In 1994, Michael Roizen met a patient in his pre-operative clinic
who was being treated for elevated blood pressure. The 47-year-old
man informed Roizen, professor and chair of anesthesia and critical
care at the U of C since 1985, that many doctors wouldn't treat
his borderline case because it wasn't that serious.
Roizen explained, the patient's condition actually made his body
function as if he were five years older than if he had a blood
pressure in a more normal range. "You live with the arteries of
someone who's 52," Roizen said, to the chagrin of the patient,
Martin Rom. In fact, the observation hit Rom so hard that, with
Roizen, he soon started a company devoted to determining "real
partners' RealAge, Inc., has since spawned a well-trafficked Internet
site, a best-selling book, a nationally syndicated column, and
a second book deal. Their RealAge method yields a "net present
value" of age that accounts not only for biological factors but
also for 126 behavioral, environmental, and social influences.
factors influence how well and how long you live, and you control
over 70 percent of them," says Roizen. "I wanted to let people
know there are specific choices, the value of their choices, and
that they can control their health."
40 to 100 pages of health-related articles cross Roizen's desk
every day, so he is well aware of the need for clarity. "If I'm
confused by it, the public's got to be confused as well," he says.
"And so what RealAge tries to do is set criteria." The RealAge
criteria fall into three categories: things that increase your
real age, things that decrease your real age, and things that
have no effect on your real age. The RealAge methodology is based
on data that give the "real" effect of certain behaviors on the
body. Flossing, for example, has a huge effect--6.4 years younger--on
real age, says Roizen, noting that flossing is 300 times more
powerful than getting a flu shot, which can have a mere six-day
effect. By contrast, he says, smoking can increase real age by
as much as eight years.
1996, RealAge launched a free Internet program (www.realage.com)
to spread the message. At the same time, Roizen decided to write
a companion book so that RealAge information would be available
to everyone. RealAge: Are You as Young as You Can Be? (Cliff
Street Books) went through 53 versions, with each chapter reviewed
by five physicians and three scientists. Almost five million people
have taken the RealAge test on the Internet, and Roizen's book
has topped the best--seller lists in the United States, Great Britain,
Canada, and Brazil.
November, Roizen began a syndicated column, "The Real-Ager," that
has been picked up by 11 newspapers, including the Philadelphia
Inquirer and the Atlanta Journal--Constitution. Currently
Roizen is working on a second installment of RealAge, called
The RealAge Café: Eating In and Eating Out to Keep Your RealAge
goal in this is to change the health of the nation," Roizen says.
"It's not a small goal. But even if all you're doing is getting
people to realize how important lifting weights is or how important
taking calcium is, you're having a real effect. Is it changing
the health of the nation? No, but give it a little while." --B.B.