Biological age can diverge from the number of years we celebrate on our birthdays - and it sheds light on the time we have left
By Helen Thomson
AGE is a peculiar concept. We tend to think of it as the number of birthdays we have celebrated – our chronological age. But this is just one indicator of the passage of time. We also have a biological age, a measure of how quickly the cells in our body are deteriorating compared with the general population. And these two figures don’t always match up.
Just take a look around: we all know people who look young for their age, or folks who seem prematurely wizened. Even in an individual, different parts of the body can age at different speeds. By examining how chronological age lines up with biological age across the population, researchers are starting to pin down how these two measures should sync up – and what it means for how long we have left when they don’t.
In recent years, studies have shown that our biological age is often a more reliable indicator of future health than our actual age. It could help us identify or even prevent disease by tracking the pace at which we’re getting older. It may even allow us to slow – or reverse – the ageing process.
I became interested in my biological age after discovering in my 20s that my ovaries were ageing prematurely. Yet now, at 33, I am still often asked for identification when buying alcohol, suggesting my face is holding up pretty well. It made me wonder about other aspects of my biological age, and whether knowing more might help me to live.