We can keep track of our birthday every year and mark those big milestones like turning 16, 21 and 40. But do you know how you're aging internally?
Betsy Hull is proud to be 48 years old but she was pretty surprised when a genetic test her doctor ordered came back and showed internally she was aging much faster.
"I was a little shocked because I feel younger than that," says Hull. "I should not be in my 50s body-wise."
Doctor Anne-Marie Feyrer-Melk, with Optimal Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention Center in Scottsdale, ordered a telomere analysis. It's a high-tech look at how your body is aging internally, a look on the cellular level.
Your chronological birthday might say one thing but inside your body might be aging much faster. For a cardiologist like Feyrer-Melk, it's a good indication if a patient is at risk.
"It's the best we got," says Feyrer-Melk.
A patient gets a simple blood test and then the sample is shipped off. The results typically come back in a month. Those results are a good guideline for doctors to figure out treatment.
"What's making a person’s chromosomes unhealthy and target those things in a very prescribed way for those patients," says Feyrer-Melk.
Hull didn't have any symptoms although some of her tests were coming back that something was wrong. The telomere test verified everything.
"I would probably actually be dead, to be honest," says Hull. "I was in that bad of shape when I came to her. I was bad."
Hull had two heart stents and is now back on the road to recovery with a lot more knowledge about herself. There are telomere tests available at stores but Feyrer-Melk warns those tests can give a false reading letting patients think they're in good health. She suggests it's best to see your doctor.