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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.
Awesome.
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.
http://www.realage.com/scientific-advisory
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:
http://www.realage.com/ralong/planner/ralref.aspx
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…
Pros
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?
CON
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.
Conclusions
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.