By: Hope Cristol
At Sharecare, we pride ourselves on providing health information you can trust from top experts in their fields. Now, a new landmark study published January 17 in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE confirms that the RealAge® Test, our unique health assessment that measures your body's biological health age as opposed to chronological age, is an accurate measure of how long you'll live.
What does that mean in plain English? "Researchers were looking at whether the RealAge Test was able to do what it said it did," explains Sharecare Chief Medical Officer Keith Roach, MD, a co-creator of the RealAge Test. "So if you are 35 years old and your RealAge is 30, do you really have the same risk of death as an average 30-year-old? The study found that you do."
What's more, the study - conducted by a team at the University of California, San Diego, led by James Fowler, PhD, a professor of medical genetics and political science - found that the RealAge Test is even more accurate than another health score widely-used by doctors called the Framingham ATP-III.
We sat down with RealAge Test co-creators Michael Roizen, MD, and Dr. Roach to learn more about the science and what it means for you.
Q: You and millions of users already had confidence in the science behind the RealAge Test. So why is this study important?
Dr. Roizen: First, it proves patient-entered data can be used to accurately predict cardiovascular and all-cause risk -- that is, your choices of exercise, food, your stresses, and even how much you love predicts accurately how young or old your body is. The second thing that really is potent about this study is that no one at RealAge had any influence on it.
Q: Were you surprised to learn how accurately the RealAge Test is able to predict how long you'll live?
Dr. Roach: A little surprised and pleased, but not tremendously surprised. We worked awfully hard to come up with a new set of algorithms, of ways of trying to predict mortality based on an immense amount of published data. So we're pleased that the new method that we used and patented proved to be as effective as we hoped.
Q: Given that the RealAge Test relies on a person's self-reported information -- like waist size or cholesterol levels -- how is it so reliable?
Dr. Roach: Let's take a look at just cholesterol. Someone's blood cholesterol number has a lot of different factors: diet, family history, exercise. So if you just look at cholesterol levels, you're missing a large part of what is driving your risk. Since the RealAge Test looks at multiple different areas of your health, you can misreport some information and still get a good prediction about how well your body is doing.
Q: Researchers found that the RealAge Test was more accurate at predicting heart disease deaths than the Framingham ATP III. Why do you think that is?
Dr. Roach: The RealAge Test uses many more pieces of information than is available to the Framingham equation. Because we're looking at mortality risk in a more comprehensive and holistic way, we're able to make better predictions about coronary disease as well as different forms of mortality.
Dr. Roizen: The Framingham looks at tobacco use and so does the RealAge Test, but Framingham doesn't look at your food choices, how much physical activity you do, or how you manage stress. So the RealAge Test is more accurate because it's using factors that are not accounted for by the Framingham that are major predictors of more than cardiac and cardiovascular mortality and disability; they accurately predict your overall risk of dying.
Q: What are some potential outcomes you hope to see from this published research?
Dr. Roizen: This study validates that your choices affect your rate of aging. What I hope is that people gain a greater appreciation and confidence in knowing they can take control of their quality and length of life. They can live longer and with less disability if they choose to do so.
Read the published paper, Prediction of Mortality Using On-line, Self-Reported Health Data: Empirical Test of the RealAge Score, at PLOS ONE.