How Old Are You Really? Meet Your ‘Biological Age’
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How Old Are You Really? Meet Your ‘Biological Age’

Biological age won’t help you live forever, but a ‘credit score for your body’ might prolong your lifespan, some scientists say.

By Betsy Morris
Mon, May 30, 2022 11:50amGrey Clock 4 min

Biological age—a measure of health that can be more or less than your chronological age—might help determine your quality of life as you get older, scientists say.

The idea behind biological age is that your cells and organs have ages that vary from your regular age. Many aging-research scientists believe that knowing your biological age could help you postpone or avoid Alzheimer’s, cancer, cardiovascular disease or other age-related illnesses. Some also believe biological age can better predict an individual’s lifespan.

Other scientists agree that biological age is important but disagree that it can predict your life. They say there is no standard way to measure biological age and many of the tools in development aren’t yet proven. At the centre of the debate are hopes that people can prolong their lives by changing their behaviours; a crop of companies are betting on it.

David Sinclair, professor of genetics and co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research at Harvard Medical School, is among the researchers and entrepreneurs promoting the notion of a biological age. He describes it as “like a credit score for your body.”

Dr. Sinclair is 52 chronologically but says he is biologically more like 42. Dr. Sinclair is a co-founder of a new company that is developing a biological-age test.

Some scientists calculate the metric by analyzing biomarkers in blood or saliva; other scientists and engineers do it by comparing individuals with broader aging patterns.

The activities that influence biological age—such as sleep, exercise and diet—are essentially the good habits we already know about. But since everybody’s genes are different, tracking your biological age could help determine which habits are most helpful and how to customize them. For one person, 10,000 steps a day could be optimal, while it is 6,000 for someone else.

People also can attempt to lower their biological age through meditation, yoga or other ways of effectively managing stress. Some, including Dr. Sinclair, use supplements to try to make themselves younger.

Scientists studying aging hope that eventually, individuals will be able to accurately measure their biological age and uncover the steps that influence it to forestall chronic disease and possibly live longer.

Even so, some scientists are sceptical of the process. Some think that even if you do know your biological age, it is a stretch to believe that you could use the concept to help you live longer.

Alex Zhavoronkov, chief executive of Insilico Medicine, which uses artificial intelligence to develop drugs targeting age-related diseases, says biological age is a useful concept for drug development. But he says he doubts that people will be able to use behaviours to live longer, based on studies of lifespan in different countries around the world.

“Extreme optimization of sleep, exercise and diet is unlikely to result in dramatic lifespan increases,” he says.

Growing interest in biological age is fueled by advances in the field of epigenetics, the study of how gene expression is affected by behaviours and the environment.

Dr. Sinclair at Harvard is developing a biological-age test based on chemical changes on DNA found in cells from the side of the cheek taken in a swab you do at home. He plans to launch it with a new company called Tally Health.

Dr. Sinclair has been criticized by other scientists for hyping the results of some of his findings, like the antiaging effects found in the compound resveratrol, claims he rebuts. He says that he doesn’t overstate his research findings and that the resveratrol research was published in leading scientific journals. He has co-founded more than a dozen biotech companies and is invested in most of them, including some that are developing therapeutics that target the biology of aging.

Segterra Inc.’s InsideTracker, a personalized-nutrition company founded by scientists from Harvard, Tufts University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, calculates biological age by having users take blood tests and analyzing the samples for markers of conditions like inflammation, heart health and liver or kidney disorder. Those who test as older than their years get recommendations to adjust diet, exercise and supplements.

Many other health startups are offering testing that purports to calculate biological age, sometimes with little scientific backing, and designing supplements aimed at boosting youthfulness.

Stephen Roberts, a winery owner in France, tested himself earlier this year with an at-home blood test by U.K.-based biotech company GlycanAge Ltd. The test was part of an effort by Mr. Roberts to improve his health at age 51.

“I drink. I sometimes smoke and party and eat what I want,” he says, so he expected his biological age to be a lot older than his calendar age.

He says he was shocked when test results reported hisbiological age was 24.

“My first reaction was: ‘This is wrong.’” He says he hasn’t made any changes as a result of the test but plans to test again later this year.

Gordan Lauc, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Zagreb, in Croatia, and chief scientific officer of GlycanAge, says the results make sense given Mr. Roberts’s genetics—longevity runs in his family—and lifestyle, which is likely lower-stress than most.

Michael Roizen, an anesthesiologist and chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic, created one of the first biological age calculators 25 years ago based on a questionnaire. He sold it to digital health company Sharecare Inc., where he receives stock options as a member of its scientific advisory board.

Dr. Roizen now has a book and website due out in the spring, part of a new company he says will be aimed at helping people understand how to live longer.

Exercise, for instance, doemore than strengthen your heart, he says. Working out switches on a gene that starts a chain reaction that increases secretion of a protein that improves memory, studies show. Your methods of managing stress can switch on or off the functioning of more than 250 genes, Dr. Roizen says.

“Your choices have a much more profound effect than just changing whether your heart is beating fast or slow,” says Dr. Roizen.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: May 24, 2022.



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Is ‘Rizz’ the Secret to Getting Ahead at Work?

Whether you call it charisma, charm or magnetism, some people seem like naturals. Good news: It can be learned.

By Rachel Feintzeig
Mon, Jul 22, 2024 4 min

Great leaders have it. Gen Z has a new word for it. Can the rest of us learn it?

Charisma—or rizz , as current teenage slang has anointed it—can feel like an ephemeral gift some are just born with. The chosen among us network and chitchat, exuding warmth as they effortlessly hold court. Then there’s everyone else, agonising over exclamation points in email drafts and internally replaying that joke they made in the meeting, wondering if it hit.

“Well, this is awkward,” Mike Rizzo, the head of a community for marketing operations professionals, says of rizz being crowned 2023 word of the year by the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s so close to his last name, but so far from how he sees himself. He sometimes gets sweaty palms before hosting webinars.

Who could blame us for obsessing over charisma, or lack thereof? It can lubricate social interactions, win us friends, and score promotions . It’s also possible to cultivate, assures Charles Duhigg, the author of a book about people he dubs super communicators.

At its heart, charisma isn’t about some grand performance. It’s a state we elicit in other people, Duhigg says. It’s about fostering connection and making our conversation partners feel they’re the charming—or interesting or funny—ones.

The key is to ask deeper, though not prying, questions that invite meaningful and revealing responses, Duhigg says. And match the other person’s vibes. Maybe they want to talk about emotions, the joy they felt watching their kid graduate from high school last weekend. Or maybe they’re just after straight-up logistics and want you to quickly tell them exactly how the team is going to turn around that presentation by tomorrow.

You might be hired into a company for your skill set, Duhigg says, but your ability to communicate and earn people’s trust propels you up the ladder: “That is leadership.”

Approachable and relatable

In reporting this column, I was surprised to hear many executives and professionals I find breezily confident and pleasantly chatty confess it wasn’t something that came naturally. They had to work on it.

Dave MacLennan , who served as chief executive of agricultural giant Cargill for nearly a decade, started by leaning into a nickname: DMac, first bestowed upon him in a C-suite meeting where half the executives were named Dave.

He liked the informality of it. The further he ascended up the corporate hierarchy, the more he strove to be approachable and relatable.

Employees “need a reason to follow you,” he says. “One of the reasons they’re going to follow you is that they feel they know you.”

He makes a point to remember the details and dates of people’s lives, such as colleagues’ birthdays. After making his acquaintance, in a meeting years ago at The Wall Street Journal’s offices, I was shocked to receive an email from his address months later. Subject line: You , a heading so compelling I still recall it. He went on to say he remembered I was due with my first child any day now and just wanted to say good luck.

“So many people say, ‘Oh, I don’t have a good memory for that,’” he says. Prioritise remembering, making notes on your phone if you need, he says.

Now a board member and an executive coach, MacLennan sent hundreds of handwritten notes during his tenure. He’d reach out to midlevel managers who’d just gotten a promotion, or engineers who showed him around meat-processing plants. He’d pen words of thanks or congratulations. And he’d address the envelopes himself.

“Your handwriting is a very personal thing about you,” he says. “Think about it. Twenty seconds. It makes such an impact.”

Everyone’s important

Doling out your charm selectively will backfire, says Carla Harris , a Morgan Stanley executive. She chats up the woman cleaning the office, the receptionist at her doctor’s, the guy waiting alongside her for the elevator.

“Don’t be confused,” she tells young bankers. Executive assistants are often the most powerful people in the building, and you never know how someone can help—or hurt—you down the line.

Harris once spent a year mentoring a junior worker in another department, not expecting anything in return. One day, Harris randomly mentioned she faced an uphill battle in meeting with a new client. Oh!, the 24-year-old said. Turns out, the client was her friend. She made the call right there, setting up Harris for a work win.

In the office, stop staring at your phone, Harris advises, and notice the people around you. Ask for their names. Push yourself to start a conversation with three random people every day.

Charisma for introverts

You can’t will yourself to be a bubbly extrovert, but you can find your own brand of charisma, says Vanessa Van Edwards, a communications trainer and author of a book about charismatic communication.

For introverted clients, she recommends using nonverbal cues. A slow triple nod shows people you’re listening. Placing your hands in the steeple position, together and facing up, denotes that you’re calm and present.

Try coming up with one question you’re known for. Not a canned, hokey ice-breaker, but something casual and simple that reflects your actual interests. One of her clients, a bookish executive struggling with uncomfortable, halting starts to his meetings, began kicking things off by asking “Reading anything good?”

Embracing your stumbles

Charisma starts with confidence. It’s not that captivating people don’t occasionally mispronounce a word or spill their coffee, says Henna Pryor, who wrote a book about embracing awkwardness at work. They just have a faster comeback rate than the rest of us. They call out the stumble instead of trying to hide it, make a small joke, and move on.

Being perfectly polished all the time is not only exhausting, it’s impossible. We know this, which is why appearing flawless can come off as fake. We like people who seem human, Pryor says.

Our most admired colleagues are often the ones who are good at their jobs and can laugh at themselves too, who occasionally trip or flub just like us.

“It creates this little moment of warmth,” she says, “that we actually find almost like a relief.”

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