Is your age your actual age? Have you ever wondered why some people look dramatically older or younger than they actually are? Or why do others get diagnosed with chronic diseases even if they have just been alive for 20 or 30 years?
This may sound a bit confusing, but every living creature has two different ages– chronological and biological. Chronological age is the actual number of years you have been alive. While biological age refers to how much aging and damages occur inside your body.
Your biological age is your true age. You can have a chronological age of 50 with a biological age of 30, but you could also be 30 but living in a biological body of a 50-year-old.
We can't do anything about how many years we've been alive. But if we can accelerate our aging process, how can we slow it down? And if so, can we go far and beyond even to reverse aging?
Why do we age?
For many people, aging is synonymous with getting sick and fragile. And they are not exactly wrong. The risk for all major diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease exponentially increases as we age. But what is in aging that makes us vulnerable?
There are many theories about aging. Newer studies suggest that aging is a problem with our epigenome. The epigenome interprets modifications to the genetic information of an organism. It basically dictates the cells' identity by telling what type of cells they should be.
However, we tend to lose our epigenetic information due to internal and external influences such as lifestyle, diseases, medications, and diet. Over time, cells lose their instructions and "forget" their identity resulting in the complex process of aging.[4,5,6]
Here is an example. When you go to the beach and are exposed to a lot of UV rays from the sun, the chromosomes in your skin cells break. Your cells try to fix this by trying to repair and reset the structures of your chromosomes. The problem is this repair process is not perfect, and tiny bits of epigenetic information are lost during the process.
Changes in the epigenome can influence how genes are expressed in the body by switching them on or off. This includes genes associated with cell growth or immune response leading to the development of diseases and even cancer cells.
How to measure biological age?
Over time, the proteins that provide structural support for your chromosomes get out of place, and DNA functions get modified. 
Like a tree’s annular rings, your DNA also accumulates markers known as methylations as you age.
Using the Horvath Clock or Epigenetic Clock Test, we can accurately examine the changes and accumulation of methylations in the DNA to determine our true age.
Like a plaque in the teeth, DNA methylations provide biological information on how your chromosomes change over time and predict how long humans and animals will live.
How to keep your biological age young?
Aging is biological, and we have more control over it than we think.
Scientists have found that we can successfully slow down the rate of aging by better maintaining our epigenome.
It is now known that our DNA contains “longevity genes.” These genes are triggered by adversities and create enzymes that maintain the epigenome. Longevity genes turn on our general defenses against aging as a response to different stressors we are experiencing.
More importantly, longevity genes demonstrate the ability to extend the average and maximum lifespan and make life healthier.
Here’s how you slow down the rate of aging:
1. Avoid DNA damage
DNA damage is the primary factor in why we age and experience age-related diseases. Accumulated damage and modification within our chromosomes and epigenome can result in the repression of various genes leading to inflammatory diseases and cancers.[6,10]
- Avoid exposure to radiations such as X-rays and UV rays
- Avoid exposure to harmful substances such as illegal drugs, alcohol, and smoking
- Avoid Chronic stress
- Avoid Unhealthy foods
2. Caloric restriction
A 2021 study published by the International Journal of Molecular Science found that periodic fasting and other caloric restrictions help improve the gut microbiome and elevate longevity.
Researchers have found that eating less often results in opposite effects of obesity and aging. These include reduced metabolic rate, decreased oxidative stress, improved insulin sensitivity, and endocrine function.
Multiple studies have found that monkeys eating less food lived by at least three more years of their maximum life span. This is equivalent to nine years in human experience.
The study found that long-term caloric restriction of about 30% of the usual diet results in a longer lifespan and delays the onset of age-related diseases. This is due to the effects of fasting on cellular aging and reducing the risk of inflammatory diseases.
3. High-Intensity Exercise
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to slow down the rate of aging and reverse some age-related changes at the cellular level.
HIIT triggers a shortage of oxygen in the body and puts the body under short-term stress. This stress allows the activation of the longevity genes. These genes respond to stress by repairing our DNA.
In a 12-week study by Mayo Clinic, researchers observed that HIIT reverses the age-related decline in mitochondrial function. Mitochondria is responsible for creating energy-rich molecules known as ATP to keep the body functioning.
The target heart rate of a HIIT workout is about 80% of your maximum heart rate. To compute your maximal heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For example, A 40-year-old would have a maximum heart rate of 180bpm, and his target heart rate for a HIIT workout is 144bpm.
4. Good sleeping pattern
Slow wave sleep (SWS) or delta sleep is a portion of non-rapid eye movement during the sleep phase. This phase is thought to be the most “restorative” sleep stage. The length of SWS declines by roughly 2-7% per decade as we age. By age 60s SWS may no longer be present, especially in men. 
However, a new study shows that people who live over 85 to 115 years old are able to maintain their SWS throughout their life. Indicating the importance of having a healthy sleeping pattern and maintaining deep sleep in human longevity. 
SWS is facilitated when brain temperature exceeds a certain threshold. You can improve your slow-wave sleep by exposure to prolonged exercises and activities that raise body heat, such as a sauna or hot bath.
For more tips on how to manage your sleeping pattern, check out our Definitive Guide to Sleep.
5. Relaxation and meditation
For decades, studies showed that inner silence could be a powerful tool to counteract the adverse effects of overabundant environmental noise. Relaxation and other types of meditation have been shown to increase self-awareness and relieve stress-related symptoms.
Recent studies have discovered that mindfulness practices have profound effects on the molecular level.
Movement mindfulness, such as Yoga and Tai Chi, have been shown to cause a slower trend of DNA methylations in DNA regions associated with aging.
Practicing static mindfulness meditation has demonstrated a significant decrease in biological age rate.
Furthermore, participants of the study group showed positive effects in methylations of genes corresponding to glucose regulation, fat metabolism, protein production, neurotransmission, and modulation of inflammation.
Based on the studies, mindfulness practices and relaxation exercises can help protect your epigenome against age-related decay, leading to slowed biological aging and protection against age-related diseases.
You can also check out our Definitive Guide to Breathing Exercises.
Can we reverse aging?
Reversing aging might sound like a plot in sci-fi movies. However, resetting our cells to their youthful versions might actually be closer to reality than we think.
In 2012, Scientist Shinya Yamanaka received a Nobel Prize for discovering that mature cells can be reprogrammed to be pluripotent. He identified four factors that, when applied to an adult cell, would reset the whole epigenome back to when it was an embryo.
Now scientists worldwide are applying this discovery in their research to solve the mystery of longevity and reversing aging.
Researchers at The Sinclair lab at Harvard Medical School were able to reset the optic nerve of old blind mice and restore their vision.  This is revolutionary in the medical field since vision loss is usually incurable, particularly in the elderly.
Surprisingly, scientists could also make older mice run by more than 3 kilometers by resetting the mice’s epigenome. These mice were able to run faster and further than younger mice. Not only were treated mice able to live longer but also actually aged younger. Thereby suggesting a complete reversal of the aging process.[24,25]
You can accelerate and slow the rate of aging through various factors such as lifestyle, medications, and diet.
By maintaining your epigenome, you can slow down the rate of aging and delay the onset of age-related diseases.
The reversal of our biological clock is closer than we think. Studies suggest that soon humans will be able to control aging. This will also translate to potential cures for chronic and degenerative diseases such as Dementia and cancers.
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- Pal, S. & Tyler, J. (2016). Epigenetics and aging. Science advances, 2(7), e1600584. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1600584
- Karnaukhov, A., et al. (2017). The information theory of aging: The major factors that determine lifespan. BIOPHYSICS 62, 829-835. https://doi.org/10.1134/S0006350917050098
- Pagiatakis, C., et al. (2021). Epigenetics of aging and disease: a brief overview. Aging clinical and experimental research, 33(4), 737-745. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40520-019-01430-0
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- Grabowska, W., Sikora, E., & Bielak-Zmijewska, A. (2017). Sirtuins, a promising target in slowing down the ageing process. Biogerontology, 18(4), 447–476. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10522-017-9685-9
- Yousefzadeh, M., Henpita, C., Vyas, R., Soto-Palma, C., Robbins, P., & Niedernhofer, L. (2021). DNA damage-how and why we age?. eLife, 10, e62852. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.62852
- Lilja, S., et al. (2021). Five Days Periodic Fasting Elevates Levels of Longevity Related Christensenella and Sirtuin Expression in Humans. International journal of molecular sciences, 22(5), 2331. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms22052331
- Mattison, J. A., et al. (2017). Caloric restriction improves health and survival of rhesus monkeys. Nature communications, 8, 14063. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms14063
- Colman, R. J., et al. (2014). Caloric restriction reduces age-related and all-cause mortality in rhesus monkeys. Nature communications, 5, 3557. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms4557
- Robinson, M., et al. (2017). Enhanced Protein Translation Underlies Improved Metabolic and Physical Adaptations to Different Exercise Training Modes in Young and Old Humans. Cell metabolism, 25(3), 581–592. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2017.02.009
- Zolovska, B. & Shatkin, J. (2013). “Assessment, Methodology, Training, and Policies of Sleep”. Encyclopedia of Sleep. Sciencedirect.com https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/slow-wave-sleep
- Mazzotti, D. R., Guindalini, C., Moraes, W. A., Andersen, M. L., Cendoroglo, M. S., Ramos, L. R., & Tufik, S. (2014). Human longevity is associated with regular sleep patterns, maintenance of slow wave sleep, and favorable lipid profile. Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 6, 134. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2014.00134
- American Sleep Association. (2022). “Deep Sleep: How to Get More of It”. sleepassociation.org https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/stages-of-sleep/deep-sleep/
- Venditti, S., et al. (2020). Molecules of Silence: Effects of Meditation on Gene Expression and Epigenetics. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01767
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- Chen, B., et al. (2016). DNA methylation-based measures of biological age: meta-analysis predicting time of death. Aging, 8(9), 1844-1865. https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.101020
- García-Campayo, J., Puebla-Guedea, M., Labarga, A. et al. (2018). Epigenetic Response to Mindfulness in Peripheral Blood Leukocytes Involves Genes Linked to Common Human Diseases. Mindfulness 9, 1146–1159. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0851-6
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