Medical experts are stating that age may not be the right number to measure your bodies’ health.
According to a recent study published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences in the US, the aging process can begin early in life. The study determined the aging rate of 954 people both men and women that took various measurements of their bodies’ health across chronological ages when they were in their 26, 32 and 38 years.
Researchers were able to determine which individuals aged rapidly or slowly as they analyse how the measures change over a period of 12 years. The study aims to identify the signs of premature aging before it manifest in years or after a decade later in chronic disease, diabetes or kidney and lung damage. “Intervention to reverse or delay the march toward age-related diseases must be scheduled while people are still young,” according to the study, published online last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This study also permits scientists to examine the effectiveness of anti-aging therapies such as restriction of calories.
Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, said coming up with the right combination of biomarkers to evaluate aging is very important as experts push to develop interventions and therapeutics to target aging and the onset of chronic diseases.
Such tests could result in big medical savings, too, said Dr. Barzilai, who wasn’t involved in the study. “If you’re 60 and you do a test that determines you’re biologically 50, maybe you don’t need a colonoscopy or mammogram every year,” he said.
Measuring the pace of aging in young people could prove useful to study lifestyle interventions, such as diet and exercise, but are less likely to prompt drug interventions, said James Kirkland, director of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging at Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn.
“If you wanted to give a drug to a 38-year-old in an effort to slow or delay or prevent subsequent development of age-related chronic diseases 20 or 30 years later, you would have to have a drug with zero side effects over that amount of time and you would have to prove that,” Dr. Kirkland said.
Stephen Kritchevsky studies functional assessments in older people such as grip and gait, both of which are measures used to determine how well people are aging. Dr. Kritchevsky, who is a professor and director of the Sticht Center on Aging at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., said strength typically peaks around age 35 to 40 after which people start losing 1% of their strength per year. That rate accelerates in the 70s and 80s.
How fast older people walk is considered one of the most useful markers for determining future health, Dr. Kritchevsky said. Exercise can help people walk faster, and strength can be improved through resistance training. Balance-training regimens are readily available, including on the National Institute on Aging website. Yoga and tai chi are also believed to help improve balance, he said.
“The primary message is that what happens to us at the end of life has its roots early in life,” said Dr. Kritchevsky of the new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Investments in your health in middle age will have payoffs in old age.”
Prevention is key. It’s easier to stop age-related diseases from happening in the early years of a person’s life than to repair the damage a decade after.
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