How well are you aging? You might answer this question by counting the wrinkles on your face or by checking how strong your knees are. However, recent research has found that instead of counting the candles on your birthday cake, you can better determine your longevity by looking at your immune system.
Using Your Immune Age For Longevity
It would be naive not to think of the role that your immune system can play in regards to your longevity, especially when you think about inflammation.
According to researchers, iAge is the idea that as we age, our cells become more damaged, causing us to experience chronic and systemic inflammation, which eventually begins to affect our health. On the other hand, having a healthy immune system can help to neutralize this inflammation to some extent, whereas others will age faster.
Inflammation is a tool that the immune system uses to do its job – however, when the inflammation becomes long term, this can then make you more vulnerable to diseases. Therefore, to better understand your immune system ‘clock’ and how you can use it for longevity, the researchers of the study made sure to properly examine the mechanisms that control inflammation.
Measuring immunity for longevity
“Every year, the calendar tells us we’re a year older. But not all humans age biologically at the same rate.” says biologist David Furman of Stanford University, as well as the director of the 1000 Immunomes Project – the world’s largest longitudinal population-based study of immunology and aging.
Furman believes that by finding our iAge, we can better determine the future of our health,
“Our inflammatory aging clock’s ability to detect subclinical accelerated cardiovascular aging hints at its potential clinical impact.” He adds, “All disorders are treated best when they’re treated early.”
How old is your iAge?
To prove their thesis, Furman and his team decided to measure the iAge of people 65 and older who had had their blood drawn in 2010. The team followed up with these people in 2017, and they discovered that the 2010 iAge was a more accurate predictor of their health than their chronological age.
The researchers went further by testing their iAge algorithm on 29 centenarians from Bologna, Italy. The team then compared their findings to 18 average 50-79-year-old individuals.
The findings, published in Nature, found that the iAge of all the Bolognese participants was about 40 years younger than their actual age, proving that the healthier your immune system, the higher the chance of you living longer. In fact, one 105-year-old man had an inflammatory age of 25.
“By applying artificial intelligence methods to deep immune monitoring of human blood, we generate an inflammatory clock of aging, which can be used as a companion diagnostic to inform physicians about a patient’s inflammatory burden and overall health status, especially those with chronic diseases.” said the researchers.
“Using iAge it’s possible to predict seven years in advance who is going to become frail,” Furman adds.“That leaves us lots of room for interventions.”
How can I support my immune system age?
There are a number of ways that you can support your immune system, but here are our top 5:
- Eat a lot of foods rich in zinc, vitamin C, selenium, iron, and protein. Following a plant-based diet is arguably the best way to get all of these nutrients.
- Manage your stress levels. High stress levels can trigger inflammation and this will only hurt your immune system. Try to manage your stress levels by cutting back on how much news you consume and engaging in meditation and yoga.
- Get enough rest. Not getting enough sleep can make you sicker, but getting enough of it is a great immune boost. Try to aim for at least 7 hours of sleep every night. If you’re struggling, stop using your phone in bed and turn to aromatherapy.
- Exercise as staying fit can keep you and your immune system healthy. A light hike or a simple jog is exactly what you need to break a sweat and stay healthy.
- Stay hydrated as dehydration can weaken both you and your immune system. If you’re not a fan of water, just stay away from sodas and juices. Instead, opt for green tea and kombucha.
Want to know more?
We know that gut health is associated with better health, and that includes the state of your immune system. In fact, a recent study has highlighted the link between a healthy gut and a stronger immune system.
Sayed, N., Huang, Y., Nguyen, K. et al. (2021). An inflammatory aging clock (iAge) based on deep learning tracks multimorbidity, immunosenescence, frailty, and cardiovascular aging. Nat Aging 1, 598–615. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43587-021-00082-y