In a recent study published in natural agingIn order to study how environmental exposures influence aging trajectories and develop strategies to slow or prevent disorders and diseases thought to result from aging. discusses new geriatric tools and methods.
study: To promote healthy aging, focus on your environment. Image credit: polkadot_photo / Shutterstock.com
The risk of many diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Alzheimer’s disease, ischemic stroke, myocarditis, and musculoskeletal diseases increases exponentially with age.
Underlying processes such as reaction speed, muscle strength, wound healing, memory, organ system function, and immunity decline with age. This age-related decline in physiological processes is more pronounced in some people than others, and health span is often associated with wealth.
Because genetics accounts for less than 50% of the variation in chronic disease risk and less than 10% of the variation in lifespan, the environment is likely one of the main drivers of differences in healthy aging. Geriatrics is the study of the processes and mechanisms that determine and influence the progression and pace of biological processes involved in aging, including those related to the environment, and increase the risk of age-related disorders and diseases.
New molecular tools and methods can be used to measure the biological and environmental processes underlying aging, ultimately shaping informed policies and programs that promote fair and healthy aging. can.
Environmental factors and aging
Non-genetic factors and exposures that affect the human body and can be modified through individual-level actions or government or policy-level interventions are defined as environmental. The environment includes social, biological, chemical, and physical aspects of our surroundings, all of which can directly or indirectly influence human health.
Environmental toxins that enter the body through contaminated food, air, or water constitute a direct pathway. A recent assessment of the global burden of disease shows that environmental exposure to toxins through polluted air is the fourth leading cause of death. In fact, environmental toxins are one of the major contributors to disability-adjusted life years associated with kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, and various chronic respiratory diseases.
High concentrations of ambient particulate matter are also associated with increased coronary artery calcification. Ingestion of heavy metals such as cadmium, arsenic, mercury, and lead that enter the environment from vehicle exhaust and agricultural and industrial sources also significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Exposure to heavy metals has also been linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
In contrast, social and economic factors that cause significant psychological stress, such as economic instability, political unrest, social unrest, and lack of safe neighborhoods, can have indirect pathways that trigger toxic biological responses. Configure. For example, some studies have reported that people living in more disadvantaged areas have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those living in relatively disadvantaged areas.
Healthy food choices, lack of safe walking space, and dark, quiet hours at night can each impact healthy eating habits, physical activity, and sleep quality, leading to increased risk of metabolic disease and cardiovascular disease. May increase risk of vascular and neurodegenerative diseases.
molecular gero science tools
The development of molecular tools, such as algorithms that can integrate clinical information from assays and tests to quantify indicators of aging, has the potential to significantly improve the scope of geriatrics and elucidate the factors that influence longevity and aging. there is. Epigenetic clocks are algorithms that combine information from chemical tags such as deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) methylation in the genome to estimate biological age and monitor age-related deterioration of biological processes and systems. .
Epigenetic clocks have also been used to study the effects of environmental parameters on older adults. For example, one study conducted in Australia using an epigenetic clock found that a small increase in particulate matter was associated with a half-year increase in epigenetic age. Epigenetic clocks have also been used to study the role of socioeconomic disparities, racism, and childhood adversity in accelerating aging in young people.
Integrating epigenetic clocks with molecular measurements such as proteomic and metabolomic markers can help decipher the influence of environmental exposures in shaping aging trajectories from early stages of life. This information can be used to inform policies and strategies to improve treatment options and potentially prevent age-related diseases and disorders.
Researchers in the current study discussed how environmental exposures can increase the risk of age-related disorders and diseases. The researchers also discussed the use of molecular tools such as epigenetic clocks in combination with metabolic and proteomic markers to study the influence of environmental factors on aging trajectories.
Taken together, a better understanding of the role of environmental exposures in age-related degeneration will help develop better prevention and treatment strategies.
- DW Belsky & AA Baccarelli (2023). To promote healthy aging, focus on your environment. natural aging. doi:10.1038/s43587023005187