weekly blog--one for the ages
Your body is like a car with parts that gradually wear out over time, but as most car owners know, some parts wear out faster than others. Doctors describe this phenomenon in terms of “biological” versus “chronological” aging. For example, a chronologically aged 45-year-old person might have a biologically-aged 55-year-old liver and skin that is 35 years old.
A research team recently identified four distinct ageotypes: metabolic agers, or people whose immune systems age fastest; immune agers; kidney (or “nephrotic”) agers; and liver (or “hepatic”) agers. A classic “immune ager,” might be chronologically 40 with the immune system of a 42-year-old and a metabolism that is biologically 32. This person would likely remain thinner in old age but would also be increasingly prone to immunocompromise and related conditions over the course of their life. A metabolic ager might retain a healthy immune system while increasingly struggling with diabetic risk factors and weight as they grow older.
Typically, people will have a combination of ageotypes. For example, a primarily nephrotic ager, may also have a partial haptic ageotype, meaning their kidney functions are likely to age fastest, but their liver may develop a bit faster than the median, too. Other individuals may have a mix of ageotypes without a single dominant pattern. It is a highly individual, highly specific profile, according to researchers.
Like most issues surrounding health, ageotypes are based on a combination of genetic predisposition and lifestyle choices. “The holy grail is being able to use this information actionably,” says one researcher, adding that "right now the closest thing we have to a fountain of youth is exercise.” Also on the horizon, regenerative medicines that will allow us to replace all of our old cells, tissues and organs with pristine new ones.