In your sixties? You are biologically four years younger than you would have been two decades ago
So it is really true: sixty is the new fifty. According to an American study, published in Demographics, the over sixties of today are biologically four years younger than their peers of twenty years ago. This is partly due to the blessings of medical science. And for another part... they do not know.
The researchers used data from 21575 Americans aged 20-79 years, which were collected in the National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES). NHANES is a project in which scientists continuously follow the health of the American population. Part of the data was collected in the period 1988-1994, another part in the period 2007-2010.
In both periods the concentration of "glycosylated hemoglobin, total cholesterol, serum creatinine, serum alkaline phosphatase, serum albumin, and C-reactive protein" in the blood was determined from a cross-section of the American population. At the same time the researchers measured the "systolic blood pressure [and the] ratio of forced expiratory volume at 1 second (FEV1) to forced vital capacity".
The combination of these values gives an image of a person's health, and predict a person's chance of death. It says something about a person's biological age.
Especially among the over sixties, the biological aging process has slowed down during the last two decades, the researchers discovered. This age group is now biologically 4 years younger than the over sixties of the early nineties.
This is partly due to medication, the figure above says. Since the end of the twentieth century, doctors have increasingly prescribed drugs preventively, to normalize blood pressure, manage cholesterol levels and stabilize insulin activity - and this apparently inhibits the biological aging process.
In addition, Americans are collectively smoking less and less. However, this is 'compensated' by the rise of obesity.
The researchers therefore can not fully explain why the rate of biological aging has decreased. Perhaps vaccinations and improved hygiene have improved the American's health by decreasing infection pressure, the researchers speculate.
"This is the first evidence we have of delayed 'aging' among a national sample of Americans", says first author Morgan Levine, affiliated with Yale School of Medicine, in a press release. [sciencedaily.com March 16, 2018]
Levine interprets this development positively. "Life extension without changing the aging rate will have detrimental implications", she says.
"Medical care costs will rise, as people spend a higher proportion of their lives with disease and disability. However, lifespan extension accomplished through a deceleration of the aging process will lead to lower healthcare expenditures, higher productivity, and greater well-being."
Demography. 2018 Mar 6. doi: 10.1007/s13524-017-0644-5. [Epub ahead of print].
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