Every living organism ages, but we can all strive to keep our bodies as young and vibrant as possible – in other words, we can all strive for a youthful ‘biological age’. As opposed to chronological age, which is simply the number of years you’ve lived, biological age is determined by physiological and molecular markers within your body. A person’s biological age depends on a mixture of lifestyle, genetics, and environment.
To determine biological age, DNA methylation patterns are often used, because these epigenetic modifications help us understand the cumulative effects of environmental factors, lifestyles, and genetic predispositions on the aging process.
Let’s dig into the lifestyle factors and therapeutic interventions that support a more youthful biological age:
Mind-Body Connection and Biological Age
Chronic stress accelerates aging. It leads to inflammation and DNA damage, which negatively impacys cellular health. Incorporating mindfulness practices, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, can help to manage stress hormones like cortisol, which fosters a favorable environment for supporting youthful DNA methylation patterns.
Intermittent Fasting and Time-Restricted Eating and Biological Age
Intermittent fasting (IF) and time-restricted eating (TRE) are gaining attention for their potential to enhance longevity. These practices induce cellular autophagy and stimulate pathways that support DNA repair and maintenance. Restricting eating to specific time windows helps align circadian rhythms, which are closely tied to DNA methylation patterns. However, before starting on a regimen, you should reach out to your doctor and nutritionist, to know if IF or TRE is right for you.
Microbiome Health and Biological Age
Gut health has been linked to various aspects of well-being, including aging. The gut microbiome uses a complex network to communicates with our cells. The consumption of a diverse array of fiber-rich foods promotes a healthy microbiome, which in turn supports optimal nutrient absorption and influences DNA methylation. Altogether, this impacts helps to support a youthful biological age. Since we all have different guts, optimizing for gut health requires personalization. To do so, reach out to your functional doctor!
Social Connections and Biological Age
Since greater social connection has been associated with greater longevity, it makes sense that social connection may also help support a youthful biological age. Loneliness and social isolation have been associated with accelerated aging at the cellular level. Being socially active and nurturing meaningful relationships can positively impact DNA methylation and overall well-being.
Regular Exercise and Biological Age
We all know the importance of regular exercise! But did you know that regular exercise supports cellular health and methylation? It does this by activating pathways involved in DNA methylation maintenance and enhancing gene expression. This environment encourages proper epigenetic control. An improved blood flow, coupled with improved nutrient delivery, and adequate oxygen supply to cells, supports energy production and repair mechanisms, which fosters the conditions for proper DNA methylation to take place. Additionally, exercise’s role in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation further contributes to supporting optimal DNA methylation patterns, collectively promoting cellular health and overall well-being.
Sleep and Biological Age
DNA methylation is influenced by quality sleep. Cellular repair and maintenance processes take place during deep sleep stages, including the correction of epigenetic modifications. Insufficient sleep may disrupt these processes, resulting in DNA methylation patterns that can contribute to various health conditions and aging. By sleeping well and restfully, you can support optimal cellular function and increase the accuracy of DNA methylation marks. Prioritize 7-8 hours of sleep per night to promote cellular health.
Epigenetic Influences and Biological Age
By eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods, you’ll support a youthful methylation pattern and a younger biological age. DNA methylation, an epigenetic modification, plays a crucial role in regulating gene expression and impacting aging. Some nutrients, such as Vitamin B6, Vitamin B9, and Vitamin B12, support DNA methylation processes by providing methyl groups and providing adequate levels of methyl donors. These B vitamins can be found in a variety of foods: folate can be found in leafy greens, and legumes; vitamin B6 is in foods like poultry, fish, and bananas; vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal products such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, with fortified plant-based foods also providing some sources. Additionally, nutrients such as betaine, choline, zinc, SAM-e, curcumin, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and resveratrol can also support proper DNA methylation by providing essential nutrients and methyl donors that help balance epigenetic regulation. Consulting a healthcare professional before their use is recommended!
Senolytics and Biological Age
Cellular senescence, the process of cells losing their ability to divide and function properly, is a hallmark of aging. A senolytic is a compound that targets and removes senescent cells from the body. Promising senolytic compounds include quercetin, fisetin, urolithin A, which have shown potential in selectively targeting and eliminating senescent cells. However, further research is required to establish their safety and effectiveness for improving healthspan and ameliorating age-related conditions. Good news is that they are natural, so incorporating them into your health routine won’t hurt! Although, as always, confirm with your doctor that these supplements are appropriate for you.
Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) and Biological Age
In the body, AGEs are formed when proteins and sugars react. A high level of AGEs contributes to tissue damage and aging. AGEs can be managed by reducing the intake of high-AGE foods, such as processed meats, and using cooking methods that produce fewer AGEs.
Promoting a younger biological age involves optimizing lifestyle via nutrition, sleep and stress management adjustments, as well as potentially incorporating DNA methylation-supporting vitamins and senolytics into your routine. All together these factors can positively influence DNA methylation patterns and support healthy aging pathways!