How to Measure Biological Age
Jules Walters • Mar. 13, 2023
We’re used to counting our chronological age, literally how many years we’ve lived on the planet – or how many candles on our birthday cake.
Now there’s a modern measure that is more relevant to your health: your biological age.
What is my biological age?
Biological age (BA) measures your general state of health, and the good news is that it can be measured in a number of ways. It’s not perfect but it does provide clues as to how to improve our health.
The concept of a measurable, biological clock was defined about a decade ago by Steve Horvath and his genetics team at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and it has since been refined by others.
As genetics Professor David Sinclair writes in his longevity book Lifespan, scientists now see aging as a loss of information; a bit like trying to read a scratched CD. When our genetic code becomes scratched over time, our bodies can’t read the instruction manual properly.
The good news is that we can improve our biological age.
How long is a human life?
How long we humans live depends largely on when we live.
If we had lived around 1850, we’d have lived for about 40 years. If we lived a hundred years later, around 1950, our lifespan would be about 60 years.
Now, most of us will live to 80 years and beyond; thanks to better sanitation, vaccinations and healthcare.
In 1950, only 23,000 people reached their 100th birthday. Today, there are over half a million people in the world aged 100 or more. By 2100, the number of centenarians worldwide will be over 21 million, according to Statistica.
How do I measure my biological age?
Biological age is measured by a blood or a DNA test, which you can order directly through a number of companies now offering biological age testing. I order a blood test every three months from InsideTracker to see how I’m doing. I then upload the results to my health record so my primary care physician can see them too and we can discuss any adjustments to my health routine.
Here are three companies offering biological tests, based on scientific data. More are starting each year, so I will keep this list up to date as I learn of them.
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Science-based companies offering biological age testing
GlycanAge views aging as a long-term, over-activation of the immune system; so, the older you are, the more glycans you’ll have attached to the proteins on your cells. A glycan is a sugar that attaches itself to proteins on the surface of cells and is involved in cell signaling.
InsideTracker measures 13 biomarkers for women through a blood draw; including markers of metabolism and weight control, such as fasting blood glucose and total cholesterol, plus inflammation and liver function. Elysium asks you to submit a saliva sample, extracts your DNA from the cells in your saliva and measures chemical changes on your DNA that are among the most studied aging biomarkers.
What have I learned by measuring my biological age?
I’ve taken a blood test every three months for the past 12 months through InsideTracker’s Inner Age 2.0 test. I like that I get a dashboard of the results that I can log into at any time and see the changes over time.
The table shows me:
- 12 measures of my oxygen transfer and blood function
- 6 measures of my metabolism & weight control
- 11 measures of my inflammation
- 2 measures of my liver function & toxicity
- 1 measure of my sex hormones
Each quarter, I work on one measure to improve it. In the last three months, I’ve been working on lowering my HbA1c, which is the average amount of sugar in my blood over the past three months. Blood glucose levels tend to increase with age. I have cut out most sugars, apart from a mouthful of dessert every now and again. I find it really helpful to see the data myself and then work on improving it.
What could you learn about your body?
The human body has between 30 to 40 trillion cells, and that’s not including the 10 times that number of microbes that live in and on our bodies. Exact estimates differ, as you can imagine as there are a lot of human and microbial cells to count, but that is the ball park we’re talking about – a lot of cells!
These cells speak to each other through chemical and electrical signals so it’s a good idea to listen to their conversation. What have you got too much of that’s causing imbalance in your system? What’s too little? Your biodata will tell you: dial in.