Real Age: Are You As Young As You Can Be? with Michael Roizen, M.D.

By Michael Roizen
WebMD Live Events Transcript

We all know people who seem old before their time, as well as people who enjoy active lives well into old age. Which would you rather be?

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome to WebMD Live's Family Wellness Auditorium. Today we are discussing RealAge: Are You As Young As You Can Be? with Michael Roizen, M.D.

Dr. Roizen is a 54-year old internist and anesthesiologist. He has been continuously listed for the last nine years as one of the 1,000 Best Doctors in the United States. Dr. Roizen has given lectures to medical groups in over 47 states and 18 foreign countries. He regularly teaches in the University of Chicago program that provides medical school training to lay audiences (MINI-MED), and has recently served as "Dean" of that program.

Moderator: Dr. Roizen, welcome to WebMD Live. What is RealAge?

Dr. Roizen: RealAge is the actual age of your body, as opposed to your calendar age. Your RealAge can be many years older or younger than your calendar age. In fact, men can be twenty four years younger than their calendar age, where women can be about twenty six years younger at their maximum. Those maximums occur around age 70. What is fun is not just determining whether you're younger or older than your calendar age, but learning how to age at a slower rate. That is, how to enjoy a higher quality of life, with more vigor and energy, at any age. And why I wrote the book, and why we developed the website, was because as a conscientious physician, I was unaware of how easy it was to slow your rate of aging and how solid the data were that easy choices could allow you to slow down the rate of aging predictably. With that introduction, I'd be glad to take questions. And I want to thank WebMD for allowing this opportunity.

Moderator: What do you mean when you say RealAge is a "measure of health"?

Dr. Roizen: If I were to give you 50 dollars, and say that you had to spend it by tomorrow night, then you'd understand that you could buy a great bottle of wine, or dinner, or get a massage, or buy a new outfit or at least part of one. But you know you had too much for even the most expensive cup of coffee -- money is a measure or value that allows us to understand our choices in buying or paying for things. In everything else in life, be it a grade point average or income level, or sales figures, or the number of people listening to a chat... we have numbers that help us set targets and gauge our progress, except for the two most important things in life -- relationships and health. What RealAge does is that it let you understand how important your choices are in health. So for example, when I say that caffeine has no health value, that means that as long as you don't have migraine headaches or heartbeat irregularities that caffeine can make worse, that caffeine has no effect on your rate of aging. On the other hand, if we say that preventing periodontal disease, that is disease of your gums, has up to a 6 1/2 year effect, then you understand that you shouldn't worry about caffeine, and you should think about doing something about your gums, because they're much more important to your quality of life and rate of aging. RealAge lets you make decisions about your health, knowing the value of your choices to you, just as money lets you make decisions about your purchases and how valuable something is to you. While we may not always be rational with our money, at least RealAge lets you be more rational with your health than you could be without knowing those values.

Moderator: What do you mean, "How much will they retard aging"?

Dr. Roizen: By either retard or reverse aging, I mean that it changes your risk of serious illness or of death, or changes your quality of life, to what it would be if you were 2 or 3 years ago, or more. Or that you don't age as fast. Let me go into what I mean by aging... so that it's clearer. We don't know the mechanism of aging. There are in fact, 9 theories that all have some support, including the free-radical theory, that is that free radicals do damage to cells and DNA, the glucose theory, and the teleomere theory. But none of these is known for sure to be responsible for aging. But while we don't know the mechanism of aging, we do know what age is. Your arteries get older, and that's associated with heart disease, stroke, memory loss, impotence, wrinkling of your skin... your immune system gets older, and that's associated with infections, autoimmune disease, and cancer. You can have disabling accidents as you get older, from environmental and social causes. We do know what can slow, that is, retard aging in your arteries, and we know what can retard aging in the other two areas as well. We also know what accelerates aging in those areas, so when I say "retard aging" in the book, what I'm talking about is things that slow the process of your arteries or your immune system getting older, or in fact, can reverse it. We know that exercise, such as lifting weights, will actually decrease aging in all three areas. They decrease the risk of accidents, death rates from cancer, and decrease the possibility of stroke, heart disease, and memory loss. That's an example where one thing, that is strength resistance exercises, actually retards or reverses aging in some key areas.

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