December 07, 2020
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Everyone ages at a different rate. Some people seem to age very rapidly, while others experience aging at a much more gradual pace. We’ve all experienced meeting someone for the first time who appears to be much younger – or older – than they really are.
Chronological vs. Biological age
Chronological age is the number of years a person has been alive, while biological age refers to how old a person seems.
Biological age, also called physiological age, is a measure of how well or poorly your body is functioning relative to your actual calendar age. For example, you may have a calendar or chronological age of 65, but because of a healthy and active lifestyle (avoiding longevity threats like tobacco and obesity), your body is physiologically more similar to someone with a chronological age of 55. Your biological age would, therefore, be 55.
How we age is beyond our control. It’s primarily influenced by genetics, but research sheds light on how aging can be impacted by external factors, including diet, exercise, stress, and smoking.
Many gerontologists believe chronological age to be an incomplete figure because it doesn’t take these external factors into consideration.
How biological age is determined
Research suggests that telomeres and DNA methylation play big parts in the aging process.
Telomeres are the nucleotides on the ends of chromosomes. They keep the ends of chromosomes from deteriorating and fusing with a nearby chromosome. Essentially, telomeres dictate how quickly cells age and die.
Scientists have discovered that the higher a person’s chronological age, the shorter their telomeres. One study found that people with shorter telomeres were more likely to have an early death or develop a disease or neurodegenerative disorder.
Another study suggests that maintaining a healthy lifestyle can actually reverse aging by lengthening telomeres, good news for our age-obsessed culture.
2. DNA methylation
Scientists are also using DNA methylation to determine biological age. Cells use DNA methylation to control gene expression. In other words, DNA methylation turns genes off. Although the exact purpose of methylation is unknown, it’s vital to embryonic development, genomic imprinting, chromosome stability, and more.
One study sought to discover whether DNA methylation is an accurate way of predicting age by gathering 8,000 samples of 51 different tissues and cells. Most of the tissue and cell samples studied had the same chronological and biological ages. Some didn’t. The study found that certain parts of the body age faster than others.
Factors affecting biological age
There are several ways that you can determine your biological age, but none are definitive or truly accurate. Biological age takes many lifestyle factors into consideration, including diet, exercise and sleeping habits, to name a few. There are certain health factors that could give you years back on your average life expectancy.
Healthy habits can have a significant impact on your longevity and biological age. These include:
Another major contributor to biological age has nothing to do with your habits. Heredity, or your gene pool, is also partially responsible for your biological age. Just as specific diseases run in families, longevity does also. The Adventist Health Study shows that with optimal lifestyle habits (e.g., no tobacco or alcohol use, regular exercise, vegetarianism, effective management of stress) people generally have an average life expectancy of about 86 years. Anything above that suggests a genetic component. If you have family members who have lived longer than 86 years, chances are you’ll live a long life too.
Another important factor influencing biological age is where you live. It’s no secret that the environment and culture you live in is connected to healthy habits, but it’s also tied to your safety, the foods you eat, and so much more.
For example, studies have shown that people living in an unsafe neighborhood are unlikely to go outside to exercise. They’re also less likely to find shops selling fresh fruit and produce. Perhaps even more significantly, they are likely to experience high levels of stress.
While not an exact science, the concept of biological age can incorporate objective measures like resting heart rate, blood pressure, and visual acuity, as well as more subjective criteria like ease of performing daily tasks, muscle strength, and general mobility.
Thus, knowing your biological age is the same as knowing how healthy and strong you are – and whether you are at risk for life-threatening illnesses, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
What if your biological age is higher than your chronological age? Now is a great time to make positive changes that can make a positive difference. The goal is to put a focus on those habits that lower age expectancy and turn them into healthy habits that add to your life.
Start by addressing some of the issues you can change right away. For example:
If you follow all or even some of these basic suggestions, you may be on your way to biologically being younger than your chronological age.
Source: VERY WELL HEALTH
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