Are You Aging Too Fast?

Odds are you look and feel younger than your mother did at the same age. But you could probably be doing even better

by Meryl Davids Landau
face of woman on hourglass body illustration image
Photograph: The Heads of State

Here’s the conundrum: “We all want to keep living; we just don’t want to age,” says Michael Rafael Moreno, MD, author of The 17 Day Plan to Stop Aging. But while we can’t help growing older, he notes, “by taking the right steps, we can mitigate some of the inevitable changes that occur as time passes.”

To help you gauge whether you’re at risk for aging faster than necessary, More developed a quiz with the help of some of the country’s top medical experts. You’ll answer questions relating to four major body systems: those connected with circulation, bones, immunity and breathing. Your results may differ from system to system, because you can age slowly in some areas, such as your heart, but not in others, such as your bones. After each section, we provide strategies for turning back the clock—or at least lessening the marks of time. When putting together your age-more-slowly plan, you should, of course, discuss any possible lifestyle and medication changes with your physician.

Quiz 1: Your Heart and Arteries

1. Take your pulse after sitting quietly for five minutes. (If you can’t find yours, use a heart-rate monitor.)
Your heart rate is:

A) 80 or fewer beats per minute (bpm)

B) More than 80 bpm

Your resting heart rate is a well-known indicator of the efficiency of your circulatory system. A number below 60 bpm means you’re in great shape, 60 to 80 is about average, and consistently more than 80 (and especially above 100) is cause for concern. Heart rates can get higher as you age, and research in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that these jumps really boost the odds of dying from heart disease. For instance, study participants who moved from the 70-to-85 bpm category to the over-85 bpm group were 80 percent more likely to experience fatal heart problems over the almost 10-year research period than those who remained in the initial group. 

2. Try this test: Exercise hard on a stationary bike or walking surface until you’re totally exhausted. Stop and immediately check your pulse, then wait 60 seconds and check your pulse again. The difference between the first postexercise heart rate and the second one is: 

A) 18 or more bpm

B) Fewer than 18 bpm
If your heart rate takes a long time to return to normal, there may be a potentially unhealthy imbalance between your sympathetic nervous system (which revs you up) and the parasympathetic one (which slows you down), says Bohdan Pichurko, MD, a pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic. People with slow recovery rates are more likely than others to experience heart problems.

3 Pull out a measuring tape. How big is your waist?

A) 35 inches or less

B) More than 35 inches
Carrying body fat around your middle rather than your hips and thighs increases your odds of developing heart disease and other problems. A recently developed risk-assessment tool (called A Body Shape Index, or ABSI) shows the health impact of fat distribution by combining your waist measurement with the height-and-weight numbers required for calculating the widely used body mass index (BMI). Consider a 45-year-old woman who is five foot six, weighs 140 pounds and has a 35-inch waist. Her BMI is 24, which is in the normal range and suggests she has an average life expectancy. But the more accurate ABSI catapults her risk for early death to 60 percent higher than average—a definite wake-up call. To find your numbers, go to more.com/absi.

4. What is your family history of early heart disease?

A) None

First published in the December 2012/January 2013 issue

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