From The Desk Of Clarence Bass
"Remarkably, we were able to detect systematic age-related changes in the 18 biomarkers even though our young adult cohort was still decades removed from typical age of onset for most age-related chronic health conditions." Professor of geriatrics Daniel W. Belsky, Duke University, North Carolina
Anti-Aging Benefits Begin in Youth and Compound over Time
Researchers (US, Britain, Israel, and New Zealand) have good news for people who begin exercising and eating healthy in youth. Much like the great wonder of compounding investment returns over time, it appears that health benefits compound in the same way when physical fitness begins early in life. Led by Daniel W. Belsky, a professor of geriatrics at Duke University, the investigators found that some 38-year-old bodies were still in their 20s, while others were over 60 in biological age. Some were hardly aging, while others were occupying a body far older than its years.
The details are revelatory—and encouraging. Many will be surprised to learn that aging is to a considerable degree up to the individual.
Study participants (954 people born in New Zealand in 1972 and 1973 and observed since birth) and were tested for 18 biomarkers—including A1C, cardiorespiratory fitness, waist-hip ratio, mean arterial pressure, body mass index, telomere length, creatinine clearance, urea nitrogen, triglycerides, gum health, total cholesterol, white blood cell count, hsCRP, and HDL cholesterol—beginning at age 26, and again at 32 and 38.
The 18 biomarkers told the investigators the status of their cardiovascular, metabolic, and immune systems, their kidneys, livers, and lungs, their dental health, and their DNA when they were 26, 32, and 38.
The next step was to test participants for measurements usually reserved for older individuals: balance, strength, motor coordination. They were also queried for physical limitations such as trouble climbing stairs, carrying groceries, walking a mile. Mental function tests were also administered.
Finally, college students were asked to look at photos of the faces of participants and judge their ages.
Based on these assessments, pace of aging was calculated for each volunteer.
Putting it all together, here’s what Dr. Belsky and his team learned:
Some Study members appeared to age not at all—they were physiologically the same when we saw them at age 26 and, 12 years later, when they were 38. Most study members aged at a normal pace—1 year’s worth of physiological change for each chronological year that passed. Some Study members aged much faster, aging 2 or 3 years physiologically with the passage of each chronological year.
Young adults we measured as aging faster showed worse balance and poorer motor coordination, they were physically less strong, and they reported having more trouble completing daily tasks like climbing stairs or carrying groceries. These fast-aging young adults also showed evidence of cognitive decline—compared to baseline testing they completed as children, their IQ scores had gone down by age 38.
Age-related changes weren’t on the inside only. Duke University undergraduates who rated facial photographs of the study members tended to rate the fast-agers as looking older.
Commenting on the significance of these findings, Dr. Belsky and his team wrote:
Our findings indicate that aging processes can be quantified in people young enough for prevention of age-related disease, opening a new door for anti-aging therapies. The science of healthspan extension may be focused on the wrong end of the lifespan; rather than only studying old humans, geroscience should also study the youth.
While it is undisputable that lifestyle impacts aging (see below), genes, socioeconomic circumstances and other factors may also play a role in the pace of aging. Clearly, combating aging early would be a huge step forward, paying substantial dividends.
The Belsky study “Quantification of biological aging in young adults” was published online July 6, 2015 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/30/E4104.full
Bending the Aging Curve
In his book, Bending the Aging Curve (2011), University of Miami professor Joseph F. Signorile graphically described the awesome power of exercise to elevate the path of aging. He includes many tables and graphs, but the one that sums up the message best is a graph showing the neuromuscular aging curves for the untrained person, for the person who starts exercising at about 40, and finally the trajectory of men and women who have been exercising their entire life. The differences are stunning, dramatically demonstrating the advantage of starting to exercise early and never stopping.
The loss of neuromuscular function for untrained individuals begins in earnest at about 40 and drops more and more rapidly with each passing decade; the decline is exponential. The person who begins exercising at 40 shows a relatively flat curve until about 60, and then begins a slow decline. The lifelong exerciser, however, soars above the others at every decade of life. The regular exerciser will have a curve that begins at a much higher level than the other two—and stays there. The inevitable decline that does occur leaves the 75-year-old lifelong exerciser at a level equivalent to an untrained person at 20. At 90, the lifelong trainer is at a level equivalent to an untrained person 30 years younger
For many more details, see our commentary on Dr. Signorile’s book: http://www.cbass.com/BendingTheAgingCurve.htm
See also Exercise Adds Years—Exploring the Limits: http://www.cbass.com/ExerciseAddsYears.htm
Finally, the pictorial presentation of my training from age 15 to 77 shows what high intensity exercise, endurance, and excellent nutrition can contribute to the maintenance of maximum human physical function throughout the life span: http://www.cbass.com/PICTORAL.HTM
Posted September 1, 2015
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