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Some older adults appear to be in better physical condition than their actual age suggests, which is described as having a lower biological age. Conversely, some individuals have a higher biological age than their chronological age. Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet have discovered that those with a higher biological age are at a greater risk of stroke and dementia, especially vascular dementia.

Susceptibility to chronic conditions increases with age

In a study led by associate professor Sara Hägg and doctoral student Jonathan Mak from the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, it was discovered that the elevated risk remains even after accounting for factors like genetics, lifestyle, and socioeconomics.

As individuals progress through the natural aging process, their susceptibility to chronic conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular ailments, and neurodegenerative illnesses increases. Historically, researchers and medical professionals have predominantly emphasized chronological age, which signifies the number of years an individual has existed, as a rudimentary indicator of their biological age.

Hägg says that People experience varying rates of aging, making chronological age a somewhat imprecise indicator.

Researchers used data from the U.K. Biobank, involving 325,000 individuals aged 40-70, to study the connection between biological age and disease risk. They measured biological age using 18 biomarkers, such as blood lipids, blood sugar, blood pressure, lung function, and BMI, and examined how these factors related to the development of neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, dementia, stroke,  and Parkinson’s disease over nine years.

High chronological age associated with increased dementia risk

Comparing high biological age to chronological age is associated with a significantly increased risk of dementia, especially vascular dementia, and ischemic stroke (brain blood clot). If the biological age is five years higher than the actual age, the risk of developing vascular dementia or suffering a stroke is 40% higher.

It’s important to note that this study was observational and cannot prove causation. Nevertheless, the results imply that slowing down the aging process in terms of biomarkers may help delay or prevent the onset of these diseases. Hagg concludes that most of the values can be influenced via medications and lifestyle.