Reduce Your Biological Age

Ares you older biologically that chronologically?

You can grow younger biologically

Biological and chronological aging do not necessarily proceed at the same rate, especially during old age. Terms such as successful aging, positive aging, and frailty qualitatively attempt to capture biological aging. Frailty can quantitatively express the loss of function with age. Researchers at Tulane University recently developed a 34-item scale, which they termed FR34. It runs from zero (no functional limitations) to 7.8 (high degree of functional limitations). For most items, a person who lacks a particular (bad) attribute gets a score of zero or a score of 0.1 if the person has the (bad) attribute. For example, participants answered this statement, “You’ve been told that you have diabetes.” Persons who had not been told this would get a score of zero. Persons who had been told this would get a score of 0.1 point. Five of the attributes (body-mass index, geriatric depression scale, high blood pressure, mini-mental state exam, and self-rated health) each had maximum scores of 1.

Cross-sectional data for participants in the Louisiana Healthy Aging Family Study tended toward the zero (healthy) end. The distribution shifted right toward the unhealthy end as age increased. But here’s great news: Scores for some participants actually decreased (in a healthier direction) over three to four year periods. Presumably, participants whose biological age decreased began embracing healthy lifestyle choices.

Living longer may not mean living better if biological aging occurs at a faster rate than chronological aging. Researchers used data from the third and fourth waves of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to determine changes in biological aging from 1988-1994 to 2007-2010. Biological aging included metabolic, cardiovascular, inflammatory, liver, and lung functioning. Specifically, biological aging reflected eight biomarkers: glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), total cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, ratio of forced expiratory volume at one second to forced air capacity, serum creatinine, serum alkaline phosphatase, serum albumin, and C-reactive protein (CRP).

Participants’ biological age declined from 1988-1994 to 2007-2010. That is, they got younger (biologically) they got older (chronologically). Great! Women had significantly lower biological ages than men in all age groups. The greatest rate of decline occurred in men aged 20-39 years. The largest absolute decline in biological age (4.29 years) occurred in men aged 60-79 years. Obese participants who smoked showed significantly lower reductions in biological age. Will the observed reductions in biological age continue for older Americans? If so, seniors may shorten the time they spend in poor health in their later years, supporting the compression of morbidity hypothesis. For example, American women at age 65 have a life expectancy of 19.7 years. But only 11.3 of those years are expected to be disease-free. Thus, the average woman would live the last 8.4 years of her life with at least one major disease. Continued reductions in biological age would lengthen the disease-free period and, presumably, improve quality of life for seniors.

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