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Thanks to scientific advances, there are now more ways to measure aging than the turning of the calendar pages.
One method measures biological age, or how old your cells are, by using so-called epigenetic clocks. These clocks track chemical changes in your DNA that occur naturally as you age.
Epigenetic clocks can better predict both your health and your lifespan in ways that go beyond chronological age, or the number of years you’ve lived.
There are a few conditions that can affect your epigenetic clock. Obesity, for one, can induce epigenetic changes that may accelerate tissue aging and make the liver age faster. Stress can also speed up the aging process as measured by your epigenetic clock.
Now, researchers have discovered there’s another condition that could send your epigenetic clock into hyperdrive…
The aging effects of atherosclerosis
Since 2010, the PESA-CNIC-SANTANDER study has been analyzing the progression of subclinical atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) in more than 4,000 Santander Bank employees. Subclinical atherosclerosis is atherosclerosis that hasn’t yet progressed to a symptomatic stage.
Dr. Enrique Lara Pezzi, an author on the study, says the research has helped them learn more about the causes and consequences of subclinical atherosclerosis and provide key information for more personalized treatment in the early disease stages.
But they also stumbled across a link between atherosclerosis and accelerated aging…
Employees participating in the joint venture were between the ages 40 to 54 at the start of the study, with no history of cardiovascular disease. Data on the progression of atherosclerosis was collected using advanced imaging techniques, detailed information on participants’ lifestyles and molecular omics studies. Omics is the comprehensive study of molecules such as DNA, RNA, metabolites and proteins.
During 3-year follow-up examinations, the researchers found that low-grade systemic inflammation spiked in participants with a high burden of atherosclerotic plaques, accelerating epigenetic aging in otherwise healthy adults.
In other words, long before the appearance of symptomatic cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis is harming our health.
Lead author and General Director at Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III (CNIC), Dr. Valentín Fuster emphasized the benefits of reducing low-grade chronic inflammation by adopting a healthy lifestyle or taking specific medications like cholesterol-lowering statins, “that can block, or at least slow, the transition from the subclinical phase of atherosclerosis to the appearance of severe cerebrovascular events, like myocardial infarction or stroke,” he says.
Winding back your epigenetic clock
Lara Pezzi notes that it is possible to “slow down” our epigenetic aging. Luckily, the steps to slow your epigenetic clock are similar to the steps for lowering chronic inflammation in the body, which helps to protect against atherosclerosis.
Because science isn’t new to the inflammation theory of disease, much research has looked into how to tamp it down…
The Mediterranean diet, which focuses heavily on plant-based foods, healthy fats and fish, has been shown to reduce subclinical inflammation. That’s a great start.
But it gets better…
The fruits and vegetables consumed as part of the Mediterranean diet contain plenty of inflammation-fighting antioxidants called carotenes — bioactive compounds found in yellow, orange and green fruits and vegetables, that have the potential to check atherosclerosis. One study found the greater the concentration of carotenes in the blood, the lesser the atherosclerotic burden.
Add in a little exercise and you could be all set…
Studies have shown endurance sports like cycling, swimming and running and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) both slow signs of aging on the cellular level. If that seems like too much, don’t worry — even getting 20 minutes of moderate exercise a day can go a long way toward lowering inflammation.
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!
Atherosclerosis accelerates aging — EurekAlert!