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Turns Out A High Biological Age Does Increase Some Health Risks, Study Finds

Hannah Frye
Author:
December 08, 2023
Hannah Frye
Assistant Beauty & Health Editor
By Hannah Frye
Assistant Beauty & Health Editor
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.
Image by Aleksandra Jankovic / Stocksy
December 08, 2023

At-home biological age tests estimate the age of your body's cells—and this number could be very different from the chronological age you celebrated on your last birthday. These tests are becoming more popular among health-focused crowds, but one big question still remains: Does our biological age actually tell us anything about how long (and how well) we'll live?

According to new research, it may actually be more telling than you think, especially for brain health in your later years. 

There may be a link between biological age and dementia

The new study published in the BMJ Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry found that advanced biological age increases one's risk of subsequent neurodegenerative diagnoses, including all-cause dementia, stroke, and ALS. However, no correlation was found for Parkinson's disease. 

Researchers used data from 325,870 participants in the UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database. To determine biological age, they took into account 18 different clinical biomarkers, including blood sugar, blood lipids, blood pressure, lung function, and other measures of cardiometabolic health

Researchers determined how old the participants' bodies seemed based on biological measures of health (that were unrelated to their chronological age) to find out if a higher biological age put them at an increased risk of dementia and other common neurodegenerative diseases. Results showed that a higher biological age was linked to a higher risk of dementia and stroke.

This was an observational study, so a directly causal relationship between biological age and dementia and stroke can't be confirmed quite yet. However, this finding does suggest that tending to your cardiometabolic health may slow down or prevent the onset of dementia, stroke, and other brain-related diseases. 

Why this can be helpful

Luckily, many of the factors contributing to a high biological age can be positively influenced by lifestyle choices such as eating a nutrient-rich diet, getting regular exercise, prioritizing sleep, and limiting stress when possible

It's not breaking news that factors like blood sugar and lung function contribute to disease onset. Still, it's helpful to understand the health implications of having a biological age that's higher than your chronological age. In the future, biological age tests may help health care providers determine patients' disease risk and get them on preventive treatments earlier.

It's worth noting that biological age tests, whether completed at home or in a health care setting, are not the only measure of disease risk—other factors, including lifestyle, genetics, current chronic illness, demographics, and family history, all play a role. And more research is needed on the relationship between biological age and risk for other chronic health conditions beyond the brain.

Still, this new study shows us that getting older doesn't necessarily have to mean getting sicker. It's a reminder that aging doesn't need to be associated with disease—at least when looking at it through the lens of biology. 

The takeaway

A new BMJ study found that advanced biological age increases the risk of subsequent neurodegenerative diagnoses, including all-cause dementia, ischaemic stroke, and ALS. If you want to learn more about biological age tests (and the best at-home options), check out this guide. You can also tune in to the mindbodygreen podcast episode below to learn more about reversing biological age from naturopathic doctor Kara Fitzgerald, N.D.

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