What Is the Difference Between Chronological and Biological Age?

You Can Lower Your Biological Age with Healthy Habits

elderly woman exercising
Exercise can help lower your biological age. Marcy Maloy/Getty Images

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.

Factors That Determine Your Biological Age

There are several ways that you can determine your biological age, but none are definitive or accurate. However, there are health factors that would 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 your:

  • exercise habits
  • eating habits
  • stress levels
  • alcohol consumption
  • level of education
  • amount of sleep
  • sexual and romantic relationships

Heredity and Biological Age

Another major contributor to biological age has nothing to do with your habits. Heredity or your gene pool is responsible for your biological age. Just as specific diseases run in families, longevity does also. If you have family members who have lived longer than 96 years, chances are you'll live a long life too -- even if your habits are less than healthy.

Location, Location, 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, people living in an unsafe neighborhood are unlikely to go out 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.

Why Biological Age Matters

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 thing 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 are sure to be healthier than most adults and thus be younger than your chronological age.

    Source:

    Wahlin A., MacDonald S.W., deFrias C.M., Nilsson L.G., Dixon R.A.. "How do health and biological age influence chronological age and sex differences in cognitive aging: moderating, mediating, or both?" Psychol Aging. 2006 Jun;21(2):318-32.

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