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growing old

When Do We Start to Grow Old?

Research from a Duke University study compares aging

Most of us look our age, but some people really are younger – or older – than their years, according to a new study from Duke University.  So when you see someone who looks older than you thought, you’re probably right: they’re aging fast.

Researchers looked at 954 people when they were 26, again when they were 32, and again when they were 38.  They tested how heart, lung, kidney and liver function, and looked for early signs of diabetes and other chronic diseases.  They even tested for speed of cognition, looking for mental slowdown, and checked for genetic changes like shortening of telomeres.  Plus they took facial photographs and asked other people to rate how old they looked.  It was all part of the long-term and ongoing Dunedin project, where they’ve been tracking the health of over a thousand people born in 1972-73.

Their findings:  Most people age a year every 12 months.  But some of the people aged 3 years in 12 months!  In other words, some of the people who were chronologically 38 years old were biologically 28, while others were 61!

This study puts into perspective other studies on health and aging well, and emphasizing the strategy of identifying signs of premature aging before it becomes evident years or decades later in chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or kidney and lung impairment.

Bottom line:  Aging starts when we’re young.

Conjecture:  Increasing activity is one way to help chronological age match biological age.

Belsky, D. W., Caspi, A., Houts, R., Cohen, H. J., Corcoran, D. L., Danese, A., . . . Moffitt, T. E. (2015). Quantification of biological aging in young adults. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. doi:10.1073/pnas.1506264112.  Retrieved from


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