging of the brain but also promotes neurochemicals that help us switch stably from state of sleep to wakefulness.

When people say that age is just a number, they mean the chronological age. With proper diet and lifestyle adjustments, you can be of the age you want to be, and your birthday parties may no longer stand testament to your true age.

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