Your organs may be aging faster: What it means for you

Scientists have been shifting their focus from chronological age to biological age for a while now.

They’re finding that biological age is a much more accurate measure of health than birthdate.

Biological age is based on the health and condition of your cells — and can leave you much younger or older on the inside than your chronological age indicates.

And research shows you don’t have just one biological age…

It turns out a person’s organs can age separately from one another.

A team of international researchers decided to dig deeper into this phenomenon, and what it means for us…

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An age for every organ and what it means

“Numerous studies have come up with single numbers representing individuals’ biological age — the age implied by a sophisticated array of biomarkers — as opposed to their chronical age, the actual numbers of years that have passed since their birth,” says the study’s senior author Dr. Tony Wyss-Coray, a professor at Stanford University.

This study went a step further — by coming up with distinct ages for each of 11 key organs, organ systems or tissues including:

  • The heart
  • The lungs
  • The kidneys
  • The liver,
  • The pancreas
  • The brain
  • Immune system
  • Muscle
  • Fat
  • Vasculature
  • And intestine.

They were also able to gauge not only an organ’s accelerated aging but also its susceptibility to disease and death.

To do so, the researchers identified nearly 900 organ-specific proteins from the blood work of just under 1,400 participants. Their ages spanned 20 to 90, but most were in the mid- to late stages of life.  

Then they compared the control groups’ organs’ biological age for each individual with its counterparts among a large group of people without obvious severe diseases and found that almost 20 percent of those aged 50 or older had at least one organ aging significantly more rapidly than the average.

That means about 1 in 5 reasonably healthy adults 50 or older has at least one organ that’s aging too fast, probably without knowing about it — and those individuals were at heightened risk for disease in that particular organ in the next 15 years.

Fortunately, only about 1 in 60 had two organs undergoing accelerated aging. But those unlucky few had 6.5 times the mortality risk of a person without any rapidly aging organs.

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The risks for specific organs

Next, the researchers identified age gaps for 10 of the 11 organs studied that indicated a 15 to 50 percent higher future risk of death from all causes over 15 years of follow-up, depending on the organ affected.

When looking at specific organs, they found:

  • People with accelerated heart aging who initially exhibited no active disease or abnormal biomarkers had a 2.5 times higher risk of heart failure than people with hearts aging at a normal rate.
  • Those whose brains were aging faster had a 1.8 times higher risk of showing cognitive decline over five years than those with younger brains. Plus, either accelerated brain or vasculature aging predicted risk for Alzheimer’s disease progression just as accurately as currently used clinical biomarkers.
  • Strong links between a fast-aging kidney score and both hypertension and diabetes,
  • Strong associations between an extreme aging heart score and both atrial fibrillation and heart attack.

“If we can reproduce this finding in 50,000 or 100,000 individuals, it will mean that by monitoring the health of individual organs in apparently healthy people, we might be able to find organs that are undergoing accelerated aging in people’s bodies, and we might be able to treat people before they get sick,” Wyss-Coray says.

So what can we do to slow our organs’ aging?

Well, phenotypic age may be close to what the Standford researchers used to determine organ age. Phenotypic age is a measure of age based on the results of nine blood markers for metabolism, inflammation and organ function, including glucose, C-reactive protein, and creatinine.

The American Heart Association says following Lifes’s Essential 8 can reduce that kind of aging by six years.

Their list includes many of these healthy practices:

Lastly, don’t forget good nutrition. Vitamin deficiencies can reduce your longevity.

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Stanford Medicine-led study finds way to predict which of our organs will fail first — Stanford Medicine

Organ aging signatures in the plasma proteome track health and disease — Nature

Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.