Find out your true age by taking the RealAge test.By Lisa Davis
Here's a riddle: How can you be older than your parents were when they were your age?
Answer: By packing on the pounds. A recent study from the Netherlands found that because of the way obesity rates have risen, today's 40-year-olds are just as old, metabolically speaking, as their parents were at age 55.
Details: In the late 1980s, 40 percent of men in their thirties were overweight, while by the late 90s, 52 percent of men of the same age carried excess pounds. And today's 20-something woman is twice as likely to be obese as a twentyish woman of a decade earlier.
This is not good. As you'd expect, the extra weight has given the younger generation a head-start on older people's diseases, like high blood pressure and diabetes. And we're seeing the same pattern in the U.S, says Sharecare expert Michael Roizen, MD, chief wellness officer for Cleveland Clinic. "The whole world is getting more obese," he says. "We're just leading the way."
Dr. Roizen and his colleague Sharecare expert Keith Roach, MD, have the numbers to back that up, thanks to the RealAge test, which has been taken by millions of people in the past 13 years or so. Answers about things like weight and waist size, whether you smoke and your blood pressure and cholesterol level get plugged into an equation to assess your physical age, as opposed to your calendar age. And the numbers don't lie. "In 2009, we started to see some drift-an overall trend toward people getting less healthy," Dr. Roach says.
Isn't lifespan increasing? Well, yes, but that's no thanks to improved fitness. The statistics reveal a battle between lifestyle choices and the medications that rescue us from our lifestyle choices, Dr. Roizen says, and the meds are winning-so far.
"But let's say it: That's idiotic," says Dr. Roach. "We shouldn't have to treat people with drugs to reverse the lifestyle mistakes they're making. We'd like them to make healthy changes and not need the drugs."
Making those choices is not just about living longer. It's about living better. About half of all people between the ages of 55 and 65 have osteoarthritis, Dr. Roizen says-twice as many as 20 years ago. Not only does extra weight on the joints add wear and tear, but fat cells actually release inflammatory chemicals. That's just one reason why obesity is the second most common reason people get Social Security disability benefits, right behind tobacco. "It's misery for them, and misery for society," says Dr. Roizen.
But statistics like the ones out of the Netherlands aren't all bad news, Dr. Roizen says, because they show how easily people can reset their chronological age-backward as well as forward.
"You're not condemned to have a miserable life if you're overweight when you're young," Dr. Roizen says. "Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol-you get a do-over if you lose the weight. Until you're six feet under, you get a do-over."
Setting the clock back is not hard, Dr. Roizen says, and it's not a mystery. It comes down to exercising more, eating fruits and vegetables, getting enough sleep, not smoking-all the things you already know you ought to be doing. "It's the simple, small changes, done consistently, that makes your RealAge younger," Roizen says.
Who would have thought that Bob Dylan was talking biology when he wrote My Back Pages? It's an anthem for anyone who puts down the Danish and picks up a green breakfast smoothie: "Ah, but I was so much older then-I'm younger than that now."
Tune in to "The Dr. Oz Show" Tuesday, April 16 for expert tips on lowering your body's RealAge.
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