How the next generation of age calculators can Improve Your Health
The difference between chronological age and biological age
Undeniably, (whether we admit it or not), age is the most crucial variable to our overall health. Age affects everything from our probability of developing a chronic disease to intangibles like how good we feel throughout the day and our zest for life. Intuitively, everyone knows that when all else is equal, a 20-year-old is in a better state of health and well-being than a 60-year-old.
Yet your age may not be what you think it is.
Every year we have a birthday. The number of birthdays we have had in our lifetime is known as our chronological age. As we age, people often say, "Age is just a number." This statement usually attempts to dismiss the fact that we are inevitably getting older, yet it is precisely accurate. In other words, a given individual's chronological age may not reflect their biological age. Indeed, someone’s chronological age can be uncoupled from their actual biological age by a surprising degree. Some people may age faster, and some people may age more slowly depending on the genes they inherit from their mother and father and their lifestyle choices. For example, the actual biological age of a 50-year-old person with good genetics and a healthy lifestyle may be 40. Conversely, the primary biological age of a 50-year-old with average genetics and an unhealthy lifestyle may be 60.
Today, machine learning allows us to measure our age in a way that more closely approximates our actual biological age than the value of our chronological age. The PhenoAge calculator compares biological age to chronological age to aid health interventions objectively.
The Power of PhenoAge to Inform Health Decision Making
Measuring your biological age with the PhenoAge calculator will give you deep insights into how your genetics and lifestyle have influenced the aging process up to the present. This tool may interest you, but it only provides a little value for your future self. However, measuring the trend of your biological age as you change lifestyle variables can provide insights into how effective these changes have been. Yes, your biological age can change for better or worse.
Here is some good news. Multiple studies have shown that genetics, or the genes inherited from your mom and dad, are less critical to your biological age than the lifestyle choices and the experiences that happen to us throughout our lives. Our health has proven to be within our control to a remarkable degree.
To develop the PhenoAge calculator, researchers at UCLA began with a clinical database of 9,926 adults that tracked these individuals for over twenty-three years of mortality follow-up. Of the 42 biomarkers contained for each individual in the database, the researchers narrowed down nine biomarkers strongly correlated to biological age and gave each biomarker a specific weighting.
Ultimately, the PhenoAge algorithm developed from these nine biomarkers strongly predicts differences in the risk of all-cause mortality, cause-specific mortality, physical functioning, cognitive performance measures, and facial aging among same-aged individuals. Moreover, in representative population data, the algorithm is a better indicator of remaining life expectancy than chronological age, suggesting that it may be approximating individual-level differences in biological aging rates.
At Meakin Metabolic Care, the PhenoAge calculator is a cornerstone of the MOP program. On your first visit, we calculate your baseline PhenoAge using the lab work with the nine relevant biomarkers. Once you and Dr. Meakin determine your individualized preventive health program, PhenoAge is used along with other health biomarkers to assess progress – with the ultimate goal being improving these critically important markers over time.
Stay Strong and Curious,
Charles Meakin MD, MS, MHA
Travis Christofferson MS
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Disclaimer: This information is not meant as direct medical advice. Readers should always review options with their local medical team. This is the sole opinion of Dr. Meakin based on a literature review at the time of the blog and may change as new evidence evolves.