Scientists Develop Test to Measure “Biological” Age

What is successful aging? For many, it’s how many years you have accumulated—known as your chronological age. However, we all know people who seem younger than their age—fitter and healthier than you’d expect. These people may be “biologically” younger than their chronological age. Scientists may now be able to quantify aspects of so called “biological age” using tests that measure specific factors in our bodies.

What the Research Says

Scientists in the United Kingdom developed a test that only requires a sample of blood to analyze genetic material (RNA, a cousin of DNA) and determine biological age. Using this test, the researchers were able to accurately predict cognitive health and a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Why It Matters

The best way to increase chronological age is to maintain a young biological age. This new scientific test could tell people what their biological age is, how successfully they are aging, and how to do it better.

Expert Insight

Studies, like this one published in PNAS, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that starting early in life, we all age at a different rate. Measurements like this new blood test could test that rate and tell us who is biologically “older” and at higher risk down the road, but it’s still in the research stages. Tests that are further along include measuring telomeres—parts of DNA linked to longevity. Still, even though these tests have been scientifically validated, they are not widely available and are generally expensive.

For now, however, you can easily estimate your biological age using a biological aging calculator, as featured in a recent New York Times article. Researchers in Norway have shown that older athletes are roughly 20 “biological years” younger than older non-athletes. Using these findings, the researchers developed the algorithms used in the calculator, providing a relatively accurate way to estimate your own biological age.

Marcel Davidse

Marcel Davidse was an intern with the Healthy Aging Project in the fall of 2016, and graduated in December 2016 from the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder.