The older you are, the more your health matters when it comes to fertility.
Youth forgives a lot of ills. You may know this practically: when you were younger, you likely could bounce back from hangovers and injuries and all-nighters more quickly. Your body could weather more wear-and-tear. When you are young, your body is able to repair most damage quickly and efficiently. As you get older, however, the repair process is less efficient and effective.
As we age, our arteries may become stiffer, our bones may become less dense, our muscles may lose strength and our memory may become less efficient. While these things are a function of age, they are not only a function of age - they are also a function of health. For example, in the Blue Zones, the areas with the most concentrated number of centenarians in the world, people tend to live longer, happier and healthier lives than their counterparts. This isn’t just a coincidence; it’s been attributed to a set of 9 healthy living principles such as “move naturally” and “plant slant”. People assume that aging is linear...and out of their control. We beg to differ.
In fact, certain scientists have found a way to calculate the difference between your chronological and biological age. Chronological age refers to the actual time that you have been alive, while biological age refers to how old your body’s systems are. You have probably seen this disparity in everyday life - the fit, triathlon competing mom who you just found out is in her late 50’s and the graying, saggy-skinned co-worker who you just found out is in her early 30’s. Clearly, we can see that people age at different rates; and it’s probably not surprising that people with “harder” lifestyles (e.g., smoking, drinking, drugs) tend to age more quickly than those with “gentler” lifestyles (e.g., vegetable gardens and Kum ba yah circles).
To determine biological age, you can look at certain health biomarkers such as blood pressure, blood glucose, liver function, VO2 max, cognitive ability and so on to determine health status. In fact, one study found that a person's biological age is a better measure of a person's health than chronological age; moreover, risk of certain age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s was more closely associated with biological age than chronological age.
Why does age matter?
Because age has been such a hot button issue in fertility. And, it’s important to know that it’s not simply your chronological age (which you can’t control) that matters. The way you take care of yourself (which you can control) matters - the way you eat, move, relax, relate and sleep; these are the inputs...and the output is your overall health status.
It would be short-sighted to use a person’s chronological age alone to determine their health status; yes, it is one part of the puzzle, but it’s not the whole puzzle by any means. Instead, your biological age is a much better predictor of health status...and therefore, also likely to be a better predictor of fertility status. If you are a vibrant, active, health conscious 37 year old, you may have a better chance of conceiving than an inactive, diabetic 27 year old.
Rather than lamenting every year you are over 30, take comfort in the fact that “It is not the years in your life but the life in your years that counts”.