The idea of living a long and healthy life is rather enticing. Over the last century, there has been an obvious demographic shift towards a longer lifespan, but has it always been coupled with good health?
A report published by the World Bank in late 2015 estimated that with the growing population of older generations coupled with declining birth rates, the working population of East Asia may fall by a whopping 15 percent. Ageing has become an imminent issue and presents a potentially huge economic burden that should be addressed. With advancing age, the incidence of chronic disease increases exponentially, which translates to more expenditure in healthcare services.
The Singapore government is all for encouraging the average citizen to get married and bear more children. On a scientific level, however, another solution exists: to anticipate the ageing process with the aid of certain biomarkers and take preventive measures to stop disease before it strikes.
What are the key biomarkers for ageing?
Over the last few years, the focus on ageing research has sharpened. This has allowed scientists to discover some of the key ageing biomarkers that can predict the physiological age of our bodies.
Magnesium is one of those minerals that are said to aid in anti-ageing. Your serum magnesium level can thus be a good predictor of your biological age instead of your chronological age. Adequate levels of magnesium in the blood reflect insulin sensitivity, which is known to decline when one gets older.
The high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is one of the good cholesterol compounds in our bodies, the level of which can also predict your health and ageing status. Low levels of HDL in the bloodstream with concurrently high levels of triglycerides indicate an increased risk of chronic heart disease.
In both men and women, reproductive function begins to deteriorate with age. Although the hormonal imbalance is much more common in women, men with low testosterone levels are at a higher risk for early mortality as well. Women with low levels of oestrogen or progesterone are more predisposed to osteopenia (a condition where your bone mineral density is lower than average) and bone fractures.
Red Blood Cell Status:
Your red blood cells (RBCs) form the highest proportion of your blood. Microscopic changes in their levels can be used to predict poor health in ageing. Generally speaking, RBCs with higher omega-6 linoleic acid content are more vulnerable to oxidative damage and indicate a shorter lifespan.
Some other predictive biomarkers for ageing include high omega-6 content in the mitochondria of our cells, increased waist circumference, and low-fasting insulin.
What good do ageing biomarkers do?
We’ve established that a number of biomarkers can be tested to predict the health and longevity of an individual. However, how does that benefit us?
By realising what causes these biomarkers to appear in the first place, we can generate and analyse new and innovative ways to halt the progression of chronic diseases and improve the quality of the ageing process.
In the now: New research finds new ways to predict the ageing process
Recently, new studies have been conducted and have found even more accurate ways to predict ageing. A machine learning technique developed by an American artificial intelligence company predicted the biological age of muscles to help combat degenerative skeletal muscle disorders. Comparing the algorithms of old and young tissues can accurately predict the age of muscles.
Similarly, another research found that a series of blood tests that tested for nine specific biomarkers could calculate the biological age of a body. These biomarkers include the white blood cell count, glucose and albumin levels amongst others. Using these biomarkers, doctors are able to identify the contributing factors to a person’s ageing rate and subsequently recommend changes to their lifestyle.
Research on the area of predictive health care for ageing is definitely progressing, but there still needs to be more extensive data and studies done to effectively combat this growing issue.
What can you do about ageing?
Your diet can also play an important role in determining how quickly you age. Incorporating a healthy lifestyle and diet in your daily lives can greatly benefit your overall health and bring your biological age closer to your actual chronological age.
Some foods rich in anti-ageing properties include water, fibre, blueberries, olive oil, fish, yogurt, tomatoes, nuts, and broccoli. At the same time avoid saturated and trans fats, snacking on salty or overly sweet processed foods, sweetened beverages, excess alcohol, and high glycaemic foods.
It is also known that regular exercise, any amount of it, is far better than a sedentary lifestyle in preventing or combating many chronic diseases, including high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and the list goes on.
Last but certainly not least, avoid smoking. It is associated with many illnesses, faster ageing, and overall reduced health status.
The Bottom Line…
The growing problem of ageing in the East Asian region is managed by different approaches in different countries. In Singapore, for example, a campaign was launched in 2015 to encourage people to get married and have more children to expand the working population, so that taxes need not be increased to pay for retirement funds. There is also a need to work together to identify solutions for providing better healthcare facilities and services, especially for the older generations, to ensure a smooth transition into old age. Above all, predictive analytics such as biomarker analyses ought to be further developed and form a crucial part of helping ageing populations in the near future.