Most of us have an often-disturbing sense of how rapidly we are ageing. We don’t remember so well, having that alarming tip of the tongue deficit accessing the name of a well-known celebrity. He or she was in that movie, only you just cannot immediately remember those details like you could not so long ago and it’s incredibly frustrating and distressing. Then there’s our mental swiftness or lack thereof. Thought processes become slower especially our off the cuff repertoire, which makes us look rather silly instead of that nimble mental executioner we used to be. We exercise more slowly, aerobically for example. We become flabbier and gain weight more easily. These are just a few of the jarring realities which let us know we are no longer the quickfire, mentally agile, svelte superhuman we used to be. So, what can we do about this and are any of these sobering trends reversible?
It turns out research has uncovered some biological and measurable processes that once identified can be actioned to possibly slow down the relentless decline into age-related decrepitude and reinvigorate some of that fire which once upon a time made us quick witted, fast moving dynamos.
There are a bunch of blood tests incorporated in the Maxhealthwellness programme which isolate some of the underlying biochemical causes of ageing including markers of inflammation, body composition changes and cognitive dysfunction amongst others. Once these are identified this programme will provide strategies for dealing with these which might just help to jettison some of those cognitive and exercise related shortcomings that we’d all love to abolish.
Biomarkers of Ageing. The epigenome and ageing
We all have a genome where our DNA is located and how our genome or DNA expresses itself has a major impact on how we age. This we cannot change yet except for new technology called CRISPR which can actually edit our genome. But this is a far way from becoming a commercial reality so anyone wanting to have their favourite movie stars life will have to wait a while. Then there’s the epigenome and these are chemicals which affect the way our genes are expressed and this also has a significant imprint on ageing. One of these epigenetic processes is called methylation, which simply determines whether our genes are switched on or off.
Based on this mechanism research scientists have identified what is now called the DNAm PhenoAge, a collection of 513 chemicals or proteins that determine if genes are being methylated in other words if they are switched on or off. This DNAm PhenoAge signature is a very strong predictor of a host of age-related events including death from all causes, cancers, how long we will remain healthy and physically functioning, as well as the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. For example genes that are activated increase damage related to inflammation whereas genes that are less activated include those connected with repairing damaged DNA or preserving our mitochondria, the batteries of our cells where energy is made.
The good news is that we have some say in the expression of the DNAm Phenoage. While it is moderately heritable we are not doomed by genetics which we simply have to accept as our fate. Research suggests that genetic differences account for one-third to one-half of the variance in DNAm PhenoAge. Smoking for example can worsen our DNAm phenoage while exercise, consuming fruit and vegetables and having a higher education and income can lower DNAm PhenoAge. The DNAmPhenoAge is positively correlated with a blood test which measures inflammation called the HS-CRP, as well as insulin and glucose levels, triglycerides, a form of cholesterol, waist to hip ratio but is negatively correlated with HDL, the so-called good cholesterol.
However aside from these basic biochemical measures research scientists claim that quantifying the DNAm Phenoage may provide us with early predictors for how we might age.
If this is such a vital clue about how we might age is the DNAm PhenoAge test commercially available? It is and what researchers are at pains to tell us is that standard clinical parameters, ie the kind of tests that are part of the Maxhealthwellness programme can still yield significant insights into the underlying biochemical changes which might accelerate ageing.
Biomarkers of Ageing. The immune system and ageing
As we age our immune system goes into age-related decline. The Immune Apocalypseprovides detailed pointers for enhancing immune function. A simple blood test which measures T cells, key immune system protagonists, can tell us if we are manufacturing sufficient numbers of certain immune cells which are vital for effective immune system surveillance. CD4 cells for example are critical for mounting a successful immune response