08 July 2015

How do people age in their prime

At the graduation meeting dedicated to the 20th anniversary of graduation, you may notice that, despite the slight age difference, some of those present look much older than others. Indeed, the results of a large long-term study conducted by scientists from the USA, Great Britain, Israel and New Zealand, working under the leadership of Professor Terry Moffitt from Duke University, showed that differences in the rate of aging of people manifest themselves already in young adulthood, and not only externally.

During the study, scientists used a panel of 18 biological parameters, the combined analysis of which allows for a comparative assessment of the rate of human aging. With the help of this panel, the data of 954 people born in 1972-1973 in the same locality were analyzed. All participants regularly underwent medical examinations and surveys until the age of 38.

According to the authors, the manifestations of the aging process are registered in the internal organs even earlier than in the eyes, joints and hair. Therefore, as part of the next survey of participants who reached the age of 38, the researchers assessed such indicators as the functioning of the kidneys, liver, lungs and immune system, as well as the level of metabolism. They also measured blood cholesterol levels, cardiorespiratory endurance, and telomere length–the end sections of chromosomes shortening as they age. In addition, the condition of the teeth and capillaries of the fundus was studied, which allows us to roughly assess the condition of the cerebral vessels.

Based on the collected data, the authors determined the biological age of each of the 38-year-old participants, which ranged from 30 to almost 60 years. After that, they analyzed data for each of the participants collected during two earlier surveys (at the age of 26 and 32), and drew a graph of changes for each of the 18 parameters. To further determine the individual aging rate of each of the participants, they combined all 18 graphs.

The aging rate of most of the participants roughly corresponded to one year per year. However, people whose aging rate was lower or higher than average were also identified. As the authors expected, the patterns found generally corresponded to the severity of the external manifestations of the aging process.

People of more "advanced" biological age also received worse results when performing tests designed for people over the age of 60, including tests for balance and coordination of movements, as well as for solving unfamiliar problems. Also, these people experienced greater difficulties compared to most of their peers when performing such physical tasks as climbing stairs.

As an additional measure of evaluation, the researchers asked the students to estimate the age of the participants from photographs taken at the age of 38. In this case, the older people from a biological point of view also seemed to the students to be older than most of their peers.

The speed of the aging process is determined not only by genetic factors. Studies involving twins have shown that the contribution of genes to the aging process is only 20%, while the remaining 80% is due to the influence of environmental factors. According to the authors, this gives some hope that over time a person will learn to slow down the aging process or, at least, increase the duration of an active life.

The authors note that the study is just a proof of concept, and its results confirm the ability to track the trajectory of aging by combining a variety of parameters. The ultimate goal of work in this direction is to develop methods of influencing the aging process as such, which will replace the currently used approaches aimed at combating each disease individually.

Article by Daniel Belsky et al. Quantification of biological aging in young adults is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Evgeniya Ryabtseva
Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru based on the materials of Duke University:
Researchers Learn To Measure Aging Process In Young Adults

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