As we age, we become more susceptible to age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, and heart disease. One way to track how well we are aging is through biomarkers, which are measurable indicators of biological processes in our bodies.
Certain validated biological age tests are considered to be the most accurate tool we currently have to determine how one is aging, and by extension, their overall disease and mortality risk. These tests can account for the impact that a person’s genes, lifestyle and environment have on their overall health and aging process. For example, an age test like NOVOS Age, powered by the latest generation epigenetic clock (3rd), DunedinPACE Rate of Aging, considers various biomarkers associated with aging and health in its algorithm, such as triglycerides, dental health, brain atrophy, and more than 20 additional biomarkers.
However, outside of calculating biological age, there are a plethora of individual biomarkers that can be tested at home and can provide valuable insights into a person’s health status. While these tests may not be as comprehensive as biological age testing, they can still serve as a good indicator of overall health and provide helpful information for making lifestyle and dietary changes to improve long-term outcomes. They can also be used to further validate epigenetic clock findings with individual physiological markers. In this article, we will discuss some easy ways to test aging biomarkers on your own.
1. Facial Age Test – How Old Do I Look?
Have you ever wondered, “How old do I look?” Researchers have found that AI technology can analyze facial features to determine a person’s perceived age and skin health. By taking a selfie with your smartphone and uploading it to an AI program, you can receive a report on your facial age and skin health. At NOVOS, we provide this service for free to visitors with NOVOS Face Age. Taking a facial age test once every month or two can help you track any changes in your skin health and perceived age.
2. VO2 Max Test
VO2 max, also known as maximal oxygen uptake, is a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can utilize during exercise. It is considered to be a good indicator of overall cardiovascular health, as it reflects the efficiency of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. VO2 max test results have been shown to decline with age, which is one reason why regular exercise is important for healthy aging.
In one study, it was found that higher exercise capacity, measured by VO2 max tests, was strongly associated with a lower risk of mortality in men referred for exercise testing (R).
Kodama et al. conducted a meta-analysis of multiple studies and concluded that higher cardiorespiratory fitness, assessed by VO2 max tests, was associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular events in healthy men and women (R).
A 2018 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology followed 5,000 middle-aged men for 46 years and found that those with the top 5% of VO2 max lived almost five years longer than those in the bottom 5% (R).
These studies demonstrate a significant correlation between higher VO2 max levels and increased longevity, as well as a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.
While the most accurate way to measure VO2 max is with expensive equipment, such as a metabolic cart that measures the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide inhaled and exhaled during exercise, there are several consumer-grade devices that can be used to approximate it. One such device is the Apple Watch, which continuously measures heart rate during exercise and uses algorithms to estimate VO2 max. Similarly, Polar Sensors can be used to measure heart rate during exercise and provide an estimation of VO2 max. Although the results may not be as accurate as official equipment, they can still provide valuable information about your cardiovascular health, trends, and be within a few points of your actual VO2 max.
3. Sitting Rising Test
The sitting rising test is a simple test that you can do right now without any equipment. To perform the test, start with ten points and cross your legs. Then, move to a seated position and try to stand up again without using your hands or other aids. Each time you use an aid, you lose a point. If you lose balance, you lose half a point. Researchers have found that scoring between three-and-a-half and seven-and-a-half points on this test makes you two times more likely to die in the next six years than someone who scores between eight and ten. Scoring between zero and three points indicates you are five times more likely to die in the next six years.
4. Postural Hypotension
Postural hypotension, also known as orthostatic blood pressure, measures blood pressure and pulse rate when a patient is lying down for five minutes, then standing for one and three minutes. A drop in blood pressure of 20 milligrams of mercury or greater or feeling lightheaded or dizzy, are all considered abnormal. Postural hypotension is most common in people who are 65 years and older and can be indicative of a heart issue or an endocrine disorder, nervous system disorders, or, more acutely, things like dehydration or electrolyte imbalance.
5. Hearing Tests
Although factors beyond aging, including environmental noise, can impact our ability to hear, aging is a strong contributor as well. Speech and noise tests determine your ability to perceive different sounds in different forms of background noise and effectively measure your hearing loss.
Hearing tests like the Rinne and Weber test can help to determine the cause and degree of hearing loss. The Rinne Test evaluates hearing loss by comparing bone conduction to air conduction of sound waves in the inner ear, while the Weber test helps to identify whether hearing loss is unilateral or bilateral. These tests are often used in combination with other evaluations, such as speech and noise tests, to provide a comprehensive understanding of a person’s hearing ability.
There are also online tests that you can use to measure your hearing loss, as well as smartphone apps, like an app called Mimi. Apple also has an official research app that they partner with academic research labs for.
6. Pulse Wave Velocity
Pulse wave velocity (PWV) is a measure of arterial stiffness or the rate at which pressure waves move down your blood vessels. PWV increases linearly with aging with a high degree of correlation, so higher velocity is worse. It’s somewhat counterintuitive, but you want the velocity to move slowly because that means that the blood vessels are very supple and elastic. PWV increases 6% to 8% with each decade of life, and it’s most pronounced after you are 50 years old and beyond. You can measure this with certain models of the Withings scale (note: Americans may need to import an international model to access this test).
7. Visceral Fat Levels
With certain models of the Withings brand scale, you can also measure your visceral fat levels. Visceral fat can’t always be seen, but it’s the fat that wraps around your organs and your abdomen, and it’s more likely to raise your risk for heart disease, Alzheimer’s, type two diabetes, stroke, and can lead to higher cholesterol numbers and ultimately a higher risk of mortality. Visceral fat increases with age, and depending on how healthy you eat and how regularly you exercise, you can keep it down. Check out the NOVOS Longevity Regimen for our complete longevity protocol.
8. Cognitive Processing Speed
Cognitive processing speed can be measured with tests that specifically measure your verbal memory, your visible memory, your motor speed, your reaction time, your attention, executive function, and more. Researchers oftentimes use what’s known as the CNS vital signs test, an online assessment.
9. Grip Strength
Grip strength is a popular measure of longevity, as researchers have shown that a powerful grip also correlates to longevity. A study of over 500,000 adults between 40 and 69 years old correlated grip strength to their rates of healthy outcomes for diseases ranging from heart disease to respiratory illness and even cancer. Grip strength has been shown to be a better predictor of cardiovascular disease than even blood pressure and physical activity levels.
10. The 10 Second One-Legged Stance
Test number 10 is appropriately named the 10-second one-legged stance, which is a simple test that doesn’t require any equipment. The test requires that you stand on one leg with your shoes off, barefoot, and balance on that one leg for 10 seconds. This test has significant implications as research shows that if you’re unable to do this, your chance of death over the next seven years increases by 84% as compared to someone who can complete it. That’s probably the simplest of all of the tests.
11. Mental Age Test
While there are a variety of tools available for assessing cognitive function, mental age tests are a popular way to measure an individual’s cognitive ability relative to their age group. Mental age tests typically involve a series of questions or puzzles that are designed to evaluate an individual’s memory, attention, problem-solving, and other cognitive abilities. By comparing an individual’s performance on the test to their chronological age, it is possible to calculate their mental age and gain insight into their overall cognitive health and how well they are aging. While mental age tests are not a perfect measure of cognitive function and should be interpreted with caution, they can still provide valuable information for individuals looking to monitor their cognitive health and make lifestyle changes to promote healthy aging. There are several mental age tests available online that can be completed at home.
12. FEV1 – Forced Expiratory Volume in One Second
FEV1, which stands for forced expiratory volume in one second, measures the volume of air that you can exhale in a single second, and is measured by a device called a spirometer. You can purchase spirometers on Amazon or Google for as low as $25 for this more manual device or well over $1,000 dollars for digital devices that are, of course, significantly more accurate. FEV1 is a powerful test that Calico, a subsidiary of Alphabet (Google’s parent company), has identified as the second and third most significant indicator of biological age for females and males, respectively, in an upcoming aging clock. It’s been found to be more important in their experiments than even things like body mass index or the tests mentioned earlier, such as hand grip strength.
13. Blood Tests for Longevity
Blood tests are one of the most commonly used diagnostic tools to assess biomarkers for longevity. Certain blood biomarkers, such as albumin, creatinine, glucose, C-reactive protein, lymphocyte percentage, mean cell volume, red cell distribution with alkaline phosphatase, and white blood cell count, can be plugged into the PhenoAge algorithm to provide you with a biological age estimate. While blood tests are not as accurate as the third-generation DunedinPACE clock like the one in NOVOS Age, additional biomarkers such as HbA1c, ferritin, LDL and HDL cholesterol, and their ratios, lipoprotein A, and triglycerides are also important for assessing longevity and overall health. Additionally, epigenetic tests can measure DNA methylation levels and other markers to provide insight into biological age and potential disease risk.
14. Continuous Glucose Monitors
Another optional test for those interested in longevity is continuous glucose monitoring (CGM). These devices are becoming increasingly popular, especially for those with high blood glucose levels detected through an HbA1c test. CGM devices can show you how your blood glucose fluctuates over time and which foods make it spike the highest, allowing you to identify the foods to avoid and those that help improve your blood glucose levels. The area under the curve of the blood glucose chart is perhaps the most important metric for understanding your blood glucose trends. While CGM may not necessarily be a longevity intervention, it can provide useful information for those looking to manage their blood glucose levels and reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes or other metabolic disorders. In this article, we dive into how CGMs can be used for longevity.
Taking Charge of Your Longevity Journey
There are several tests and biomarkers that can be used to determine your biological age and overall health, some of which are easily accessible and inexpensive. By incorporating these tests into your regular health routine, you can gain insight into your biological age and take steps to improve your health and longevity. Remember, aging is a complex process, but with knowledge and action, you can optimize your health and live a longer, healthier life. So, take control of your health and start testing today!