Maintain your car well, it lasts long. If not, the engine conks. It’s the same case with your body, writes Darshit Patel.
Ageing is something that quite a few of us are afraid of, as it brings with it the most dreadful: frailty, diseases and above all suffering.
Most of us believe that ageing is universal, inevitable and inescapable. But, if ageing is universal to all individuals, one may wonder as to why are some people ageing faster than others? Why is your friend from college, looking younger or older than you, despite being the same age? How are Bollywood and Hollywood actors at 50-60 years of age able to pull off the vitality of a 30-year-old? And why do we keep saying that “Age is just a number.”?
The phenomenon of ageing is defined as the accumulation of anatomical and physiological alterations that happen to us over a while. Our productivity and metabolic functioning slowly start deteriorating as we grow older and continue till our death, unless, we control it. It can be compared to a car. If you take care of and maintain it, the car might work fine for a decade, but if you are not very good at it, you might end up with engine problems within 3 years.
Aside from physiological changes, ageing is frequently linked to other transition periods such as retiring, moving to more suitable housing, and the demise of family members and friends.
Each one of us age at our own pace. Some may appear to be ageing quite quickly, whereas others appear to get older somewhat slowly.
As living beings, we have two types of ageing: chronological as well as biological.
Chronological age is about the number of years, months, and days since birth. These numbers do not change, whatever the lifestyle or food habits of a person. In short, it is irreversible.
Chronological age has nothing to do with what you do in everyday life, what you eat, or where you live, and most importantly cannot tell anything about your life expectancy.
Biological Age: The physiological aspect of ageing is known as biological age. You may celebrate your birthday; however, your cells do not. Your tissues, organs, and blood reflect your "phenotypic age," often known as your biological age, with little regard for your chronological age. It usually depends upon lifestyle factors, including exercise, diet and sleeping habits, and an individual's genetics. If your biological age is lower than your actual age, it signifies that your body is ageing more healthily than normal.
Our biological age can indeed be substantially greater (or shorter) in comparison to our chronological age, relying on our lifestyle as well as genetic makeup and it can be reversible!
Optimising Biological Age: It is possible to slow down or reverse ageing by adopting a holistic approach to longevity and not just focusing on a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle consists of some of the most basic parameters like incorporating a healthy diet, adequate exercise, ample rest and a good work-life balance to manage stress, etc. However, these are not enough for healthy ageing and longevity, in the long run. One must approach this with a focus on preventive measures based on scientific research and predictive health screening. Some of the latest innovations in the area include:
- Addressing hallmarks of ageing through biohacking: There are 10 underlying reasons why your body age (AKA hallmarks of ageing) as identified by the scientific literature. The most optimized approach towards healthy ageing or slowing down the damage caused by ageing is to target these hallmarks of ageing.
- Taking the Right Supplements to counter cellular signs of ageing: Our diets are based on what’s available locally and not what our body needs. Natural co-enzymes like NMN and herbal extracts like Resveratrol are now backed by research to directly target hallmarks of ageing. Hence, supplementing one’s body with such unique ingredients could directly assist in slowing down the biological ageing process.
- Include Senolytics to remove dying cells and keep tissues rejuvenated: Every cell becomes a zombie cell after dividing a certain number of times (AKA Senescent cells). Just like Zombies, these cells attack the healthy cells around them, creating cellular and tissue damage. Senolytic agents are compounds that can selectively target and destroy senescent or zombie cells, helping your tissues rejuvenate and maintaining the health of ‘young cells’
- Tracking various health and disease biomarkers through digital health devices, and microbiome tests, amongst others: Wearables that can track various health markers are now commonly available in the market and can be used to track vitals to design personalized protocols. It is not only necessary to understand how your body works, but how the microorganisms living inside you are involved. Fortunately, there are science-based advanced tests to understand the functioning of these microorganisms too, called microbiome tests.
The modern science of Longevity has given us a new perspective to measure age, i.e. Biological age, and there is no better way to define the health of the entire body than this. Such an understanding of ageing answers multiple questions like “Why are we ageing faster than our friends”, “When will I become prone to chronic diseases”, and even “How old am I really?”.
It is time we start re-imagining age to go beyond just biological terms, and factor in the chronological aspect as well. This change in perspective can help in not only understanding the unique needs of ourbodies and the possibility of even reversing age. (The author is Chief Scientific Officer, Decode Age)