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Do you know how old you are?

How old are you?

That was a big question when you were a kid! Especially when you held up your fingers to answer the question. It becomes a question that is impolite at some point in our aging process and, in my world, is often accompanied with a preface, “May I ask?”

Of course, our answer is traditionally based on the number of times the earth has circled the sun since our birth. But when we look around, it becomes clear that people “age” at different rates. So, the real question is, “What is the rate at which you are aging?”

Science may have more of an answer than you think! Researchers have been interested in what is now being called our physiological, biological, or functional age for the past few decades, and they’ve come up with some ways to measure it. Several biomarkers have been identified, and there is general agreement on a handful of such markers.

Two versions of “epigenetic clocks,” which measure DNA methylation, have been developed and shown to accurately assess aging, as well as the likelihood of age-related disease. The Horvath clock, which was developed by Steven Horvath out of UCLA, and the Hannum clock developed by Ideker and Zhang at UC-San Diego, are the best-known versions of epigenetic clocks. These clocks have been studied forward and backward in various populations and have been found to be quite accurate.

Telomeres are protective caps on the ends of chromosomes. They are often described as similar to the ends of shoestrings. The longer they are, the more protective they are. The shorter they are, the faster we are aging. These too can be measured and are predictive of the speed at which we are aging.

Since the major chronic illnesses afflicting humans are inflammatory, assessment of inflammatory markers also provides insight into the speed at which we are aging. Examples of inflammatory markers include C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). These are readily available from standard laboratories.

There are also metabolic markers in blood labs, which are indicative of aging including blood glucose, insulin, and those found in lipid profiles, especially triglycerides and HDL cholesterol. These are indicative of metabolic dysfunction as it relates to the chronic illnesses of insulin resistance (diabetes) and metabolic syndrome.

Markers of organ function found in many blood labs are also useful when considered from a “functional’ perspective. Specifically, an “optimal” reference range needs to be used to evaluate organ function in terms of aging. This goes beyond the standard reference range which suggests “your organ is normal,” meaning not in a state of recognizable disease (yet?).

There are also microbiome markers emerging as aging indicators. There are trillions of microorganisms in the human gut, most of which are required to sustain life. Naveen Jain, who founded a company called Viome and has been studying the microbiome for the past few decades, reports it is not just which microorganisms are present, but what they are doing that determines our health and aging. Their behavior leaves an “epigenetic footprint,” which is measurable.

Other promising areas include “proteomics,” which is the study of proteins and their function. “Metabolomics,” which is the study of metabolites, and “transcriptomics,” which is the study of RNA. Proteins leave a unique signature of their activity, which we are just learning to interpret. The study of metabolites provides information about metabolic activity. RNA reveals the way that DNA (genes) is being expressed and, like proteins and metabolites, offer information about the level of function of multiple systems at a cellular level. When all this data is analyzed and cross-referenced with today’s computing power, including AI (artificial intelligence), it provides insights into aging which were previously not available.

There are tests that can be purchased online directly, but the data you get might be a bit overwhelming. It is best to work with someone who can help you understand what the results mean and further coach you on what you should do to slow your aging down and how frequently it makes sense to do these tests.

My “Epigenetic Extrinsic Age” is 30 years younger than my chronological age of 66 at the time of this writing. Personally, I have a goal to make the “Rejuvenation Olympics Leaderboard” at My Dunedin Pace Score of 0.79 puts me in the top 20. In order to qualify, I need to show a similar number in a 3-score average over a period greater than six months. Look for my name in June of 2024! Maybe your name could be there too, and you could help me celebrate my 120th birthday in 2077!


Michael Buyze, L.Ac., is a healthcare entrepreneur and visionary who has over 40 years of healthcare experience with expertise in acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, functional medicine, clinical exercise physiology, and nutrition. He owns and operates East Wind Healthcare, an acupuncture and wellness clinic with a 25-year history of helping people in the Fox Valley with offices in Appleton, Oshkosh, and Fond du Lac. He holds Master of Science Degrees in Chinese Medicine, Business Administration and Exercise Physiology. He and his team offer acupuncture, as well as wellness programming for acute and chronic pain, fertility, autoimmune, and many other chronic disease states. Acupuncture consultations and wellness consultations are available by appointment. Contact information: East Wind Healthcare, 3000 N Ballard Road, Unit#3, Appleton, WI 54911; 404 N. Main St., Suite 201, Oshkosh, WI 54901 and 180 Knights Way, Fond du Lac WI 54935 (inside Forum Health); Tel: 920-997-0511; Website:

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