Is “Real Age” real info or real hype?

August 10th, 2010
A number of my clients have asked me about the website http://www.realage.com.
If you are not familiar with it, this site has a questionnaire  to determine what your “real age” is.
Let’s face it, with titles of emails and ads  like “you could be younger than you think”  the Real Age test has quite the appeal.
If you are 35 you might come out with a “real age” of 25 or 55 (or older), depending on your eating habits, lifestyle, health history and genetic tendencies.
It’s an interesting test – and I have to admit, it was great to be 53.6 and have the site assert that my “Real Age” is 43.3.
But what, exactly, does that mean?
“Is it real information or real hype?”  after doing some research, I would argue that it’s mostly real info, but with a dash of hype thrown in.
Let me explain…
I dug around and asked some questions  to find out more about who and what criteria are  behind the “Real Age” site, and then came to some conclusions about the pros and cons.
Who is behind the Real Age site?
The Real Age site has a super impressive list of physicians on the scientific advisory board, including the well known,  Dr. Oz.  Check out their page that lists their bios.  These are deeply credible professionals.
So far, so good.  I began to rest easier about my  age calculation when I read this.
What are the criteria to behind the number of your “Real Age” calculation?
I wrote to them and asked, and was happy to receive a prompt and impressive reply from them.
- 125 different factors in the areas of  medical, genetic, psychological, lifestyle, and environmental risks are in the calculation.
- Each of these factors must have been proven to affect aging in at least four different research studies to even be considered as a component in the calculation.
- 800 clinical studies informed the RealAge test to determine the risk of death from a variety of factors.
- On top of all that, they use stats from the U.S. Census Bureau and National Center for Health Stats.
- They don’t stop there.  They continue to update new data and reflect changes in health trends as scientific research moves forward.
References and more detail about the criteria can be found by clicking on the following link:
I bookmarked this link to be a resource, it’s a very yummy list.
After digging in to who and what, I came to these conclusions of pros and cons…
After taking the test, they make specific recommendations to you for your health based upon your answers.  It’s almost like having a private appointment with a doctor, very helpful and tailored to you.
The emails I have received from them since signing up have been really helpful information, well researched and clear.
They have programs, tracking tools, all kinds of tools for diet, nutrition, exercise.  It is a wonderful site for an easy way to stay on top of your health and aging.
You can make adjustments and take the test again and see your progress to reduce your “Real Age”.
It is especially helpful to see which habits you can change and to face how deathly (literally) some habits are.  They do age us.
So yes, it is real information based on real science  from real physicians and specialists.  I am personally finding it a very helpful tool for prevention of disease, general wellness,  and tips for  getting a handle on some of those age related effects of time.
So what’s not to love?
I can’t even say this is a “con” per se, more of a caution or clarification.
When they say “real age” my understanding is that they are referring to studies about aging, longevity and death.  For example, the average age expectancy for the U.S. just hit a high of 78 in the spring of 2010.
This means that, according to the Real Age calculations, if my health continues on this trajectory, I would live 11.3 years longer than average,  so, to about 89/90.
Does this mean that my body thinks that I am 42?  No.  My body is  well aware that it is 53, and no amount of great lifestyle habits will convince it otherwise on many levels.
Does this mean that I can think like a 42 year old with regards to recovery after exercise, metabolism, or bone density?  No.  I need to honor my age, and be healthy in my age to increase my health, longevity and quality of life.
So saying it is your “Real” age,  I believe,  is a great marketing tool, and fantastic emotional “hook”, but a little misleading.
If you get a low score, it means that you  have not done things to your  body to make you age prematurely.  However,  I’m sure that the same genetic workings down deep in our  DNA that told our  body clocks to go into puberty at a certain age, know that  you are your chronological age.
Go for it.  Use it.  Use it as a tool for your health as it is intended.  But if your “Real Age” is younger than your chronological age, don’t let the powerful language sway you into complacency or into  ”over doing it”.  You want your “Real Age” to be a barometer of your health!
P.S.  You will notice that a lot of the questions are about exercise.  That’s because exercise is key to health and slowing down aging.
Contact me about medical exercise using at home and “during the day” exercises for pain prevention.  I will also refer you to a wonderful personal trainer who works out of a gym or in your home if you like.

Your nervous system: A key component for massage assessment and strategy

June 12th, 2010

I was delighted to see the March 2010 of Massage Today feature an article titled “Evaluating Neurological Symptoms” by Whitney Lowe, founder of the Orthopedic Massage Education and Research Institute.

In this article, he stresses a point that I often commnicate to my clients:

Massage is not just about relaxing muscles and  massaging where the client feels pain.   Often, the place of the pain is NOT where you want to be massaging.

In addition to direct pain relief, massage is also about helping the nervous system be in a healthy state where it is “plugged into” the muscle fibers and not being “short circuited”.  Sometimes pain can be in one place, one muscle can be weak where the pain is, but it is because another muscle in another place is tight, resulting in weakness of another muscle which then causes pain in the area.

Sound complicated?  It is.  Let’s look at an example:

The same nerve that innervates the serratus anterior in the back (which holds the scapula against the wall of the ribs), runs under the scalenes in the neck.  When the scalenes get tight, they can compress the nerve and cause weakness in the serratus anterior.  The signals are not getting through.

When the serratus anterior is weak, the scapula “wings” (the bottom point sticks out from the ribs), and the movement of raising the arm to the side begins to be impaired.  This can actually go as far as to result in symptoms that look like impingement syndrome.

Impingement is,  technically,  a mechanical issue in the shoulder joint, but the root problem can be neurological compression and muscle weakness.

This can result in frustrating therapy that does not help, MRIs that show nothing is wrong, and you are left with pain that supposedly “shouldn’t be there” but is “bigger than life” real to you.

Another example of the nervous system being involved in pain  is when the gluteal muscles are weak and not firing properly in a person’s gait.  It may be that the gluteals just need strengthening and the nerves need to be innervated to the muscle fibers again, but it also can result from the hamstrings being too tight.  When the hamstrings are tight, the gluteals shut down.

These are just two examples of how an understanding and evaluation of the neurological component is important in a strategy for massage and/or exercise for a client.

For a free postural and gait assessment (and fabulous information, including do at home and work exercises) subscribe (free!) to the Advanced Muscle Care Newsletter:  - http://www.alteredstates.org

To book an appointment or contact me with questions, go here  - http://www.alteredstates.org/contact.php

Find me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/alteredstatesofscience

Find me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/cynthiamealy

I’d love to see you,

To your health and happy muscles,

Cynthia Mealy


Allergies: I thought I understood them…until now.

June 1st, 2010
I thought I knew how allergies worked.  My story went something like this…
“Pollen gets into your nose or eyes, your body reads it as something harmful and overdoes it with histamines and other chemicals which give symptoms of a runny nose and watery eyes to get rid of the supposed invader.”
I found out that this is only part of the story.
The whole story actually involves our immune system,  underlying this response, and can effect our health well beyond our seasonal allergies.
The whole story, starts with your T-Cells.
A T-cell is a type of blood cell. T-cells belong to a group of white blood cells (WBCs) called lymphocytes. WBCs protect the body from infection.  They are part of our immune system, and they secrete a variety of “cytokins” to attack and destroy harmful substances.
Have a look at this diagram…
There are different types of T-Cells.  The TH-0 cells circle around the body, and depending on which type of antigen is presented, it magically turns itself into a Th-@, Th3 or TH1.
These different T-cells secrete different messengers (those “cytokins” I was talking about)
In a healthy body, there will be a small daily oscillation between TH1 and TH2 cells, so that the body is always ready to respond in a a certain fashion.
So let’s go deeper.
Why are we prone to allergies?  Clinical trials since the 1920’s have repeatedly shown that it is genetic.
Those who are prone to allergies, have an immune system that tends to respond to substances with the TH-2 cells rather than the balanced response that includes the TH1 cells.  The T-2 cells secrete cytokins that cause the itchy watery eyes and runny nose.
The TH3 cells are regulatory.  They secrete a cytonkine called Transforming Growth Factor beta (TGF-B) which is an anti-inflammatory that facilitates tissue repair.  There is also  evidence that TGF-B  plays a part  to restore the balance between TH1 and TH2.
So I was right with my understanding of what an allergy is, but missing the vital piece of info that underlying the response is a genetic  tendency of my immune system.
All I have been doing to date is dealing with the symptoms.
Here are 7 big reasons why treating symptoms is not enough for your health…
♦ There are 50 million people in the US who suffer from allergic rhinitis, and we have an increased risk of Emergency Department visits and hospitalizaiton for asthma
♦ Treating allergic rhinitis in asthma patients with co-existing allergic rhinitis resulted in 61 percent fewer hositalizaitons.  THAT IS HUGE!
♦Allergic rhinitis interferes with sleep and leads to increased daytime sleepiness.
♦ Allergic rhinitis patients reported difficulty falling asleep, nocturnal awakening, early awakening, non-restorative sleep, lack of sleep and  snoring.
♦ If you treat only symptoms, you continue to have an immune system that is not in balance, therefore not supporting your health to its best ability.
♦ Allergy medicines often have side effects such as  drowsiness, jitteriness, lack of concentration.
♦ You have to make sure you have your symptom related med with you before or whenever you encounter the allergen.
What the body needs is to do what is called the “T1/T/2 switch.”
This is where naturopathy comes in.
I am using Naturopathy remedies by Heel to support my immune system, and encourage the response of the Th-3 cells to regulate the balance of Th1 and Th2.  They also include support for dealing with the symptoms.  I’m still taking some of my  conventional over the counter meds, because it takes time to make the “T1/T/2 switch”, but I need less, and already the side effects are much less.
Can you imagine not being dependent on prescription or over the counter medicines?
What would life be like if your immune system no longer responded with massive amounts of histamines, but instead, gently escorted the pollen out of your body without you noticing?
I’ve started to make the switch, fill out the contact form on this link if you would like to contact me about these products or any of my services. http://www.alteredstates.org/contact.php

When should you see your doctor about pain?

September 19th, 2009


It’s me, Cynthia Mealy. I am a massage therapist and medical exercise specialist in Oakland, CA. This is my first blog, I’m going to use this space as a place where I write my reflections on questions asked by clients, and on various articles and resources that may be helpful to my readers.

Clients often ask me whether they need to see a doctor when they are experiencing pain. I just saw a great article on this by Ben Benjamin, (a PhD in education and sports medicine) in the Massage Today newspaper.

Did you know that you can’t just go to a physical therapist without being referred by a physician? Many people are not aware of this, and often feel like it is some part of the crazy red tape system called “healthcare”. I don’t blame them for thinking that, but in this case, there is a very good reason – it is the same reason why I sometimes refer people back to a doctor before I feel good about seeing them for massage again, or beginning an exercise program.

Why should you go to a doctor first if you have pain?

Because pain can indicate serious medical conditions that need to be ruled out.

There are a lot of medical conditions that I don’t know about, that a physician will. Some examples that are listed in the article:

- pain in both heels can be a sign of gonorrhea (who knew? you don’t want to be wasting time with a massage therapist in this case)

- pain in the shoulder when lifting the arm might be musculoskeltal injury (frozen shoulder, rotator cuff injury, etc.) but it could also be a sign of cancer in the lung.

- pain when rotating the neck may be a result of injury, but one massage therapist ensured that her client went to a doctor, and they found they had a brain tumor.

- I learned from another doctor that pain at night can indicate cancer (go figure, but there you are)

When it comes to this kind of thing, there’s a lot that we don’t know, but physicians do. I’m not wanting anyone to be alarmed, but I always say “I don’t know what I don’t know”, so seeing a physician is the right thing to do.

You don’t want to waste precious time on therapies that will not be effective when something potentially serious can be caught and dealt with in the early stages.

There. I’ve written my first blog, I hope you find it helpful for yourself or loved ones

Supporting your muscles that support you,


http://www.alteredstates.org <–sign up for my Advanced Muscle Care newsletter here

http://www.facebook.com/alteredstatesofscience <–resources and discussion board re: specific injuries and chronic pain

http://www.twitter.com/cynthiamealy – quick tweets of great articles on fitness & health