For the first time in human history, individuals are living for an average of ~80 years. Thanks to a number of brilliant breakthroughs in the past century, early mortality is becoming more and more infrequent and people are living longer.
Many people still fear old age because of the reduced quality of life and illnesses that come with it. But in the future, that may not be the case. Living longer is a wonderful thing, but what if you could live healthier as well?
Our lifespan is the number of years we live, period. It’s the range that’s carved onto your gravestone. Healthspan, on the other hand, is the number of years we are in good health, and free from chronic illness. The average healthspan in the United States is 66 years, while the average lifespan is 78 years. This means that the average American will live with illness for over a decade before they pass1.
Bridging the ever-widening gap between these two numbers is an important priority in longevity research. We want to tackle aging with the intention of elongating healthspan.
In order to understand where you stand within your healthspan, we need to gauge how old your body truly is. This is where the concept of biological age comes in.
Every individual has two ages. Your chronological age and your biological age. Your chronological age is the number you celebrate every birthday, which you have no control over. Your biological age, on the other hand, is more persuadable. It’s reflective of your overall health and changes in response to your lifestyle and health status.
By analyzing different indicators of aging, we can decrypt our true, biological age. And by extension, we can project the years left in our healthspan, if we continue with a similar lifestyle.
Indicators of aging are well-researched fundamentals of why we age at the cellular level. They react to aging and age-related illnesses in a measurable way. These aging indicators are analyzed to develop algorithms that, in turn, calculate our biological age. They can be phenomenal tools for the early detection of several age-related diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular illness, and neurological disorders2.
One of the key indicators of aging, used most often when determining biological age, is epigenetic changes.
Epigenetics refers to a layer of molecules over our genome, regulating a gene’s expression (level of protein output). Essentially, epigenetics is responsible for increasing, decreasing, or even deactivating a gene’s expression.
Using chemical groups such as methyl (CH3), our epigenetics modify gene expression without tampering with the genetic code. While our genome is constant from birth, our epigenome is flexible and dynamic, heavily influenced by our environment and lifestyle. (Read more about the contrast between genetics and epigenetics here3.
As we age, our genetics get damaged and subsequently repaired. These repairs are rarely perfect and often result in a different epigenetic expression. These critical changes can often propagate qualities of old-age and age-related diseases4.
Epigenetic changes are a key fundamental, and indicator, of aging. Analyzing epigenetic changes can help you derive your true, biological age, and a personalized profile of existing health. Using these variables you can also estimate your existing healthspan.
One thing biological age and healthspan have taught us is you can take control of how, and sometimes the direction, you age. Improved lifestyle practices and a healthier environment not only slow aging but can actively reverse it! Meaning, you can stay healthier, longer.
Coming soon, FOXO’s Longevity Report TM will offer a wealth of personalized insights into your biological age, metabolic score, cardiovascular score, inflammation score, and indulgence scores that can empower you to make informed decisions with your healthspan in mind. Sign up now to get early access and be one of the first to see for yourself.