New research published in July by Nature shows that the latest feature to boost longevity might be a handy tool known as the “inflammation clock.”
The clock measures your “biological age,” which may be higher or lower than your chronological age. A 25-year-old, for example, could have an inflammation clock that resembles that of a 50-year-old. And they’d never know unless there were a way (like an inflammation clock) to reveal it at a younger age to help prepare for the future.
The study analyzed blood protein markers from 1,001 people aged between eight and 96 years old and identified protein markers, which signal age-related systemic inflammation.
The inflammation clock, iAge, works with protein markers to monitor risk of age-related diseases, which could compromise someone’s lifespan, says Chris Airey, MD, medical director at Optimale and practicing physician with the NHS.
These markers together would form iAge, and there’s one indicator in particular, CXCL9, which is a chemokine linked to cardiac aging and a more probable development of heart disease later in life.
“Researchers also found that when they silenced the expression of the gene that encodes CXCL9, the cells that became dysfunctional due to those higher levels of CXCL9 then regained some of their function,” says Dr. Airey. And this in turn leads to hopes of a longer lifespan and a reversal in the damage that’s been done.
How the iAge inflammation clock works
“The iAge uses certain protein markers in the blood that signal inflammation to establish a person’s risk of developing age-related disorders, and this is based on the theory that a person’s body experiences more systemic inflammation as they get older and as cells become damaged,” says Dr. Airey.
While the study doesn’t give us the whole picture into how these protein markers are related to risk of age-related disease and longevity, it definitely has the potential to provide more knowledge about inflammation and how it works within the body.
“This research has the potential to help people understand the level of inflammation in their body, so those at a higher risk of age-related disorders can then take steps to lower inflammation earlier,” he says.
Think of it as a warning when you’re younger–if you know you are predisposed for certain complications that will lead to a reduction in longevity, you can take action steps to prevent such damage and increase your life span through healthy, daily measures, while limiting adverse habits as well.
“More studies need to be done to verify the practical use of iAge, but it has the potential to be used as part of more health checkups to identify people with higher risks of age-related diseases earlier so they can take steps to reduce inflammation in the body,” says Dr. Airey.
Using this feature in a doctor’s visit as a regular check-in could surely be beneficial for people as they age so that they’re aware of any biological factors working against their favor.
How to lower your inflammation clock
While more research is needed, you can keep inflammation at bay and lower your iAge by living a balanced lifestyle with healthy, daily habits, such as clean eating, exercising regularly and getting enough shut-eye, which would be about seven to nine hours a night.
In fact, when tested, those who are known to live healthier lives, like centenarians, had a younger age inflammation clock than their actual age. On average the centenarians had an iAge that was 40 years lower than their actual age, according to a press release. And this makes sense, since they are known to have greater longevity due to their lifestyles and diet.
Beyond diet and exercise, keeping stress levels low is key, since more stress will raise cortisol levels and create more inflammation. Chill out through soothing activities, such as meditation, yoga, journaling, exercise, napping and spending time outdoors.
“Reduce the amount of refined carbohydrates, soda, fried foods and trans fats in your diet,” says Dr. Airey, as these foods increase inflammation.
“Get at least 1.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise every week,” he says. Go for variety–cycling, walking, running, boxing, HIIT, and dance are all great forms of cardio. Include weight training 3-4 days a week as well to keep your bones and muscles strong.
Lastly, “quit any smoking habits,” says Dr. Airey, since smoking will directly raise your risk of age-related diseases and shorten your lifespan. It’s a real nasty habit and tough to break, but it’ll be worth it.
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