Phenotypic age is one of the less complicated biological age measures developed in recent years. As for all of the others, it was developed by using machine learning on a large set of human data, in this case commonly assessed blood biomarkers and their values at different ages. Thus while we know exactly what is being measured, it is an open question as to how those measurements relate to the underlying processes of aging, or indeed whether they accurately reflect all of those processes. Once one starts down the path of using lifestyle interventions to slow aging or novel therapies to repair the cell and tissue damage that causes aging, will phenotypic age usefully report the outcomes? Maybe it will, maybe it won't, and the answer may be different for every different type of intervention. The only way to be certain is to calibrate the biological age measure against actual outcomes, and the study noted here is a step in that direction.
Having high cardiovascular health may slow the pace of biological aging, which may reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular and other age-related diseases while extending life. Researchers examined the association between heart and brain health, as measured by the American Heart Association's Life's Essential 8 checklist and the biological aging process, as measured by phenotypic age.
Instead of a calendar to assess chronological (actual) age, phenotypic age is a robust measure of biological (physiological) age calculated based on your chronological age plus the results of nine blood markers (routinely captured during clinical visits) for metabolism, inflammation, and organ function (including glucose, C-reactive protein, and creatinine). Phenotypic age acceleration is the difference between one's phenotypic age and actual age. A higher phenotypic age acceleration value indicates faster biological aging.
After calculating phenotypic age and phenotypic age acceleration for more than 6,500 adults who participated in the 2015-2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the analysis found that participants with high cardiovascular health had a negative phenotypic age acceleration - meaning that they were younger than expected physiologically. In contrast, those with low cardiovascular health had a positive phenotypic age acceleration - meaning that they were older than expected physiologically. For example, the average actual age of those with high cardiovascular health was 41, yet their average biological age was 36; and the average actual age of those who had low cardiovascular health was 53, though their average biological age was 57.
After accounting for social, economic and demographic factors, having the highest Life's Essential 8 score (high cardiovascular health) was associated with having a biological age that is on average six years younger than the individual's actual age when compared to having the lowest score (low cardiovascular health).