Dr. Michael F. Roizen was consulting with patients in the mid-1980s when he began to see the value of using the real-age tactic to motivate them to quit smoking. Roizen, an internist and anesthesiologist, remembers telling his patient, Simon, that smoking made him eight years older. Simon replied, “I can’t be 57.” The patient, who actually was about to turn 49, went on to say that no man in his family had celebrated a 58th birthday. All had died by 57.
Thinking quickly to offer encouragement, Roizen recalls giving Simon the good news: “You get one year younger in three months after quitting; two years younger in five months after quitting, and so on.”
The physician based his real-age estimates on existing medical research, and continued using this approach with his hypertension patients through the 1990s. One of these patients helped launch Roizen into RealAge fame as an author and guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and more.
The patient came into Roizen’s office in 1993. When Roizen asked him why he wasn’t taking his blood pressure medication, the patient replied, “What difference would it make?” His blood pressure was 140/90 mm Hg, on the upper end of what’s considered normal. Roizen responded, “Well having a blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg makes you about six years older than if you were taking your blood pressure medicine and were 115/75 mm Hg.”
The patient was intrigued by the notion that he could have the energy of a younger person by taking his medication—so intrigued that he helped fund the $1 million or more Roizen needed for research that would become the basis of his RealAge findings.
Overseeing a team of researchers, scientists and others, including an economics statistician, Roizen sought to determine which lifestyle factors, according to at least four studies in humans, influence aging rates. The team figured out how to rank each independently, as well as determine how these factors interact to influence age.
Today, Roizen is co-founder of RealAge Inc., a consumer health media company and provider of personalized health-management tools, as well as chairman of the RealAge scientific advisory board. He serves as chief wellness offi cer and chairman of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. He is the author of the RealAge series of books and co-author with Dr. Mehmet Oz of the YOU series of books, including four No. 1 New York Times best-sellers.
Roizen’s RealAge test includes 149 factors, from weight, cholesterol and blood pressure, to drinking and driving, talking on a cell phone while driving and using birth control. “There are actually 190 factors that influence aging, but 149 that you can change,” he says.
Once you take the test, you get the result: your real versus calendar age, as well as specific recommendations for how you can live younger.
While people cannot change the genes they inherit from their parents, they can change the activity of those genes. Roizen refers to research looking at the glutathione S-transferase mu 1 (GSTM1) gene, which he says, fights breast and prostate cancer. The authors of one study found that by eating four servings a week of broccoli, men reduced their risk of prostate cancer because of the vegetable’s effect on the anticancer gene.
“Walking 30 minutes a day, for at least 20-minute intervals, changes another set of two genes that make binding factors for cancer growth factors. By walking, you change those genes’ functioning and, by changing those genes’ functioning, you decrease your risk of colon cancer,” Roizen says.
More important than telling you the real age of your body, the RealAge test ranks the factors that have the largest to the smallest effects on your age and provides information about how you can change them.
If, for example, your answers suggest you aren’t getting enough vitamin D, the RealAge response to your test will suggest you may be vitamin D-deficient and either recommend you go to a doctor to have it checked or take 1,000 international units of vitamin D a day, which, Roizen says, will make your real age six-tenths of a year younger.
One of the great agers that many test takers probably need to overcome is stress, he says. According to the RealAge Web site, in highly stressful times one’s real age can be as much as 32 years older than his or her calendar age.
Roizen says having friendships (or buddies) helps relieve stress, yet, Type A executives often lack friends. Roizen, who heads Cleveland Clinic’s Executive Health program, says that while executives notoriously rate themselves high when it comes to business and financial success and often say they are happy with their families, “virtually none” are happy with friends.
In addition to cultivating friends, Roizen recommends people take these simple steps toward real-age youth: Walk 30 minutes a day, avoid five aging foods, floss their teeth and take seven vitamins every morning.
12 Ways to Reduce Your RealAge 1. Take Your Vitamins Regularly taking vitamin C (1,200 mg/day), vitamin E (400 IU/day), calcium (1000-1,200 mg/day), vitamin D (400-600 IU/day), folate (400 mcg/day) and vitamin B6 (6 mg/day) can make your RealAge six years younger. 2. Quit Smoking and Avoid Passive Smoke Smoking makes your RealAge eight years older. 3. Know Your Blood Pressure A person with low blood pressure (about 115/75 mm Hg) is as much as 25 years younger than a person with high blood pressure (greater than 160/90 mm Hg). 4. Reduce Stress In highly stressful times, your RealAge can be as much as 32 years older than your calendar age. By building strong social networks and adopting stress-reduction strategies, you can erase 30 of those 32 years of aging caused by stress. 5. Floss Your Teeth Flossing and brushing daily can make your RealAge 6.4 years younger. 6. Be Active Even a small amount of exercise—two 20-minute walks per day—can make your RealAge nearly five years younger. 7. Wear Your Seatbelt Regularly wearing a seatbelt and driving within 5 miles per hour of the speed limit can make your RealAge as much as 3.4 years younger. 8. Fill Up on Fiber Getting 25 grams of fiber per day in your diet can make your RealAge 2.5 years younger than if you only included 12 grams of fiber per day in your diet. Men may need even more than 25 grams of fiber per day. 9. Monitor Your Health People who are proactive about seeking high-quality medical care and managing chronic conditions can have a RealAge as much as 12 years younger than their peers who do not. 10. Become a Lifelong Learner People who remain intellectually involved throughout their lives have a RealAge as much as 2.5 years younger. 11. Laugh a Lot Laughter reduces stress, strengthens the immune system and can make your RealAge as much as eight years younger. 12. Take the RealAge Test; Develop an Age Reduction Plan® Over your lifetime, you can make your RealAge as much as 26 years younger. That means that you will live younger every day, and live longer with as much health and energy as possible. Source: Grow Younger® Strategies from RealAge Inc.
Everyone, he says, should live by the “rule of fives,” avoiding any food that has any of these in the first five ingredients on the label:
Saturated fats (four-legged animal fat, or palm or coconut oil) Trans fats, which include partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated vegetable oils Simple sugars, known to end in ose, such as glucose, dextrose, etc. Syrups, which are masquerading sugars, whether in the form of rice, corn or malt syrup Any grain except 100 percent whole grains (avoid flour, for example)
RealAge recommends: regularly taking vitamin C (1,200 mg/day), vitamin E (400 IU/day), calcium (1,000 to 1,200 mg/day), vitamin D (400 to 600 IU/day) folate (400 mcg/day) and vitamin B-6 (6 mg/day) to make your real age six years younger. Roizen also takes omega-3 fi sh oil in the form of a pill.
Roizen has had to work at reducing his real age. He took the test early on, thinking he was the picture of health. After all, he had been captain of the U.S. squash team in the Pan American Games; he thought he had a healthy diet. But although he was one of America’s top 1,000 doctors, there was so much he didn’t know. Today, his calendar age is 59, but his RealAge is 41.2.
“I didn’t know that there were three components of physical activity and each had independent effects. I thought if I was in cardiovascular shape, I didn’t have to do weightlifting and I didn’t have to do any general physical activity…. Out of the 149 factors, I probably didn’t know either the strength or importance of 142 or 143 of them,” he says.
Roizen says that while he knew that low-density lipoprotein (LDL) was important, he didn’t know that high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol became more important for men over 60 and was important for women of all ages. He learned that blood pressure was at least six times as important as cholesterol in managing one’s rate of aging.
“I didn’t know tomatoes were important or that cruciferous vegetables [such as broccoli or cabbage] had a different effect from other vegetables. I didn’t know that DHA [omega-3 fat from algae] was so important for the brain or that walnuts would decrease the risk of heart attack,” he says.
“Virtually anyone can live to age 90 with the quality of life that they had at 45. San Francisco is built on fault lines. Whether it survives a magnitude 2.9 or 8.9 earthquake without damage depends on its building codes and how rigorously they’re enforced. We’re all built with fault lines in our genes. Every one of us,” Roizen says. “But whether we live to 90 or 100 with the quality of life of someone who is 45, or whether we die at 68 living with a disability and [at the real age] of someone who is 90 depends on our choices.”