Dr. Chad Sato
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
By the time you read this article I would have celebrated my 50th year of being alive, half a century of learning, mistakes, triumphs and, indeed, growth. Over the years I have come across many who strongly dislike hitting the big “5-0” and then the “6-0” and “7-0.” If you fall into this category of not liking the one constant in life, aging, hopefully this read will help bring some ease into your consciousness. I am one of those odd souls, who from the time when I was little, could hardly wait to get older. My constant curiosity to know everything and be sought for my wisdom has pushed me to keep learning and uncovering the secrets of the universe. When it comes to aging, this process appears unnegotiable, but through modern science and medical research the search continues to impede aging’s effects on our health and declining function.
Three Types of Aging
There are three types of aging that I have come across to consider and they are chronological, biological and psychological. Chronological age is calculated from the day that you were born and how many days and years you have been in existence. Biological Age delves into the cellular level and focuses on the body’s functionality – depending on how you have lived your life, your diet, activity level and lifestyle can affect this age. Last but not least is psychological age – this is based on your mindset, how you feel about yourself and how past experiences may have impacted your sense of vitality. The intent of this article is to illustrate that you may actually possess more power than you realize to stay young even as your chronological age ticks on.
Chronological age is the shortest of the three due to its clear-cut nature. For years it has been the go-to parameter to diagnose one’s physiology and to predict future diseases by scientists but was a poor determinant of one’s lifespan. It is not a reliable measure for medical applications but applies in legal matters primarily. Ultimately you cannot do anything to change the progression of your age, unless you have the power of the cinematic “Benjamin Button” or the “Age of Adaline,” who reversed in aging or age stalled for the latter. Both were fictional movies, but upon closer inspection, chronological age is akin to your spiritual energetic body, because your soul is the one constant ever since you were born. However, the one power you do have is how you choose to spend the most precious commodity, which is “your” time.
This is considered a better biomarker in determining your health rather than what numerical age your body is. Biological aging takes into account your well-being from within, and research has shown it’s better at helping to identify and diagnose diseases. Its biomarker focuses on the functional capability of a person and to determine one’s actual physical condition to predict any possible pathology and to prevent any potential deterioration. This research, in turn, has been shown to be better at predicting the rate of aging and determining an individual’s lifespan. However, one limitation is its inability to determine a particular disease or illness impact on a person’s lifespan. Your biological age can be affected by a few factors such as:
- Nutrition and diet – high-nutrient diet slows aging versus fast foods and sweets, which accelerates it. Research on smoking also found that smokers aged twice as fast as non-smokers.
- Lifestyle behaviors – research has shown consistent physical exercise and restful sleep slows aging. A study of people doing aerobic exercises were 5.43 biological years younger than those who didn’t exercise.
- Stress and tension – a multitude of studies have shown that stress ages a person faster, as well.
- Environment – a polluted environment with toxic chemicals and high electromagnetic field levels also were discovered to accelerate aging.
Of course, you cannot count out a person with good genes or a healthy lifestyle that can contribute to their youthful appearance. However, all the factors that can age you faster if you stop and make the necessary changes, have been shown to reverse the effects of premature aging. The Index test can measure your biological age, but due to the difficulty of interpreting the results makes this for the most part impractical. So, the best rule of thumb is knowing you have the power to choose whether or not changing your lifestyle and what you eat is important enough for you to keep and help slow the aging process.
Trust yourself and be present! What ages us are the past stories and experiences and inability to let go of the negative and positive stories that prevent us from being in the moment. Your perception of vitality, health and balance is necessary for you to stay youthful and present with your body and life. I have a theory that the age when you see a loved one you admired appear to lose some of their function and vitality is when you determine in your mind that will be the same age when you will get old. Self-fulfilling prophecy or according to Ellen Langer, “social conditions may foster what may erroneously appear to be necessary consequences of aging,” in “Old Age: An Artifact?”
Counterclockwise Study about Age
The power of your mind and environment that can influence your perceptions to the extent of reversing your age was illustrated in a radical experiment in 1979 by Ellen Langer that was featured in a New York Times magazine cover story. It was labeled a counterclockwise study that aimed to test her premise “that maybe, just maybe, if you put people in a psychologically better setting – one they would associate with a better, younger version of themselves – their bodies might follow along.” In this study, she had eight men in their 70s taken to a converted monastery in New Hampshire and the moment they passed through the door, their whole environment was a recreation of the 1959 time period. The men in the control group were told to reminisce, while the experimental group was told to fully immerse themselves and act as if they were in 1959. After a week, both the control group and the experimental group showed improvements in physical strength, manual dexterity, gait, posture, perception, memory, cognition, taste sensitivity, hearing and vision. Even photos observed by individuals who had no knowledge about this study thought the men were a couple of years younger. The results were extraordinary, but since the study was so small, the results were never recreated; it’s up to you to determine what you hold to be true and believe. I truly am aligned with Langer’s ideology that what we deem as old age may be determined by our environment and what societal views are – expecting declining mental and physical abilities as we age is a perpetuated illness. The key points are to stay mindful and stay in the present moment; your thoughts are powerful; staying productive and independent as you get older.
Currently science and technology hasn’t discovered a way to turn back the clock of aging but recognize that your life doesn’t have to be dictated by it. There are three ways of measuring the aging process, but your perceptions play a major role on whether you age gracefully or not. The old moniker, “act your age,” if taken literally gives you the freedom to choose whatever age you want to be. Don’t let your chronological age or the infectious illness of old age dictate the quality nor the vitality of your life. Embrace the big 5-0, 6-0, 7-0, 8-0, 9-0 and choose your experience.
Dr. Chad Sato graduated from UCLA in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and earned the Doctor of Chiropractic degree with honors from Life Chiropractic College West in 1998. Sato founded his practice, Aloha Chiropractic (drchadsato.com), in Mänoa valley, O‘ahu, on Oct. 1, 1999. He is a sought-after educator, speaker, author and mind-body specialist who helps people reach new levels of empowerment when it comes to their health and wellness by staying present with their body signs, making appropriate life choices and utilizing stress instead of managing it.