Eight health and lifestyle measures ‘can slow biological ageing by six years’

Scientists said following the measures promotes good heart health, which in turn may slow the pace of biological ageing (Alamy/PA)
Scientists said following the measures promotes good heart health, which in turn may slow the pace of biological ageing (Alamy/PA)

Keeping body weight, blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure in check while maintaining a healthy sleep regime and diet, doing regular physical activity and not smoking may slow the body’s ageing process by around six years, early research suggests.

Scientists have said that following these measures – known as Life’s Essential 8 – promotes good heart health, which in turn may slow the pace of biological ageing.

The analysis, presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2023 in Philadelphia, is based on data from more than 6,500 adults with an average age of 47.

The researchers said those with high cardiovascular health were found to be about six years younger biologically (the pace at which the body has aged for every year alive) than their actual (chronological) age.

Donald M Lloyd-Jones, chair of the writing group for Life’s Essential 8 and a past volunteer president of the American Heart Association, said: “These findings help us understand the link between chronological age and biological age and how following healthy lifestyle habits can help us live longer.

“Everyone wants to live longer, yet more importantly, we want to live healthier longer so we can really enjoy and have good quality of life for as many years as possible.”

Life’s Essential 8 – the American Heart Association’s health assessment tool – was first launched in 2022 aimed at defining heart health based on four modifiable lifestyle measures and four modifiable health markers.

To measure a person’s phenotypic – or biological – age the researchers checked their metabolism, organ function and inflammation.

Phenotypic age acceleration is the difference between one’s biological age and actual age, with higher values indicating faster biological ageing.

After accounting for social, economic and demographic factors, the researchers said that having the highest Life’s Essential 8 score – which also means having a high cardiovascular health – was associated with a lower biological age – around six years younger.

Senior study author Nour Makarem, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University Irving Medical Centre in New York City, said: “We found that higher cardiovascular health is associated with decelerated biological ageing, as measured by phenotypic age.

“We also found a dose-dependent association – as heart health goes up, biological ageing goes down.”

For example, the researchers said, the average actual age of those with good heart health was 41, yet their average biological age was 36; and the average actual age of those who had poor cardiovascular health was 53, though their average biological age was 57.

Prof Makarem said: “Greater adherence to all Life’s Essential 8 metrics and improving your cardiovascular health can slow down your body’s ageing process and have a lot of benefits down the line.

“Reduced biologic ageing is not just associated with lower risk of chronic disease such as heart disease, it is also associated with longer life and lower risk of death.”