Awhile ago, a friend forwarded me her RealAge score - 84 years of age. But here's the kicker - she's chronologically 55! I wasn't familiar with RealAge. It was first popularized on an Oprah Winfrey Show broadcast several years ago. RealAge is a book and Web site that uses information taken from your "lifestyle, genetics and medical history" to determine your biological age. Depending on the sum of these factors, you may be younger or older than your stated age.
Obvious factors are calculated in the RealAge Test , like do you smoke, exercise, etc. But less apparent factors also figure in - dog ownership, how social you are, for instance. My RealAge is 9.4 years older than I am. I did get positive credit for daily vitamin intake, eating breakfast, smoking cessation, good blood-pressure and owning a pet (although dog owners get a better score!). Points were subtracted for level of exercise, less than optimal diet, driving over the speed limit and having a smallish social network.
I'm glad to see that the RealAge founders/Web site hosts are medical doctors and that there is a disclaimer on the site cautioning readers that this content is not to be taken as "medical or other health advice." And although I think the test and individualized follow-up emails are very helpful and full of sound suggestions, I do have a few concerns. Your medical doctor or health practitioner always gets an extensive family medical history from you during a comprehensive exam. If your father died of heart disease, that information is vital and a possible indicator of future problems for you. When I do a mental status exam/initial evaluation, I obtain mental health and substance abuse family history and also thoroughly explore current and past stressors in the patient's life.
Oprah, by the way, scored almost 7 years younger than her chronological age. I imagine I would have too, if I had Oprah's vast wealth that provides financial security, a personal chef to cook me nutritious meals, a fitness trainer and other helpful support staff.
Shortly after receiving my test results via email, I was sent a test to determine my cat's RealAge. Fortunately for him, because of his conscientious owners, he scored 20 years younger (in cat/human years) than other cats his age and breed. Hmmm, I don't see him taking those expensive "mature" vitamins...