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We often look to chronological age to tell us whether we’re at higher risk of certain diseases.
For instance, type 2 diabetes most commonly strikes people 45 years of age or older. Cancer tends to strike in middle age and beyond. And when we hit 65, our risk of heart disease, arthritis, stroke, Alzheimer’s and other dementias goes up.
But there’s another measure we should be considering when we look at disease risk. And it may be far more accurate than the date on the calendar…
High biological age and stroke and dementia risk
When it comes to disease risk, your body’s biological age may be much more important than your chronological age. Biological age is based on the health and condition of your cells and can leave you much younger or older on the inside than the chronological age on your birth certificate would indicate.
Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden decided to take a look at biological age to determine whether it had more of an influence on risk of certain diseases than chronological age. They used data from the UK Biobank to study a cohort of 325,000 people who were between the ages of 40 and 70 at the start of the study.
The researchers calculated biological age using 18 biomarkers, including blood lipids, blood sugar, blood pressure, lung function and BMI. Then, they explored the link between these biomarkers and the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia, stroke, ALS and Parkinson’s disease within a nine-year period.
The study found that if a person had a high biological age compared with their actual chronological age, they had a significantly greater risk of dementia, especially vascular dementia. They also had a higher risk of ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blood clot in the brain.
And the difference doesn’t have to be huge. For example, if a person’s biological age is five years higher than their actual age, that person has a 40 percent higher risk of developing vascular dementia or suffering a stroke.
The study showed that this higher risk persists even when taking into account factors like genetics, lifestyle and socioeconomics.
One thing that makes these results interesting is that because the cohort was so large, they were able to capture less common diagnoses such as ALS. The risk of developing ALS does increase with higher biological age. However, the risk for Parkinson’s remained unchanged.
Lifestyle is key to healthy biological aging
The results of the study indicate that slowing the body’s biological aging processes may possibly reduce or delay the onset of disease.
And though genes may play a part, according to Sara Hägg, associate professor at Karolinska Institutet, “Several of the values can be influenced through lifestyle and medications.”
For instance, exercise is key to keeping your cells young. And the good news is it takes only 30 minutes a day to make an impact.
Diet is also important. Eating red meat can age your cells, so it’s good to follow a diet that limits the amount you eat. In fact, the Mediterranean diet has been linked to slower aging, so that’s a good plan to emulate.
The Mediterranean diet includes a lot of fish, nuts, legumes, vegetables, fruits, olive oil and whole grains. These foods are full of nutrients like omega-3s (which help people live longer), antioxidants (which slow brain aging) and short-chain fatty acids (which help your gut protect your arteries.)
Adding anthocyanin-rich berries can promote healthy blood flow in the brain. MRI scans of those who drank blueberry juice showed increases in both their brain blood flow and gray matter activity.
There are other lifestyle factors that can raise your biological age, including smoking, not getting enough sleep, stress, and feelings like loneliness and unhappiness. Mitigating these factors, as well as taking a probiotic, were shown to contribute to a more youthful biological age.
Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!
Clinical biomarker-based biological ageing and future risk of neurological disorders in the UK Biobank — Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry
Type 2 Diabetes — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
At what age is cancer most common? — City of Hope
Promoting Health for Older Adults — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Heart Health and Aging — National Institute on Aging
Four Things You Should Know About Arthritis — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Holy Smoke! The connection between cigarettes and Parkinson’s disease — American Parkinson Disease Association