Your Real Age May Be Older Or Younger Than Your Years


Published:

Age is a peculiar concept. We tend to think of it as the number of birthdays we have celebrated -- our chronological age. But this is just one indicator of the passage of time. We also have a biological age, a measure of how quickly the cells in our body are deteriorating compared with the general population. And these two figures don’t always match up.

Just take a look around: we all know people who look young for their age, or folks who seem prematurely wizened. Even in an individual, different parts of the body can age at different speeds. By examining how chronological age lines up with biological age across the population, researchers are starting to pin down how these two measures should sync up -- and what it means for how long we have left when they don’t.

What Is Your Health Age And Life Expectancy

In recent years, studies have shown that our biological age is often a more reliable indicator of future health than our actual age. It could help us identify or even prevent disease by tracking the pace at which we’re getting older. It may even allow us to slow -- or reverse -- the aging process.

Aging is the progressive loss of function accompanied by decreasing fertility and increasing mortality, according to Thomas Kirkwood from the Institute for aging at the University of Newcastle, UK.

“A new idea suggests aging is a byproduct of how energy intensive it is for our bodies to repair faults.”

The most widely cited theory of aging is that telomeres, genetic caps on the ends of chromosomes, grow shorter each time a cell divides -- like a wick burning on a candle. Once these are used up, the cell withers and dies. But a new idea gaining ground suggests aging is instead a byproduct of how energy intensive it is for our bodies to continuously repair faults that occur in our DNA as cells divide. “It doesn’t make evolutionary sense to maintain that process forever,” says Kirkwood. Indeed, several animal studies have shown that genes that affect lifespan do so by altering cells’ repair mechanisms. Little by little, faults build up in cells and tissues and cause us to deteriorate.

This is where biological age comes in -- it attempts to identify how far along we are in this process. It’s not a simple task, because no one measure of cellular aging gives a clear picture. As Kirkwood says, “Attempts to measure biological age have been bedeviled by the difficulty of taking into account the many different biological processes at work.”

Still, a growing number of researchers have taken up the challenge. Before seeking them out, however, I began to wonder whether I could be in for a nasty surprise. When Daniel Belsky and his team at Duke University in North Carolina studied 18 different markers of cellular aging -- including blood pressure and cardiovascular function -- in almost 1000 adults, they found that some were aging far faster or slower than their birth certificates would suggest. One 38-year-old had a biological age of 28; another’s was 61.

So if I have an accelerated biological age, does it mean I’m less likely to make it to 83? Studying humans until they die takes a long time, so the causal relationship is tricky to pin down. But an increasing number of studies suggest this is a fair assumption. Belsky’s team found that 38-year-olds with an older biological age fared worse on physical and mental tests, for instance. And when James Timmons and colleagues at King’s College London examined expression of 150 genes associated with aging, they found that biological age was more closely tied to risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis than chronological age.

“Some molecular changes in the body can be reflected on the face,” says Han. High levels of low-density cholesterol (the “bad” kind) are associated with puffier cheeks and pouches under the eyes, for instance. Dark circles under the eyes can result from poor kidney function or blood circulation. The message is that if we look older than we should, it could be a sign of underlying disease.

The algorithm was developed using a population of Han Chinese people and so far has only been tested in four caucasians. So, as a white woman, I had my face analysed by a similar algorithm designed by anti-aging company Youth Laboratories in Russia. The result was a win for me: I apparently have the face of a 25-year-old.

Next it was time to draw some blood. Using 32 different parameters that reflect disease risk, a team at the company Insilico Medicine developed a deep-learning algorithm to predict age. After training it on more than 60,000 blood samples of known chronological age, they used it to accurately predict age from new samples to within 6.2 years. The team found that people whose blood age was higher than their actual number of years were more likely to have health problems. The algorithm is free to use, so after I had my blood taken by Medichecks in London, I plugged in my details at www.aging.ai. Reassuringly, it shaved off a couple of years, estimating my real age to be 31.

Another method for measuring biological age is to look at how complex carbohydrates called glycans are attached to molecules in the body, a process called glycosylation. Gordan Lauc and colleagues at the University of Zagreb in Croatia recently discovered that glycosylation of an antibody called immunoglobulin G changes as we get older, and that this can be used to predict chronological age. When Lauc’s team compared 5117 people’s “glycan age” with known markers for health deterioration, such as insulin, glucose, BMI and cholesterol, they found that those who scored poorly on these markers also had an older glycan age.

“Your glycan age seems to reflect how much inflammation is occurring in the body,” says Lauc. Prolonged inflammation can make cells deteriorate faster, so having an accelerated glycan age could be used as an early warning signal that your health is at risk, he says.

Lauc and Tim Spector, a genetic epidemiologist at King’s College London, founded GlycanAge -- a company that tests people’s glycan levels -- and kindly tested mine for free. It turns out my glycan age is just 20, a whopping 13 years younger than I am.

With a new spring in my step, I moved on to what is now considered the most accurate way to measure human aging: an intrinsic “epigenetic” clock present in all our cells. Epigenetics refers to the process by which chemical tags called methyl groups are added to or removed from DNA, which in turn influences which genes are switched on or off. Some changes in methylation patterns over time can be used to estimate age.

The father of this technique is Steve Horvath at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 2011, looking at methylation patterns in blood samples, Horvath and colleagues were able to predict chronological age to within five years. He has since analysed data from more than 13,000 samples and identified methylation patterns to estimate a healthy person’s age to within 2.9 years. “The age estimate is so accurate it continues to amaze me,” says Horvath. (Unfortunately, for the purposes of my investigation, at $900 a pop, I decided to give this test a miss.)

A recent study by Horvath and his team suggests that breast tissue from healthy women aged 21 appears 17 years older than their blood, which tends to correlate closely with their chronological age. This difference decreases as we get older; for women aged 55 years, breast tissue appears around eight years older than blood. By identifying what the normal differences are, researchers hope to flag outliers. “Ultimately, we want to be able to collect data from a particular organ, or from a surrogate tissue and say, ‘wow, this woman has breast tissue that is 20 years older than it should be, so she needs to be monitored more closely for breast cancer’,” says Horvath.

“It sounds like science fiction, but in theory it’s possible to reset the clock.”

Beyond monitoring and aiding diagnoses for diseases, can any of these measures give us a better idea of how much life we have left? There is an association between our epigenetic clock and our time to death, but it’s not very accurate -- yet.

In his analyses, Horvath found an association between accelerated epigenetic aging -- an older epigenetic age compared with your real age -- and time to death. Around 5 per cent of the people he studied had an accelerated epigenetic age. Their risk of death in the next decade was about 50 per cent higher than those whose epigenetic age lined up with their actual years.

If our epigenetic clock is ticking down to our death, is there anything we can do to intervene? Horvath has started studying the epigenetic age of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), which are adult cells that can be pushed to revert to an embryonic-like state, from which they are capable of turning into most types of cells in the body.

The epigenetic age of iPSCs is zero. Transforming normal body cells into stem cells would be an “extreme rejuvenation procedure,” Horvath says. You wouldn’t want to do it to all of your cells, but perhaps it’s a strategy that could be modified to intervene with the aging process. “It sounds like science fiction, but conceptually it’s possible,” he says. “All epigenetic marks are reversible so in theory it’s possible to reset the clock.”

Turn Back Time

Another promising, if speculative, plan might be to freeze blood stem cells when you are young so that you can use them to reconstitute your immune system when you are old.

Short of miraculous anti-aging treatments, understanding more about biological age can still improve our health. People told their heart age -- measured using parameters such as blood pressure and cholesterol -- are better able to lower their risk of cardiovascular problems compared with people given standard information about heart health, for instance. (My heart, I learned, is 28 years old.)

There are not yet any placebo-controlled trials to determine whether certain lifestyle interventions can reduce biological age, and so risk of early death. But Horvath did find that the epigenetic clock is accelerated in the livers of obese people, and ticks more slowly for those who regularly consume fish and vegetables, and only drink in moderation.

Unsurprisingly, exercise also seems to help. In a trial of more than 57,000 middle-aged people, those whose fitness levels resembled a younger person’s were less likely to die in the following decade or so. Fitness-associated biological age was a stronger predictor of survival than chronological age.

And we may get more conclusive results soon: Spector is about to begin a trial to see if an intensive exercise and diet regime can reduce glycan age. Han is planning a similar trial to see if exercise can influence facial age.

There is still a long way to go before we can pinpoint the exact ways to reverse aging. But for now, I’m relieved to know that most of my body is younger than my years would suggest and, in the not too distant future, knowing my biological age could hold the key to preventing disease or even postponing death. I’ll happily celebrate turning 34 in the knowledge that my age really is just a number.

This article was republished from Prevent Disease.

See also:
How To Improve Your Failing Ability To Read Clearly As You Age, With The Help Of Sunshine
This One Thing Helps People Live Longer Than Anything Else

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

November 22, 2019

The waning Libra Moon poses questions of balance and good taste. Fairness is instinctively sought. Proper dress and tactful conduct are noted, as are violations of behavioral norms. Diplomacy plays a central role in today’s activities, which are likely…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

November 2019

“Bringing Energy into Matter” Learn basics of Tachyon, Zero Point Energy and Quantum Physics Tachyonized products and healing tools for purchase Participate in a seeing...

Cost: Free (preregistration is required)

Where:
The Sanctuary for Celestial Empowerment
10 Grassmere Avenue
Suite #300
West Hartford, CT  06110
View map »


Sponsor: Psychotherapy Healing Services, LLC
Telephone: 860-798-6176
Contact Name: Celeste E. Mattingly, LCSW
Website »

More information

Beaver Moon: Herbs for Aches and Pains Using Anti-Inflammatory Herbs. Refreshments served. To RSVP contact herbalist Rachel Ross, RN CNM. Visit our Facebook page for the latest...

Where:
Hillside Herbals
Jefferson, MA


Telephone: (508) 847-8615
Website »

More information

Come shine with us! Join us in harmony and in our goal to bring the light of Spiritualism forward to all those who are searching.

Where:
VFW Post 2597
775 Boston Rd, Rt 3A
Billerica, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Spiritualist Fellowship Church Of New England
Website »

More information

A beautiful collection of messages from Jeshua Ben Joseph (Jesus) that will transform your life, as it did his. Coming together to study these teachings, to ponder, to savor, to deepen our...

Cost: $25 per class

Where:
Heart and Soul Holistic Healing Center
130 Massapoag Avenue
Sharon, MA  02067
View map »


Sponsor: Heart and Soul Holistic
Telephone: 781-258-9942
Contact Name: Barbara Ann Strassman
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Give Yourself the gift of Reiki this holiday season! Have you always wanted to learn Reiki but didn’t want to commit to a full day workshop?  This is the class for you! Reiki...

Cost: $175

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-315-1133
Contact Name: Maureen Suriner
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Atend a public hearing for S665 at the Massachusetts State House to protect holistic practitioners. This is the second bill that urgently needs your attention now. S665 will provide a safe...

Where:
Massachusetts State House
24 Beacon St
Rooms A1 and A2
Boston, MA  02133
View map »

More information

With Peyton Pugmire, spiritual intuitive and Certified Angel Card Reader Tuesdays, 9/24, 10/22, 11/19, 12/17, 6pm–8pm You are intuitive beyond belief. This is your soul’s...

Cost: $40

Where:
Creative Spirit
80 Washington Street
Marblehead, MA  01945
View map »


Telephone: 781-797-0389
Contact Name: Creative Spirit
Website »

More information

Give Yourself the gift of Reiki this holiday season! Have you always wanted to learn Reiki but didn’t want to commit to a full day workshop?  This is the class for you! Reiki...

Cost: $175

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-315-1133
Contact Name: Maureen Suriner
Website »

More information

Free Evidence-Based Holistic Health Education Program at Wilbraham Senior Center The H.E.A.R.T. Program® (Health Empowerment and Real Transformation), created and instructed by Michelle...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Michelle Caron
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Give Yourself the gift of Reiki this holiday season! Have you always wanted to learn Reiki but didn’t want to commit to a full day workshop?  This is the class for you! Reiki...

Cost: $175

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-315-1133
Contact Name: Maureen Suriner
Website »

More information

The Fertility Awareness Meetup provides women with an opportunity to learn about and discuss natural birth control options and fertility. This is a space to connect with peers, access information,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cambridge Women's Center
46 Pleasant St
Cambridge, MA  02139
View map »


Sponsor: AC Fertility Awareness
Telephone: 617-899-7624
Contact Name: Anna Churchill

More information

The online dating scene can be exciting, overwhelming, and also annoying. However, it can truly be worth the hassle if you end up finding your ideal match! Just like Kerri did! Come to this...

Cost: $25

Where:
Awaken Holistic Counseling Services
2 Liberty St., Unit 2L
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Awaken Holistic Counseling Services, LLC
Telephone: 978-255-7893
Contact Name: Kerri Morrison
Website »

More information

Broga® is an officially licensed brand of fitness infused yoga geared for men but open to all. With instructors around the world, Chuck was trained by the brands creator and went onto work as...

Cost: $20

Where:
SSFIT STudio
339 Boston Post Rd, Suite 6A
Sudury, MA  01776
View map »


Sponsor: SSFIT STUDIO
Telephone: 508-904-7171
Contact Name: Steven
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Come detox, relax and renew yourself for the fall in our sanctuary! We have an intimate gathering of great readers and healers providing services at sampler rates to enjoy their services while...

Cost: $60: 3 Pack Service Special; $25: Single Service

Where:
Healing Power Of Flowers—Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey Smith
Website »

More information

Dying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani (My journey from cancer, to near death, to true healing) In this truly inspirational memoir, Anita Moorjani relates how, after fighting cancer for almost four...

Cost: Free

Where:
Open Circle Acupuncture & Healing
411 West Main Street, Suite 2R (rear of building)
Northborough, MA  01532
View map »


Sponsor: Open Circle Acupuncture & Healing
Telephone: 508-393-1212
Contact Name: Kim Flaherty
Website »

More information

Give Yourself the gift of Reiki this holiday season! Have you always wanted to learn Reiki but didn’t want to commit to a full day workshop?  This is the class for you! Reiki...

Cost: $175

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-315-1133
Contact Name: Maureen Suriner
Website »

More information

At our free Divorce Boot Camp, you will learn how to manage the legal, financial, real estate, mortgage and personal issues related to divorce. About this Event: Are you considering, going...

Cost: Free

Where:
Leading Edge Real Estate
2 Mount Vernon Street
Winchester, MA  01890
View map »


Sponsor: Vesta: Redefining Divorce
Telephone: 508-744-6014
Contact Name: Deanna Coyle
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Give Yourself the gift of Reiki this holiday season! Have you always wanted to learn Reiki but didn’t want to commit to a full day workshop?  This is the class for you! Reiki...

Cost: $175

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-315-1133
Contact Name: Maureen Suriner
Website »

More information

Four week series for girls ages 11 and up with Leigh Sloss This series of classes will focus on some of the most effective yoga and mindfulness skills for reducing stress and anxiety.  In a...

Cost: Series: $75; Drop in rate $20

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Give Yourself the gift of Reiki this holiday season! Have you always wanted to learn Reiki but didn’t want to commit to a full day workshop?  This is the class for you! Reiki...

Cost: $175

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-315-1133
Contact Name: Maureen Suriner
Website »

More information

Learn to overcome spinal tensions through therapeutic postures, designed to decompress your spine and relieve pain. Taught by a certified yoga therapist, classes bring you through poses...

Cost: 5/$50

Where:
Bliss Through Yoga
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice O'Brien
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags