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Chronological vs. Biological Aging: What’s the Difference and Why It Matters

The Role Of DNA Methylation In Aging & Longevity

Many people connect the idea of aging with pain, sickness, and disease.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In fact, an increasing number of our patients are looking for ways to slow down the effects of aging and increase their longevity. Or, more simply put, they are exploring ways to increase their “healthspan.” 

Thanks to ongoing scientific advances, we now have very effective ways to monitor the speed at which our bodies are aging and how things like diet, exercise, and lifestyle can turn back the hands of time. 

Chronological vs. Biological Aging

If you’re interested in extending your healthspan and reducing your risk of disease and premature death, it’s essential to start by understanding the difference between your chronological and biological age. 

Chronological age is the number of years that you have been alive. And as much as we might want that number to change, it is unchangeable. Your chronological age is also your primary risk factor for many chronic diseases, mortality, and decreases in bodily functions, such as hearing, eyesight, and memory.

Biological age, on the other hand, is a numerical assessment of the level of damage and loss of function that your cells, tissues, and organs have acquired. Ultimately, this damage will determine your risk for disease and your ability to live a long and healthy life.

Why Is Your Biological Age Important?

Your biological age is an indicator of how your body is aging and how your current dietary and other lifestyle habits, toxic exposures, stress, and other variables are impacting your health over time.1

Even though you can’t do anything about the number of years you’ve lived on this planet, you can influence your biological age. This means you can reduce the damage to your cells and improve your biological age by making lifestyle and other changes over time.

How Is Biological Age Calculated?

Research has provided several different biological age calculators using your chronological age and specific blood test results. Dr. Steven Horvath and his team developed one of the most well-researched biological age calculators, the epigenetic clock.2

At the core of Dr. Horvath’s research and the research behind the other biological age calculators is the theory that changes in your genetic material are the key component in measuring biological age, and that by measuring these changes, we can assess how our health interventions impact our aging.  

Understanding the science of epigenetics is essential to fully appreciate how biological aging calculations work.3

What Is Epigenetics?

Epigenetics is the study of how our environment and behaviors impact how our genes work. 

Epigenetics looks at the biochemical layer on top of our DNA, which helps regulate how the body uses our genetic material4. In other words, depending on the epigenetic patterns on a particular gene, that gene may be “turned on” for use by the body or “turned off” and not used by the body. 5

For example, as we age, we want to turn on genes that fight cancer or other diseases and turn off (or turn down) those that promote inflammation. Unfortunately, this is the opposite of what typically happens as our chronological age increases. But by understanding how epigenetic changes affect which genes are turned “on” or “off,” we can connect how our environment and behavior impact our genes. 

DNA Methylation & Aging

The most prominent and well-researched epigenetic mechanism is DNA methylation.

Although methylation is a simple biochemical process – it’s the transfer of one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms from one substance to another – it significantly impacts many biochemical reactions in the body5. Methylation helps regulate the activity of the cardiovascular, neurological, reproductive, and detoxification systems, including those related to:6

  • DNA production
  • Estrogen metabolism
  • Neurotransmitter production
  • Detoxification
  • Liver health
  • Cellular energy
  • Fat metabolism
  • Eye health
  • Histamine metabolism    

What all of this is telling us, is that your epigenetics change as you age and that these changes can impact your health in a variety of ways, including your susceptibility to infections and certain types of cancers.  7,8

Why Is DNA Methylation Important For Aging?

Simply put, methylation decreases with age and disrupts cellular function so that cells can no longer efficiently do their jobs. This cellular decline in efficiency is believed to be the underlying cause of aging signs, including changes in skin tone and texture, the appearance of wrinkles, changes in hair color, increased joint pain, and so on.9

How To Improve Your Biological Age

One of the most exciting things about epigenetics research and DNA methylation is that epigenetic patterns are modifiable, and methylation sites appear to adjust rapidly to environmental inputs. So, once you know your biological age, you can identify options to potentially lower your biological age, including:

Diet: Biological aging nutrition research suggests that a nutrient-dense diet high in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains can lower your biological age10. In addition, I always recommend that my patients limit their intake of sugar, alcohol, and “chemical foods” (aka. processed, packaged foods).

Exercise: Research into biological aging has identified a connection between excessive activity levels and lower biological age; however, not all studies agree that increased exercise has as much impact.11,12 There seems to be a healthy amount of exercise that is most effective for reducing biological age - not too little and not too much. Focus on aiming for 30 minutes of activity 5 days a week.

Stress: Biological age appears to increase with both physical and psychological stress., Incorporating ways to manage and mitigate stress13,14, including mindfulness meditation, can significantly impact your biological age.

Sleep Habits: If you’re struggling to get good quality sleep, it may negatively impact your health and longevity and increase your biological age.  Quality sleep is vital to your health, and if you get improved deep sleep, in particular, it can positively impact your biological age15. It’s during deep sleep that our bodies restore, revitalize, and repair damaged cells and tissues.

Physical Environment: Environmental toxins found in food, personal care items, air, soil, water, and dirty electricity present a real threat to your biological age. You can reduce your biological age by avoiding or reducing your exposure to common environmental toxins.16

Uncover Your Biological Age & Improve Your Longevity

Calculating your biological age and understanding your DNA methylation processes give you a powerful snapshot of your current health and what steps you can take to turn back your bio clock.

Are you interested in reversing your biological age, extending your healthspan, and reducing your disease risk? Experience Reboot Center’s innovative Empowered Wellness approach. Schedule a complimentary health strategy session today.

Resources:

  1. "First hint that body's 'biological age' can be reversed - Nature." 5 Sep. 2019, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02638-w. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
  2. "DNA methylation-based biomarkers and the epigenetic clock theory ...." https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29643443/. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
  3. "What is Epigenetics? - CDC." https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/disease/epigenetics.htm. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
  4. "The epigenetics of aging: What the body's hands of time tell us." 26 Mar. 2021, https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/epigenetics-aging-what-bodys-hands-time-tell-us. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
  5. "The Role of DNA Methylation in Aging, Rejuvenation, and ... - NCBI." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3482848/. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
  6. "DNA Methylation and Its Basic Function - PMC - NCBI." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3521964/. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
  7. "Mycobacterium tuberculosis Infection Induces HDAC1-Mediated ...." 2 Dec. 2015, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26697414/. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
  8. "Blood-based DNA methylation as biomarker for breast cancer." 14 Nov. 2016, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27895805/. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
  9. "Epigenetic factors in aging and longevity - PubMed - NIH." https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19768466/. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
  10. "Biological Age Is Associated with the Active Use of Nutrition Data." https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/15/11/2431. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
  11. "Deep learning for biological age estimation - Oxford Academic." https://academic.oup.com/bib/article/22/2/1767/5828124. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
  12. "Leisure-time physical activity and DNA methylation age—a twin study." 19 Jan. 2019, https://clinicalepigeneticsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13148-019-0613-5. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
  13. "Psychological and biological resilience modulates the effects of ...." 27 Nov. 2021, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-021-01735-7. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
  14. "The Link between Chronic Stress and Accelerated Aging - PMC - NCBI." 7 Jul. 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7400286/. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
  15. "Role of sleep quality in the acceleration of biological aging and its ...." 14 Apr. 2022, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/acel.13610. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.
  16. "Dna Repair: As Influenced by Age, Nutrition, and Exposure to Toxic ...." https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.1201/9781315150284-3/dna-repair-influenced-age-nutrition-exposure-toxic-substances-ronald-hart-ming-chou-ritchie-feuers-julian-leakey-peter-duffy-beverly-lyn-cook-jack-lipman-kenji-nakamura-angelo-turturro-william-allaben. Accessed 15 Dec. 2022.

blood tests

9 Essential Blood Tests for Longevity

What Longevity Blood Work Tells Us and Why It’s Important

 

Have you ever imagined living to be 100? 

What about 150 or even 200?

What about living to those advanced ages and being healthy?

These thoughts of longevity seem nearly impossible.

But scientific research tells us that our seemingly impossible longevity goals may be closer than ever. And that to make healthy longevity a reality, the best way to start is by gaining insightful information about our bodies. 

So, there is no better place to start than with particular biomarkers, in order to understand where you are in the aging process and fine-tune your longevity health journey. 

How do blood tests fit into my longevity goals?

Many of us believe that we’re predestined to have whatever diseases or lifespan our parents had. But thanks to epigenetics, the study of the environmental factors that turn on and off our genetic expressions, we now understand that this simply isn’t true. 

Research tells us that our daily lifestyle choices determine more than 90% of our state of health, not genetics.1 In other words, the foods you eat, the supplements you take, your exposure to various toxins, your stress level, and exercise and sleep patterns can all help eclipse your genetic predispositions. 

So while this is exciting news, how do blood tests fit into all of this? 

Blood tests are traditionally used to diagnose diseases and monitor their status. But blood work can be even more powerful when used to manage your health proactively. Blood tests can help you understand your molecular signs of health, commonly referred to as your blood biomarkers. These biomarkers can help you determine the most effective adjustments to your diet, lifestyle, exercise, and more.

Essential Blood Tests for Longevity

The first step on your longevity health journey is knowing which biomarkers offer the most information regarding your health status. I recommend the following nine tests, which include hormonal, cardiovascular, immune, inflammatory, and other markers, to establish a baseline health status and to repeat them at least every six months, especially when you’re on a mission to reverse chronic disease and/or your biological age (I’ll go more into this concept in a later article). 

1. High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP)

C-reactive protein, produced by the liver, is an indicator of inflammation in the body. And inflammation is one of the key mechanisms associated with many aging-related diseases, such as cancer, atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, ischemic heart disease, liver cirrhosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and other dementias and chronic diseases.2

The high-sensitivity CRP test is more sensitive than the typical CRP test because it can detect very slight variations of CRP.

Unmanaged, chronic inflammation can damage your arteries, organs, and joints and is a powerful predictor of degenerative diseases3 , including

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Depression
  • Cancer

2. Apolipoprotein B (ApoB) 

Apolipoprotein B is the primary protein in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol because it can damage the heart and blood vessels.

The ApoB marker measures the amount of this protein on the surface of cholesterol and helps indicate your risk level for cardiovascular disease. High ApoB levels are strongly correlated with an increased risk of certain cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and memory decline.4

3. Complete Blood Count with Differential (CBC)

A complete blood count (CBC) measures the levels of each component that make up your blood, including white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This test also details the levels of the red and white blood cell subcomponents, including hemoglobin, hematocrit, lymphocytes, and neutrophils.  

You can extract a great deal of information from a CBC; however, the following may be the most beneficial aging biomarkers:

  • White Blood Cells (WBCs). WBCs help the body protect against infection by traveling through the bloodstream and attacking bacteria, viruses, or germs. An elevated WBC count can help detect autoimmune conditions, infection, and other blood disorders, whereas a low count can indicate immune deficiencies and chronic infection5. Specifically, a low lymphocyte count is associated with an increased risk of death from cancer, respiratory disease, infections, cardiovascular disease, and other causes6. The WBC count generally decreases with age, leading to a declined immune response, as well as the red blood cell (RBC count), which can lead to anemia.7

  • Mean Platelet Value (MPV). MPV tests measure the size of your platelets, indicating how your bone marrow is functioning. An MPV test can help identify cardiovascular disease, autoimmune conditions, nutrient deficiencies, and other chronic conditions.8

4. DHEA-S

DHEA, also commonly referred to as “the anti-aging hormone,” is derived from cholesterol and metalized primarily to testosterone and estrogen in the adrenals, ovaries, and testes. DHEA is key in regulating your heart rate, blood pressure, brain function, and other body systems. DHEA enhances bone density by being involved in bone remineralization, which reduces fracture risk. It is involved in the activation of the immune mechanisms, impacting immune function and modulating inflammation. DHEA supports heart health and has been found to reduce the propensity toward metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and obesity. It improves quality of life, bolsters sexual arousal, and improves skin elasticity9. DHEA typically peaks in our 20s and decreases as we age, impacting immune function, wound healing, bone density, mood, and other symptoms and diseases of aging. 

DHEA-S, the sulfated form of DHEA, is a better biomarker than DHEA because of its reduced diurnal (day-night) variations and therefore is more predictive of long-term adrenal resilience. DHEA-S  also plays a significant role in neurotransmitter synthesis and the health of neurons. These neuroprotective effects are vital in preserving our memory as we age. 

5. Triglycerides

After you eat, your body converts excess calories into triglycerides and stores them in your fat cells to be used for energy later. Triglycerides are an essential energy source for the body, but varying levels can indicate how well your body is managing sugar, absorbing fats, and digesting your foods10. In one study, elevated blood triglyceride levels were associated with a higher risk of heart disease and all-cause mortality, and the risk of all-cause mortality was found to be lowest with a triglyceride level of approximately 135 mg/dL.11

6. Cortisol

Cortisol is a hormone produced and released from the adrenal glands that helps regulate numerous bodily functions, including:12

  • Managing your stress response
  • Controlling your metabolism
  • Suppressing inflammation
  • Regulating blood sugar, and
  • Controlling your sleep-wake cycle 

Optimal cortisol daily cycling involves a peak in circulating cortisol around 30-45 minutes after waking and a lull in cortisol levels around midnight. Chronic stress, untamed inflammation, shift work, and diabetes can throw off this natural cycling, which can lead to daytime fatigue, insomnia, poor resilience, and….accelerated aging.13

7. Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c)

HbA1c measures your average blood sugar level over the previous two to three months and is commonly used to diagnose and manage diabetes and prediabetes. The HbA1c test can help people with diabetes maintain optimal glucose levels14.

Even in non-diabetics, there appears to be a steady increase in HbA1c levels with age. Research has demonstrated that “tightness of glycemic control has a significant impact on the biological aging process;” moreover, people with type 2 diabetes appear to have a significantly accelerated aging process compared to non-diabetics15.

8. Fasting Glucose

Fasting glucose measures the amount of sugar in your blood when you haven’t eaten for 8 or more hours. In fact, fasting glucose is so important that I consider it the fifth vital sign. Fasting glucose can identify pre-diabetes and diabetes, is a strong indicator of metabolic health,16,17 and has been directly correlated with increased biological age (aka. functional age).18

9. GGT

Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) is an enzyme primarily produced by the liver and is known as a sensitive indicator of liver and biliary disease and damage19. However, it is much more than a liver enzyme. Elevated GGT is associated with an increased risk of many conditions, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, fatty liver, and all-cause mortality20.

This is at least partly believed to be due to its correlation with low levels of glutathione, a master antioxidant in the body. GGT's primary function is to increase glutathione levels in the body to combat inflammation, toxic exposure, and oxidative stress.21

Why should I get bloodwork done if I am healthy?

Getting bloodwork done, even when you are healthy, helps you to stay healthy!

Regular blood work helps establish a baseline for your body's appearance when functioning well, at least subjectively. With optimized data analysis, you can quickly identify subtle changes that might occur under the surface. This way, you can proactively adjust your diet, lifestyle, and supplementation well before potential disease onset, then repeat testing every 6-12 months to track your progress objectively. 

What information can I get from regular biomarker testing?

Regular testing of predictive biomarkers helps determine:

  • Your optimal diet
  • Your optimized supplement protocol
  • Toxic exposure(s)
  • How your lifestyle choices, such as exercise, fasting, meditation, and sleep rhythms, are impacting your overall health.

But most importantly, regular biomarker testing allows you to take control and responsibility for your health and longevity.

How often should I get longevity bloodwork done?

At a minimum, I recommend biomarker testing every six months. Regular testing allows you to make micro-adjustments continually rather than every 5 or 10 years. More frequent testing can also give you more data points, which can help inform better decisions moving forward and ahead of the typical aging trend.

Start Your Longevity Health Journey Today

Are you ready to turn your fantasies of living a long and healthy life into reality?

At Reboot Center, I aim to give you the tools you need to empower wellness by assessing your unique health status and developing a tailored wellness plan.

Begin experiencing our innovative approach to empowered wellness and d optimized longevity by scheduling a complimentary health strategy session today.

 

Resources

"a population-based study of 2872 Danish twin pairs born 1870-1900." https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8786073/. Accessed 21 Nov. 2022.

The baseline levels and risk factors for high-sensitive C-reactive protein in Chinese healthy population

"A cross-sectional study on serum high-sensitivity C-reactive protein ...." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6856923/. Accessed 21 Nov. 2022.

https://labs.selfdecode.com/blog/apolipoprotein-b/. Accessed 24 Nov. 2022. 

"The White Blood Cell and Differential Count - Clinical Methods - NCBI." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK261/. Accessed 21 Nov. 2022.

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/whitecoat/a-blood-test-that-predicts-the-risk-of-dying-1.5424633. Accessed 26 Nov. 2022.

https://www.imm.ox.ac.uk/news/research-unpicks-why-immune-responses-decrease-with-age. Accessed 26 Nov. 2022.

"Mean Platelet Volume (MPV): New Perspectives for an Old Marker in ...." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6501263/. Accessed 21 Nov. 2022.

https://www.bostontestosterone.com/blog/2014/03/new-research-substantiates-the-anti-aging-properties-of-dhea/. Accessed 26 Nov. 2022.

"High Blood Triglycerides | NHLBI, NIH." 7 Apr. 2022, https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/high-blood-triglycerides. Accessed 21 Nov. 2022.

https://lipidworld.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12944-020-01400-w. Accessed 26 Nov. 2022.

"Physiology, Cortisol - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf." 29 Aug. 2022, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538239/. Accessed 21 Nov. 2022.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/more-evidence-that-stress-accelerates-biological-aging#Cumulative-stress-accelerates-aging,-but-resilience-slows-it-down). Accessed 26 Nov. 2022.

"Significance of HbA1c Test in Diagnosis and Prognosis of Diabetic ...." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4933534/. Accessed 21 Nov. 2022.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28215180/. Accessed 26 Nov. 2022.

"Normal Fasting Plasma Glucose and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes ...." 1 Jun. 2008, https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(08)00231-3/abstract. Accessed 21 Nov. 2022.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4931851/. Accessed 26 Nov. 2022.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0167494308000824. Accessed 26 Nov. 2022.

"Gamma-Glutamyltransferase: A Predictive Biomarker of Cellular ...." 12 Oct. 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4620378/. Accessed 21 Nov. 2022.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4620378/. Accessed 26 Nov. 2022.

Bradley, Ryan et al. “Associations between total serum GGT activity and metabolic risk: MESA.” Biomarkers in medicine vol. 7,5 (2013): 709-21. doi:10.2217/bmm.13.71.