The fight against aging is as old as time itself. While researchers have made significant advancements in this field, so much remains a mystery. Some people age "gracefully," while others look older than they are. Certain individuals are as healthy at 80 as they were 20 years before, while others have serious medical concerns.
Scientists from the Stanford University School of Medicine recently discovered that humans fit into different classes of aging, called ageotypes. These categories are incredibly important for understanding how a person ages on an individual level, which allows them to fight aging on a personal level.
The researchers behind the study used blood, stool, and other biological samples to track levels of biological material such as microbes, proteins, and lipids in participants over two years. By monitoring how the levels changed over time, they discovered several markers of aging.
These markers allow experts to see how people age on the molecular level and even how quickly their tissues age.
Currently, experts recognize four ageotypes: metabolic, hepatic, immune, and nephrotic. A person who is a metabolic ager might be more prone to conditions like diabetes as they grow older. The immune ageotype indicates a higher risk for immune system issues.
Hepatic aging involves the liver while nephrotic involves the kidneys. It is important to note that the four types are not mutually exclusive. One person might fall into several aging categories —or even all of them. The study’s authors note that the four ageotypes are only a starting point and that larger studies will likely uncover many more categories.
Some people wonder why a person’s ageotype even matters. Experts, however, feel that this is one of the major breakthroughs in age-related science.
Understanding how a person ages and what conditions they are most prone to developing allows medical professionals to plan for their patients’ futures. Additionally, it may be possible to change how a person ages for the better.
Many participants in the study experienced notable changes in their ageotype markers after changing their behaviors. Some even had marker decreases, meaning they were able to slow their aging for a short period.
In some cases, weight loss or dietary changes were responsible. In others, the cause was unclear. Future studies will likely be able to more clearly define what affects aging rates and how to address these factors.
People with the immune ageotype have a much higher risk of inflammatory and immune system issues. As these individuals age, they are far more likely to develop autoimmune problems like psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis.
Additionally, a wide range of serious illnesses have links to inflammation and may develop more often in people who have the immune ageotype. Doctors may increase cancer screenings and similar diagnostic measures to manage this ageotype.
If a person has the metabolic ageotype, they are at risk of several key issues that lead to conditions like diabetes. Most notably, the metabolic ageotype indicates insulin resistance.
This, in turn, contributes to the hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, and higher triglyceride levels. It could also contribute to metabolic syndrome, which is a series of symptoms that link insulin resistance to stroke and cardiovascular disease.
The hepatic ageotype features markers for liver dysregulation. This means that people in this aging category have a higher risk for liver failure and may benefit from limiting drinking and recreational drug use.
Often, many of the effects of liver issues go unnoticed until an unrelated medical test reveals them. As a person with this ageotype ages, they may tire more easily or notice swelling in their arms and legs. If caught early or watched for because of a known ageotype, medical professionals may be able to intervene with medications and suggest certain lifestyle changes, such as limiting fat intake while increasing fiber consumption.
Nephrotic ageotypes are prone to kidney function issues. Researchers identified nephrotic ageotypes by measuring creatinine levels, which is a common muscle waste product. The kidneys are responsible for cleaning waste like creatinine and toxins from the blood, as well as some other important functions.
Some common signs of kidney issues include trouble sleeping, muscle cramps, and energy and appetite changes. To help people with nephrotic ageotypes, medical professionals can regularly perform blood tests or urinalysis to identify problems early on.
This research is extremely new and there is currently no commercial way for a person to discover their ageotype. However, research in this area is ongoing, and until more options become available, it may be possible to participate in a study involving ageotypes.
Additionally, medical professionals are becoming increasingly aware of the aging markers and may begin to test for them on their own. In the future, researchers hope that ageotype testing becomes a common practice.
While researchers still are not sure of everything that affects aging rates, they did note several key changes that appeared to be beneficial for everyone, regardless of ageotype.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet are paramount to help slow the effects of aging. Weight loss for overweight people and those with obesity also has a major effect. Some of the people with nephrotic ageotypes began taking statins, which decreased creatinine levels, improved kidney function, and slowed aging.
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