Humans reach the first cliff of ageing at 34
A group of scientists have discovered that instead of being a smooth, continuous process, ageing surges forward at three distinct stages of life.
As soon as we get past the age of 25, many of us immediately feel the urge to stop the signs of ageing - especially the visible ones. Men and women are now using topical “anti-ageing” creams, spa treatments and medical procedures to counter many of them. But while these methods can somewhat affect the way you look, ageing is an internal process. A new study has found exactly when during your lifetime this process peaks.
The age you start ageing
A group of scientists based out of the Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered that instead of being a smooth, continuous process, ageing surges forward at three distinct stages of life: first, at the age of 34, then at age 60, and finally at 78.
The study, published in Nature Medicine, reveals that scientists can not only predict your age by studying the proteome (protein levels in the blood) but also determine which organs are ageing faster than the others, and which age-related diseases your body is more susceptible to. The study measured plasma proteins collected from 4,263 adults between the ages of 18-95 years and studied the changes in the proteome that occurred with age.
Their ultimate goal was to understand how to identify the changes associated with cardiovascular issues and age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s so that therapeutic treatments can be devised to counter their onset while there’s still time.
Dr Tony Wyss-Coray told Stanford Medicine News Center, “We’ve known for a long time that measuring certain proteins can give you information about a person’s health status - lipoproteins for cardiovascular health, for example. But it hasn’t been appreciated that so many different proteins’ levels - roughly a third of all the ones we looked at - change markedly with advancing age.” Dr Tony Wyss-Coray is the co-director of the Stanford Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and one of the leading members of the study.
Wyss-Coray and his colleagues did not study protein samples from individuals but instead divided the participants into age groups. This helped them identify that ageing underwent sudden surges during three stages of life: young adulthood, late middle age and old age. The scientists were also able to isolate people who did not age according to their actual age, i.e. your actual age might be 40 years, but your predicted age based on the proteomes in your body might be below or above 40 depending on the condition of your health.
This difference between the chronological and physiological age, according to the scientists’ “plasma-protein clock”, showed that a lot of people in the study seemed younger than they actually are - health-wise. What’s more, the study also confirmed that men and women, who were equally represented in the study, age differently. Of the plasma proteins that were seen to be affected by ageing, 895 were determined to be significantly more predictive for one sex than the other.
While these are still early discoveries and actual clinical applications, the scientists revealed, are at least five to 10 years away, the results seem to have a lot of potential. There could one day be a simple blood test that could study the protein levels and determine whether you are ageing appropriately or not. With further research, medications and lifestyle methods can also be devised to help those who are ageing too rapidly and are at risk of contracting age-related diseases like osteoporosis, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and Alzheimer’s.
Does this also mean that there could, one day, be a way of actually stopping the process of ageing altogether? You never know.
For more information, please read our article on Alzheimer’s Disease.
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