There are various answers to this question depending on which body age test you take. However, researchers have now shown that you can measure the body’s exact biological age in a blood sample. These findings will have a significant impact - both on the individual’s health and on society’s economy.
Your birth certificate says 40 years, but your body is perhaps 60 years, or 20 years. Until now, we have been left with a number of more or less uncertain body age-tests in e.g. fitness centres if we want to know our body’s biological age, but now the researchers have succeeded in developing a more precise method.
The large EU project ‘Mark-Age’ with participating researchers from Aarhus University has mapped a large number of biological age markers in the blood on the basis of over 4000 blood samples from different individuals in Europe. Associate Professor Peter Kristensen says:
“We have identified 50-70 age markers in the blood, among others different proteins which combined can quantify the body’s biological age. When you measure one marker, you will find that there is a major biological variation, but this biological variation will be evened out when you measure 50-70 markers. This will give you a statistically more precise expression of the biological age.”
The project still needs to be implemented in practice. But the future scenario indicates that anyone can get to know their biological age by means of a blood sample taken by their general practitioner.
Towards healthy aging
When the doctor knows your biological age, it gives you the opportunity to obtain a better old age with fewer diseases. If your biological age is measured to be 80 but you in reality are only 50 years old, then your doctor can start preventive treatments of a number of age-related diseases.
“It is basically about being at the forefront and in this way creating the best conditions for healthy aging,” says Peter Kristensen.
The biological age score can also tell us something about the development in society. In the future it is estimated that the costs related to the health system will increase because there will be more and more senior citizens in society. But will they actually increase?
“People will probably get older according to their birth certificate, but they will also be more and more healthy. If the biological age decreases, the costs of e.g. nursing homes will not increase,” says Peter Kristensen.
Cancer or old age?
The knowledge of the body’s biological age will have a significant impact on the individual’s health. One of the biological markers which the researchers have studied is the protein PSA, prostate antigene, which is found in men’s blood.
The amount of the protein in the blood can tell us whether a man will be at risk of getting prostate cancer. But the problem is that the amount of PSA will increase with age, and therefore an increased level of PSA does not necessarily mean that you have cancer.
“When you as a 50-year-old have your PSA-volume measured at your general practitioner and you are told that your PSA level is too high, it does not necessarily mean that you are about to get prostate cancer. It can also just be because your biological age is not 50 but 80 years. If the doctor knows your biological age, he or she will have a much better basis on which to assess whether you are at risk of getting prostate cancer,” says Peter Kristensen.
The biological age
In the Mark-Age project researchers have conducted a population study with 3.300 probands. The biological age of a person is estimated by 50-70 unique biomarkers in the blood - for example cholesterol level and different molecules, proteins and cells related to the immune system of the body.