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My Real Age? 41.7!

These days I appreciate anything that makes me feel younger. (Yes, that was me in CVS recently, shopping for hair dye to cover my grey.) So I really got a boost when I found out that the folks at think I'm a mere 41.7 years old -- about six years younger than I am in real life.

I maintain a healthy skepticism about online health advice; there's an awful lot of misinformation out there. I'm also wary of "services" that turn out to be gimmicks, especially when I end up being steered toward buying something. So I didn't exactly go to RealAge with the most open of minds.

But I was pleasantly surprised. RealAge, which has been around since 1999 (don't know how I missed it all these years), actually provides some helpful information. Here's how it works: On the site, you spend a few minutes (it took me about 10) completing a surprisingly detailed survey about your diet and fitness habits, relationships with family and friends, measures of your general health such as cholesterol counts and blood-pressure numbers, family and personal disease history and daily-living habits (such as how many miles per hour above the speed limit you typically drive: whoops!)

I wasn't as prepared as I ought to have been, so I had to guess/fudge on such matters as my cholesterol (good and bad) counts. And some sets of questions threw me for a loop: I didn't quite know how to best report on my exercise routine, for instance. Should I have counted my hours of vigorous yoga as flexibility building or as intense workout time?

The thing that impressed me most was that the program actually took a couple of hours to calculate my "real" age as compared to my biological age and e-mail the results to me. Maybe that in itself is a gimmick, but it felt as though some computer somewhere was taking the time to evaluate my data carefully.

A few hours after completing my survey, I got the happy results -- along with a brief report on what I'm doing right, and wrong, longevity-wise. I got bad marks for not knowing my cholesterol levels and for "working out too intensely," which I'm sure was simply a function of my misguided reporting. But taking my meds as directed, being happily married, being a fruit eater, and maintaining a healthy body-mass index earned me attaboys.

RealAge is spearheaded by two high-profile doctors/Oprah darlings: Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz, co-authors of the books YOU: The Smart Patient and YOU: The Owner's Manual. The site offers more than 65 health-risk assessments, covering everything from headache to inflammatory bowel disease. Last month it launched a cholesterol and heart-attack risk assessment for men.

Obviously I wouldn't substitute RealAge's advice for that of my own flesh-and-blood physicians. But the exercise helped tease out a handful of things I should be doing better -- and reinforced my sense that I'm doing a lot of things right.

That was easily worth 10 minutes. Plus, it's free. And, once you take the quiz, RealAge e-mails you a weekly digest of health tips. The tips are surrounded by ads, to be sure, but they're easy enough to ignore.

Here's an article about how presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain fared under RealAge's scrutiny.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  July 2, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  General Health  
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