A recent story in the New York Times describes Dr. Mehmet Oz’s online quiz that calculates your "real" age based on a series of health and lifestyle questions. The slant on the article was to bring up the fact that major pharmaceutical companies were using this data to market to people who use this service, but what I want to point out is that there’s another, simpler way of determining how quickly you’ll age: the size of your breathing passageways.
I’ve described in my book, Sleep, Interrupted, a concept called the sleep-breathing paradigm, which proposes that all modern humans are susceptible to breathing problems at night to various degrees. Our ability to talk caused anatomic changes that predisposes tongue collapse in deep sleep. Your genes determine the size of your jaws, and the smaller your jaws (with more dental crowding), the more susceptible you’ll be to breathing problems while sleeping. As one ages chronologically, our airways begin to narrow due to various factors, including obesity, inflammation, and gravity. The upper extreme end of this continuum is called obstructive sleep apnea, but even "normal" people are on this line.
Poor quality sleep due to multiple obstructions causes a myriad of physiological stresses, leading to everything from weight gain, hypertension, anxiety and depression to heart disease, heart attack and stroke. This process heightens your nervous system, making you edgy and hypersensitive. It also makes you more susceptible to external stresses.
So the next time you are brushing your teeth, take a look inside your mouth in the mirror. Is the space behind the tongue wide open? Can you see the back of your throat easily? Do doctors tend to cause you to gag using a tongue depressor to see the back of your throat? Is the roof of you mouth arching sharply upward, rather than a flat slope? Is there a family history of heart disease or early death in your family? Do you feel much older than your real age?
Post your answers below—I’d like to know. I promise, I won’t give your information to pharmaceutical companies.