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Longevity Briefs: How Rapidly You Age In Your 20s May Affect Your Youthfulness In Late Life

Posted on 25 March 2021

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Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: Not all humans age at the same rate. Our chronological age (the number of years since we were born) does not accurately reflect biological age (the actual extent of age-related decline experienced by our organs and tissues). We know that different individuals of identical chronological age can have different biological ages, and that biological age is related to the likelihood of developing chronic diseases of ageing, frailty, and to overall youthfulness in later life. At what stage of life do some humans begin to age faster than others? Can your rate of biological ageing in youth affect your youthfulness in later life?

What did the researchers do: In this study, researchers tracked 1,037 infants born in the same year in New Zealand, following them until age 45. At ages 26, 32, 38 and 45, researchers assessed participants’ pace of ageing by measuring 19 biomarkers of cardiovascular, metabolic, renal, immune, dental and pulmonary health. At age 45, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look for early physical signs of advanced brain ageing, and various tests were used to assess cognitive function.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: At age 45, participants with a faster pace of biological ageing over the period studied had more cognitive difficulties, more signs of advanced brain ageing, and diminished sensory–motor functions. They also appeared older and had more pessimistic perceptions of ageing. This suggests that the effects of different rates of biological ageing in youth are already evident by midlife.

While this association may seem unsurprising, it is important to establish that differences in the rate of ageing can be measured in midlife, and that this measurement is meaningful when it comes to age-related decline. It implies that interventions targeting biological ageing in youth and midlife could be an effective means of enhancing longevity in later life. Further research is needed to determine whether the pace of ageing in midlife can be modified by drugs. Clinical trials such as the TAME trial (Targeting Ageing with Metformin) are beginning to test this.

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    Disparities in the pace of biological aging among midlife adults of the same chronological age have implications for future frailty risk and policy:

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