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Epigenetics and Aging

Picture of woman and DNA Spiral

We all know those people who are a certain age based on the number of years they have been alive, but may look, act, and appear to be years younger compared to those individuals of a similar age. The factor that probably plays the biggest role in this phenomenon is a person's "genetic" makeup. We say "they have great genes." However, other factors play a role as well. These are Epigenetic Factors from our environment, lifestyle, etc. that turn on and off certain genes and allow our genetic instructions to be expressed. Think of the genetic information or DNA as the Piano, and the Epigenetics as the Pianist.

Aging itself is the gradual loss of function at a cellular and molecular level. Epigenetics play a big part in regulating and controlling those functions, so it also plays a big part in aging.

Accelerated epigenetic aging is actually the #1 risk factor for developing most age-related chronic diseases.

With advances in laboratory testing, we can get a sense of an individual's "Biologic" or "Cellular" age in comparison to their actual years of living with the help of DNA Methylation Clocks - a biochemical test (sometimes blood or saliva) that can be used to measure age. The test is based on DNA methylation levels, measuring the accumulation of methyl groups to one's DNA molecules.

In evaluation of studies based on these clocks in certain populations, it has been shown that many lifestyle factors and activities can be beneficial at improving or actually lowering our biological age compared to our chronological years. Many of these interventions we already know, but it is fascinating to see actual data confirm them. Some of these factors include:

- B-12 and Folate Supplements in women with MTHFR Mutations

- Vitamin D supplementation

- Hormone Replacement Therapy, particularly for women in menopause where advanced aging is noted to accelerate without hormones.

- Avoid Smoking

- Mediterranean Diet

- Improve Sleep

- Reduce Stress

- Limited Alcohol use

Testing Epigenetic Age can be valuable to give insight into your current rate of aging and help alter the course with appropriate interventions. This is some of the specialized testing we will offer to our patients, and anyone wanting to learn more and optimize health.

Dr. Mike