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You are only as old as you feel

Not too long ago, Stephanie Feller, a New Jersey Realtor, left the gym after training when she spotted a woman in the parking lot struggling to bend. "I don't know if she missed something and had to pick it up, or if her shoe was loose," said Heller, but she eagerly pledged her help. Ena blamed her age on her incompetence, explaining that she is 70 years old. But Heller was 71.

"This woman felt her age," she recalls. "I don't let my age stop me. I think it's really smart.

Each of us has a chronological age, a number we celebrate for birthdays. But some 50-, 60- and 70-year-olds look and feel youthful, while others do not. Scientists can measure these differences by looking at age-related biomarkers – things like skin elasticity, blood pressure, lung capacity and grip strength. People with healthy lifestyles and living conditions and happy genetic inheritance tend to get "younger" on these estimates and are said to have a lower "biological age".

But there is a much easier way to determine the shape of people. It's called "subjective age". When scientists ask, "How old do you feel, the most time consuming?", The answer tends to reflect the physical and mental state of people's health. "This simple question seems to be particularly powerful," said Antonio Teraciano, a professor of geriatrics at Florida State University at Tallahassee Medical School.

Scientists find that people who feel younger than their chronological age are usually healthier and psychologically resilient than those who feel older. They work better on memory tasks and are at lower risk of cognitive decline. In a study published in 2018, a team of South Korean researchers scanned the brains of 68 healthy older adults and found that those who felt younger than their age had thicker brain matter and suffered less age deterioration. Conversely, people who feel older than their chronological age are at greater risk for hospitalization,

dementia and death.

"We have found very, very predictable associations," says Janice Stefan, a professor of health and nursing psychology at the University of Montpellier in France, who was at the forefront of subjective age research.

If you are over 40, chances are you are younger than your driver's license suggestions. According to Stephen, about 80% of people do it. A small proportion of people – less than 10 percent – feel older. The discrepancy between the sensible and the real age has been increasing over the years, Teraciano said. By age 50, people may feel about five years, or 10%, younger, but by the time they are 70, they may feel 15% or even 20% younger.

Most subjective age studies are based on associations between how older people feel and their health status, so it cannot identify cause and effect. It is not clear, for example, whether feeling younger makes people healthier, or whether people who are already healthy tend to feel younger. But simply by asking people how they feel for years, says Stephen, doctors could identify who is most at risk for health problems.

For French Mercado-Ruiz of South Plainfield, New York, becoming healthier transforms her inner sense of age. In the months leading up to her 49th birthday last December, she has met her goal of losing 49 pounds. Before losing weight, she had back and hip pain and felt like she was 65 years old. Now, the drug is out of its blood pressure, full of energy, has some pain and says it feels 35 years old.

Some intriguing studies suggest that a youthful frame of mind can have a powerful effect. When scientists torment older people to look younger, most tend to become more capable right away. In a 2013 experiment by Stephen and his colleagues, people's strengths improved significantly after being told they were stronger than most people their age.

© 2019 The New York Times News Service

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