your subjective age

As old as you feel: your subjective age

Behavior, ,

When someone asks how old you are, they are asking for your chronological age. However, a different measure of age might be more clinically significant: your subjective age.

To determine subjective age, researchers ask a simple question: “How old do you feel, most of the time?” Scientists have found that how the person answers is often an accurate measure of their true mental and physical health. A person who says they feel younger than their chronological age is much more likely to be, in fact, healthier and more psychologically resilient than typical of their chronological age. 

Subjective age and brain thickness

Studies show that people who feel younger than their chronological age perform better on memory tests, with a slower rate of cognitive decline. A 2018 study of 68 healthy older adults who underwent brain scanning showed that those who felt younger had significantly thicker grey matter in multiple areas of their brain. The brains of the younger-feeling group showed fewer signs of age-related deterioration.

Which comes first?

Scientists know that younger-feeling individuals are in better physical and mental condition, but what comes first? Is it that feeling younger somehow changes your body and metabolism so that you do become healthier? Or is it just that people who already are healthy tend to feel younger? Research has not shown a cause-and-effect, so the answer is not known. 

Psychological effect of a lower subjective age

Various studies have shown that just telling somebody that they are performing better than their “age” gives them a boost in performance. This boost effect has worked in tests of memory, walking speed, and grip strength. So just being told—or believing that you are in some ways younger—can give you a psychological boost, with better performance.

Change your subjective age

A part of aging and chronic disease is related to your genes, but much of it is changeable. Meaning, if you are not in great shape—for example, overweight—if you return to a more normal weight it is likely you will feel younger, with a lower subjective age. You may not need so many medications, have more energy, and suffer fewer aches and pains. Such a person will feel younger, which then boosts them to do even better, setting up a “virtuous cycle”. A person who feels younger can be more active and do more things, which makes them feel even younger.

The best way

The best way to lower your subjective age is to regularly engage in physical activity— aerobic as well as strength training (weight lifting). Including some “functional” exercises will help as well. This improves your stability and you will be less likely to fall and break something, which can raise your subjective age dramatically. Keep your weight in the normal range, and note that intermittent fasting may be a better way to lose weight and slow aging itself.  Eat a diet full of nutrients, adequate protein, with as few processed foods as possible.

If you feel older than your age

This is most likely a sign that you need to change some thing(s) in your lifestyle. A complete exam would be a good idea. If you feel younger than your chronological age, congratulations, because you are probably doing things right.  

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See also in ProcuraMed:

Middle age and beyond: 10 ways to reverse unhealthy habits

How cleaning clutter can cut your stress level

Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

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This post is related to the specialties Clinical Medicine, Geriatrics. Below is a list of some doctors related to these specialties.