I'd been tallying mine in birthday candles, but okay, I was game. So I signed on to have Elysium send me a little glass vial with thorough instructions on how to prepare my saliva sample. Since I'm not a natural spitter, this took some doing, and a shirt change. But at last I stuck the vial in the accompanying return mailer, sent it off — and was immediately filled with dread.
The problem was, if the news Elysium came back with was bad, I was gonna have to do something. Change things up. That, Levine says, is the point of it all. (Well, that and Basis, a supplement Elysium sells to increase your body's supply of NAD+, a molecule that some research indicates can reverse cellular decay.)
And some of the practices that have been scientifically proven to slow senescence, aka the aging process, such as caloric restriction, aren't exactly appealing. Who wants to live longer if you can't put butter on your bread?
Still, aging researchers insist, their goal isn't simply to prolong life, notwithstanding those creepy tech moguls transfusing themselves with young people's blood. When you study centenarians, Verdin says, you find a common pattern: Those who live to be 100 or more only start to be sick around age 95. “They spend a smaller fraction of their lives affected by medical conditions.” Modifying our rate of aging could help us not just live longer, but better. Who would say no to that?
Sandy Hingston discovered her biological age through a home test.
It takes Elysium four to six weeks to process tests, so I had plenty of time to ponder what I'd do if my biological age turned out to be 120, which some mornings seems plausible. Still, when I got the email saying my results were available in my online account, I didn't hesitate to click. There it was! My biological age is … 62 years, one year behind my actual age.
Included with that number was a host of information on the science behind the test, accompanied by charts and graphs and references and tips on various steps I can take (diet, exercise, healthy relationships) to stay biologically spry. It was all interesting and handsomely presented, but as far as I was concerned, I had all the info I'd need: I'm biologically younger (barely) than the calendar says. So why change anything?
According to Levine, some 70 percent of us have biological ages within five years of our chronological ages. But the difference can be as much as a decade — and altering your behavior may affect your aging rate. As tests like Index become more common, prices will come down — for Black Friday weekend, for example, Elysium will be running specials that cut hundreds of dollars off the costs of Index and its Basis supplement. As scientists continue to refine their ways of measuring biological age, we can look for more personally tailored analyses to pinpoint, say, the effects of smoking and environmental exposure, or even (yikes!) liver health. All this will allow us to test ourselves more often and quantify our responses to different supplements and regimens.
Personally, I feel that between cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, bone density and all the rest, I've already got more than enough to keep track of. (My husband, who wears a watch just like the one Dr. Levine does, is more into the potential tracking and analytics.) Still, it's nice to get a little hard data to tell me my efforts — both now and in the future — may be helping me cheat Father Time, at least a bit.