When most of us think of age we think of its visible signs like gray hair and wrinkles, but aging is much more than that.
In fact, how aging is measured can vary a lot from one discipline to the next. For example, there are different types of aging: there is chronological aging, biological aging, and photoaging; just to name a few.
According to a synopsis by Pinto da Costa Et al. (2016) on aging theories, more than 300 theories of aging could be identified by 1990, giving us a sense of just how broad the field is.
Depending on the type of aging we focus on, there are interventions we can or cannot adopt to try to slow it down and/or improve our quality of life.
Defined by the amount of time one has lived (years, months, days, etc), it is perhaps the one we are most familiar with.
While there is nothing we do to slow down chronological aging, since we can’t control time, it is important to recognize that it is only one of many markers of aging.
Our biological age is defined by more than just years, it takes into account the physiological or functional state of our bodies through the use of “biomarkers,” also known as “biological markers” (Jackson Et al., 2003; Ferrucci Et al., 2019; Jazwinski and Kim, 2019).
Strimbu and Tavel (2010) define these as “objective, quantifiable characteristics of biological processes,” whether normal or abnormal; they indicate of one’s biological state. Examples include epigenetic markers such as DNA methylation, telomere length, and autophagy.
There is a lot of support for using biological age as opposed to chronological age, as a predictor of one’s lifespan and onset of disease. Luckily, there is much we can do as individuals as far as lifestyle to slow biological aging and be/feel younger than our years alive would suggest.
This refers to aging of the skin due to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays found in sunlight. Signs of photoaging are very noticeable and tend to be of major concern when it comes to perceived age based on image (Clatici Et al., 2017).
Examples of photoaging include pigmented spots, wrinkles, and uneven skin texture. These are more likely to affect the face, neck, chest and other areas that are frequently exposed to sunlight.
What Can We Do?
When it comes to slowing down the detrimental effects of aging, nothing beats a healthy lifestyle. This means regular exercise, a healthy diet, good sleep, and avoiding/limiting harmful substances like alcohol and tobacco. Here are a few tips of what to do and how these help-
Exercise prolongs life, delays signs of aging, and retains functionality for long periods of time. Regular exercise is also associated with lower rates of depression, a better mood, and lower overall risk for chronic illnesses; including those associated with older age.
Strength training can help maintain muscle mass, promote bone density, and keep one active well into late adulthood.
Diets rich in fruit and vegetables are ideal for maintaining healthy organs and opposing oxidative signs of aging. Produce in particular is very important as plant foods offer large amounts of phytochemicals that improve vascular function and promote blood healthy sugar levels.
Foods high in vitamin C also help keep the skin looking young and healthy and help repair damage throughout the body.
Tobacco introduces irritating substances to the body and contributes to oxidative stress and damages integral proteins like collagen. It is well known to contribute to signs of premature aging as it can also hinder blood and nutrient supply to the skin and other tissues.
Photoaging of the skin is one of the most noticeable signs of aging, it is important to take proper care of our skin to help it look good, feel good, and be healthy. Moisturize your skin, wear sunblock and protective clothing.
Beauty sleep is not a myth; sleep is fundamental to recover from stresses of daily life. A good sleep schedule can help balance hormone levels and repair the skin from daily stresses and exposures. Sleep deprivation is also well known to lead to increased signs of premature aging.
Other than maintaining a healthy lifestyle, these are other interventions that are gaining traction as aging interventions.
Some individuals are engaging in calorie restriction as a means to slow down aging, but this should never be taken lightly and should be done so cautiously under the guidance of a trained professional like a doctor or dietitian.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) has been recently found to have lengthening effects on telomeres, which are a biomarker of biological aging. Aging science is an interesting and growing field, so remember to get information from reliable sources and to consult a professional before engaging in potentially dangerous interventions.
- Pinto da Costa, J., Vitorino, R., Silva, G. M., Vogel, C., Duarte, A. C., & T. (2016, August 29). A synopsis on aging-Theories, mechanisms and future prospects. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27353257/
- Jackson, Stephen H D, et al. “Biological Age–What Is It and Can It Be Measured?” Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2003, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12849085/.
- Ferrucci, L., Gonzalez-Freire, M., Fabbri, E., Simonsick, E., Tanaka, T., Moore, Z., . . . Cabo, R. D. (2019, December 12). Measuring biological aging in humans: A quest. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/acel.13080
- Jazwinski, S., & Kim, S. (2019, March 26). Examination of the Dimensions of Biological Age. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30972107/
- Clatici, V. G., Racoceanu, D., Dalle, C., Voicu, C., Tomas-Aragones, L., Marron, S. E., Wollina, U., & Fica, S. (2017). Perceived Age and Life Style. The Specific Contributions of Seven Factors Involved in Health and Beauty. Maedica, 12(3), 191–201.