We may be living longer, but are Americans aging more slowly biologically?A study published in 2018 reviewed biological age in U.S population groups from 1988-1994 and compared them to the years of 2007-2010 and provides answers regarding biological aging.
The study found that aged-matched participants were biologically younger in years 2007-2010 compared to similar aged participants in the years 1988-1994. The degree of improvement, however, varies across age and sex groups.
For instance, males in both the youngest and oldest groups showed greater declines (improvement) in biological aging than females. Overall, the average delay in aging from 1988-1994 to 2007-2010 was four years.
Modifiable risk factors had much to do with the degree of biological aging. In other word, our lifestyle habits influences how quickly or slowly we age. In fact, it’s been estimated that how well we age is determined by 3/4 lifestyle and 1/4 genetics.
Lifespan versus Biological Aging
Life expectancy has increased in the U.S significantly over the past 60 years. But, this does not necessarily mean we are healthier than past generations. Many elderly are kept alive by medical interventions that did not exist in the past.
So lifespan is not necessarily a good indicator of biological aging. Biological aging means truly aging more slowly. In the end, healthy aging is dying at the slowest rate possible.
Obesity, Tobacco and Aging
The above study found that there was a marked declined in tobacco use from 1988-1994 to 2007-2010 which improved biological aging. But, that improvement was partially offset by an increase in obesity for the two time periods with the younger age groups tending to becoming more obese during the 2007-2010 study period.
In other the words, the young are becoming fatter. A study to show this probably isn’t necessary as most of us probably witness that society is becoming heavier.
Impact of Medication and Aging
In the 60-79 age group the reduction in biological aging due to use of medication for blood pressure and cholesterol was 72%. Pretty dramatic. This reduction appears to have offset the natural tendency to gain weight with aging especially among older men.
Unknown Aging Factors
While changes in tobacco use, obesity, and medication explained some of the changes in biological aging between 1988-1994 and 2007-2010, much of the decrease in biological aging for the two periods is unexplainable based on the factors that were studied.
It is felt that the use of supplements may be an additional factor in the decline of biological aging. The use of nutritional supplements increased substantially after the 1988-1994 study period. The increased use of supplements coincides with the Dietary Supplement and Health Act of 1994.
Vitamin D and fish oil have been shown to modulate genes linked to biological aging and their increase use may account for the delay in aging seen in the study.
Are You Aging More Slowly than Others?
What if you want more science to go on, what you can you do? One test that measures biological age which we have discussed before is telomere length. A few years ago measuring telomeres was expensive but there are ads now on the internet promoting telomere testing for as low as $99.
How can you tell if you are aging well? Well, you can look at others your age and see if you look and feel better than they do, but that’s not too scientific – though you may feel better about yourself. “I may not be aging well but at least I’m aging more slowly than ……”
Scientists at Yale have a developed a test that looks at 42 clinical measures in the blood. Unfortunately they have not publicly revealed what all 42 biomarkers are, though. The list of clinical measures does include things like white blood cell count, glucose, albumin, C-reactive protein, cholesterol, kidney and liver function – that we do know. But, the other markers have not been revealed.
Likewise, Chinese researchers have found two biomarkers in urine that coincide with biological aging
Key Point on Aging
Here’s the key point on aging. You have a lot more control on how well you age than you may think. And, it’s not rocket science. Healthy aging is largely determined by your lifestyle. That is good, because that you control. You do not control your genetic makeup – unless you can control who your parents are, which is not likely going to happen.