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Although most of us think of age as a simple calculation, starting with birth year, which equals the number of years we’ve been on the planet, the truth is not so simple.
In fact, while that method will tell you your chronological age, there’s another far more important measurement it neglects — biological age is the age your body functions due to multiple factors such as your lifestyle, nutrition, diseases and other conditions.
For example, if you’re a 50-year-old woman who eats only high-fat foods, never exercises and has smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for decades, your biological age could be far greater than the 50 years you have on the calendar.
In other words, making those bad choices can have the effect of accelerated aging by speeding up your biological clock and causing your body to function as a 75-year-old.
The good news is that knowing this arms you with easy ways to reverse aging and live longer, like making the right exercise choices to turn back your biological clock by nine years in just 30 minutes.
It can also include hacking your daily nutrient intake and putting in place an eating program that was used to help research participants take three years off their biological age in only short eight weeks.
And now, thanks to a study by an international team of researchers, there’s insight into one more thing you can do to help keep your biological age from exceeding your chronological age…
How your mental state affects the pace of your aging
To conduct the study, the researchers used a brand new aging clock which was trained and verified using the blood and biometric data of almost 12,000 Chinese participants.
The goal was to determine what effects loneliness, restless sleep and unhappiness have on the pace of aging and to compare it to issues that we know can increase biological age, such as smoking, history of stroke and diseases of the liver and lungs.
“Mental and psychosocial states are some of the most robust predictors of health outcomes and quality of life, yet they have largely been omitted from modern healthcare,” said Manuel Faria, study author and student at Stanford University.
So, they set out to correct that issue.
And while the team of scientists once again found that smoking and bad health did indeed accelerate aging, the data had a surprise in store…
The researchers found that feeling helpless, lonely and unhappy can have not only a significant effect on aging, these feelings actually increase the rate of biological aging more than smoking.
Additionally, they found that being single (which could play into those feelings) and living in a rural area also increase biological aging.
In other words, being in a vulnerable mental state could leave you old before your time.
According to the researchers, these results illustrate the importance of caring for your mental health to ensure healthy physical aging.
Secrets of exceptional aging
So how can you care for yourself both mentally and physically in order to slow down the march of time?
- Stay social – While it’s easy to slip into routines that involve spending time alone, it’s important to seek out contact with others and enjoy a variety of social activities. These can include everything from joining a book club to volunteering at your local animal shelter or soup kitchen or spending more time with family.
- Try Tai Chi – Meditation and Tai Chi can not only offer relief for feelings of loneliness, but they may also ease symptoms of depression.
- Get more physical activity – Exercise not only slows aging on a physical level, but it can also improve your mood and combat depression to roll back the clock on a secondary level. And getting a handle on your biological age can be simple, starting with just 10 minutes a day.
- Controlling inflammation – Beating inflammation can help you also conquer feelings of unhappiness since depression has been linked to a 30% increase in brain inflammation. Potent inflammation-busters include turmeric and fermented foods and greens. The omega-3s found in fish oil are also a great option that’s been proven to stop inflammaging (aging due to inflammation) and may even take years off your face.
- Work at maintaining a healthy weight. Obesity has been found to accelerate the mechanisms of aging five ways.
You can use these four simple tips to start rolling back the clock today. And if you want to determine how old you really are right now, here’s a biological age calculator you can use.
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Loneliness and unhappiness may impact biological aging more than smoking – Integrative Practitioner