(conversation) – Do you wake up some days and think, “When I was younger, I could survive on only four hours of sleep, but now I need 10”? Or have you ever walked out of the gym and “felt” your knee?

Almost everyone experiences these signs of aging. But some people seem to ignore their age. The late US Supreme Court Justice Dr Ruth Bader Ginsburg He remained on the bench until his death at the age of 87. “Great British Bake Off” judge Mary Berry, now in her 80s, continues to inspire people around the world to bake and enjoy life. and actors Paul Rudd He was named People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” in 2021 at the age of 52, while still in his 30s. So is age just a number?

Researchers have focused much attention on understanding the causes and risk factors of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, osteoporosis and cancer. But many ignore the major risk factor for all these diseases: age itself. More than any individual risk factor, such as smoking or lack of exercise, the number of years you live predicts the onset of the disease. In fact, aging increases the risk of many chronic diseases Up to a thousand times.

but, No two people are the same age. Although age is a major risk factor for many chronic diseases, it is an unreliable indicator of how quickly your body declines or how susceptible you are to age-related disease. This is because there is a difference between your chronological age, or the number of years you have lived, and your biological age – your physical and functional ability.

I am a Scientists are interested in redefining “age”. Instead of benchmarking chronological age, my lab is invested Measuring biological age. Biological age is one More accurate measurement of health span, or years lived in good health, compared to chronological age, and does not directly correlate with wrinkles and gray hair. People who age rapidly experience a faster rate of functional deterioration than their chronological age.

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My grandmother, who lived to be 83 but was bedridden and couldn’t remember who I was until the last few years of her life, was aging fast. My grandfather, on the other hand, lived to be 83, but he was active, functional and even did my homework with me until he died – he was a healthy old man.

with unprecedented Growth of the world’s aging population, I believe that finding ways to measure biological age and how to maintain or delay it is important not only for individual health, but also for the social, political and economic health of our society. Early detection of accelerated aging provides an opportunity to delay, alter or reverse the trajectory of biological aging.

Genetics and biological aging

Biological age is multifaceted. It arises from a complex mix of genetic traits and is influenced by factors such as microbiome composition, environment, lifestyle, stress, diet and exercise.

It was once thought that genetics had no effect on aging or longevity. However, in the early 1990s, researchers reported the first studies identifying Genes that were able to increase lifespan A small round worm. Since then, many observations support the influence of genetics on aging.

For example, children of long-lived parents and even long-lived siblings Tends to live longer. Researchers have also done it Many genes identified which affects longevity and plays a role in resilience and protection from stress. These include genes that repair DNA, protect cells from free radicals and regulate fat levels.

However, it is clear from studies on identical twins – those who have the same genes but not the same exact lifespans – that genes are not the only factor affecting age. In fact, genes probably only account for it 20% to 30% of biological age. This suggests that other parameters may strongly influence biological aging.

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Environmental and lifestyle influences

Researchers have found that environmental and lifestyle factors greatly affect biological age, including social connectedness, sleeping habits, water consumptionExercise and diet.

social relations Essential for lifelong well-being. But maintaining social relationships can be challenging due to loss of family and friends, depression, chronic illness or other factors. Several studies have reported A strong link Between social isolation and increased stress, morbidity and mortality.

Similarly, diet and exercise are strong influencers of biological aging. Blue areas, which are regions around the world where people live longer, attribute their successful aging to diet, exercise and social connections. A mostly plant-based diet and daily activity are the well-known “secrets” to health and longevity. Although newer studies on the effects of dietary interventions such as intermittent fasting and time-restricted eating on longevity have not been rigorously tested, they show several health benefits, including Good glucose and Insulin regulation

While genetics are difficult to control, diet and exercise can be modified to slow biological aging.

How to measure biological age

Currently, there is no effective test to predict an individual’s health trajectory early in life in order to intervene and improve quality of life with age. Scientists are interested in identifying a molecule that is sensitive and specific enough to serve A unique fingerprint for biological age.

In discussions of biological age it is important to consider the individual’s health and resilience rather than focusing solely on disease states. It is a state of flexibility Adapt and bounce back from health challenges and is often a predictor of functional health. A molecular aging fingerprint may provide a tool to help identify individuals who are less resilient and may need more aggressive monitoring and early intervention to improve their health and well-being. Reduce gender, racial and ethnic health disparities.

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There are several promising molecular markers that can serve as biological age fingerprints.

One of these markers is epigenetic clocks. Epigenetics are chemical modifications of DNA that control gene function. Many scientists have found that DNA can be “marked” by methyl groups in patterns that can change with age and potentially function. Reading for old age.

However, it is important to note that although epigenetic clocks are valuable for predicting chronological age, they do not correspond to biological age. Additionally, it is unclear how these epigenetic marks function or how they contribute to aging.

Another well-regarded sign of biological aging is the build-up of inactive cells known as senescent cells. Zombie cells. Cells become senescent when they experience multiple types of stress and become so damaged that they can no longer divide, releasing molecules that cause chronic low-grade inflammation and disease.

Animal studies It has been shown that removing these cells can improve health. However, what clearly defines senescent cells in humans is still unknown, making tracking them as a measure of biological aging challenging.

Finally, the body Releases unique metabolism, or chemical fingerprints, as by-products of normal metabolism. These metabolites play a dynamic and direct role in physiological regulation and may inform functional health. My lab and others are discovering the exact makeup of these chemicals that can best measure biological aging. Much work remains to be done not only to identify these metabolites but also to understand how they affect biological aging.

People have long sought youth. Whether such an elixir exists is still unknown. But research is starting to show Delaying biological aging can be a way to live a healthy, full life.


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