Sticking To These 8 Health Rules Slows Biological Aging, New Study Reveals

Protecting your cardiovascular system also slows the aging process.

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Every year adds another candle to our birthday cake, but our body’s aging process isn’t so straightforward. While chronological age is set, the rate at which our body ages varies depending on our habits and health factors.

One researcher pondered how biological age changes when someone follows the guidelines of Life’s Essential 8 (formerly Life’s Simple 7 until sleep was added to the list in 2022), a set of evidence-based criteria from the American Heart Association (AHA) for lowering the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. The Essential 8 are:

  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Stay active
  • Eliminate tobacco
  • Manage weight
  • Mitigate cholesterol
  • Control blood sugar
  • Monitor blood pressure
  • Sleep 7 to 9 hours a night (the most recent addition)

These eight health markers influence cardiovascular wellness, but what about biological age?

A preliminary study, to be presented on November 11 at the AHA’s Scientific Sessions 2023 in Philadelphia, demonstrates that, indeed, sticking to these guidelines can help slow aging.

The Essential 8 and biological age

According to this study, following the Essential 8 can slow biological aging by up to six years.

Biological aging has proven to be a “robust marker of future risk of various chronic diseases” and death, according to study author Nour Makarem, a cardiovascular epidemiologist and epidemiology professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

“What this study shows is that by addressing these eight modifiable health factors and behaviors, it is possible for us to decelerate the aging process,” Makarem tells Inverse.

Biological, or phenotypic, age takes into consideration your actual age as well as the results of nine blood markers routinely tested for during your annual physical, including metabolism, inflammation, and organ function.

Makarem examined health data from more than 6,500 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which took place between 2015 and 2018. She calculated their biological age as well as biological age acceleration in relation to their heart-healthy practices according to Life’s Essential 8. After factoring in socioeconomic variability, a clear relationship emerged. Consistently, those with good heart health adhered to the Essential 8’s guidelines and had a lower biological age. In this case, the average chronological age of the heart-healthy group was 41, but their average biological age was 36. On the other hand, the average chronological age of the group with poor heart health was 53, but their biological age was 57. Not only was their biological age higher, but their bodies were aging faster.

Life’s Essential 8 is a telling set of guidelines for wellness because indicators for heart health ultimately underlie overall health. These eight habits modulate pathways that can increase or decrease the risk of heart disease, but they also accelerate the body’s aging process.

Just a number

Age may be just a number, but the difference between chronological age and biological age is key. “At a minimum, we want those ages to be the same,” Makarem tells Inverse.

Makarem also emphasizes that even modest improvements can result in improvements in the biological aging process. “That’s really key because I think a lot of people feel overwhelmed,” she says. “No one can change their lifestyle in one day.”

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