Younger or Older: Study Links Apparent Age to Disease Risk

A study conducted by researchers Dutch found that apparent age – just how old you appear to be – may be linked to your risk of developing diseases.

Published in a scientific journal British Journal of Dermatologythe article stated that people who they look younger they actually have a 24% lower risk of developing certain health conditions.


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“The fact that older physical appearance is linked to disease risk is something that has been linked for some time because we know that the habits and factors that cause systemic aging, i.e. body as a whole, are by far the most common. However, until the publication of this major scientific article, we did not have well-done studies linking these two factors”, explains Natasha Crepaldi, resident professor of dermatology at the Federal University of Mato Grosso (UFMT) and member of the Brazilian Society of Dermatology (SBD).

Image: Shutterstock/Kotin

The study selected 2,679 people, aged 51 to 87, of European descent, and took high-resolution photos for comparison. Participants were instructed not to use any creams, makeup, or aids that could enhance or obscure the true appearance of their skin.

In a panel, the images were analyzed and ages assigned to them without any additional information, only with an age scale that placed the volunteer within a five-year variable (called perceived age – PI) – five years older or less. .

Next, researchers compare perceived age to actual age and identify differences in age and age-related diseases such as cardiovascular problemspulmonary, renal, bone, neurocognitive and ophthalmological.

Younger appearance, lower risk of disease

According to the results, those who appeared to be five years younger than they actually were had fewer records (24%) of four types of disease, including osteoporosis and hearing loss.

A 15% reduction in the incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was also observed, as well as 16% fewer cases of cataracts, which cause blurry vision. The cognitive functioning of this part of the participants was also found to be better.

Image: Shutterstock/Natali_Mis

For all of these conditions, scientists have a possible explanation for why they affect older-looking people in higher percentages:

  • Osteoporosis: the older appearance of the skin, caused by the decrease in the production of skin fibroblasts and collagen, may also be linked to the simultaneous decrease in osteoblasts, responsible for the lower bone density – i.e. one thing leads to another.

Another possibility is that “osteoporosis may be associated with facial bone loss, causing an older appearance,” they wrote in the study.

  • Cataract: in advanced age, the main cause of cataracts, are added smoking and exposure to the sun, two practices that accelerate skin aging.
  • COPD: the same smoking factor works for lung problems. However, the researchers noted that there were other factors, as even people who didn’t smoke and didn’t look older were also at risk for the diagnosis.

Second-hand smoke, air pollution, and exposure to substances at work were taken into account, as all “have also been associated with skin aging.”

  • Hearing loss: was also related to lifestyle. “However, in our analysis, we did not correct for a vital factor, noise exposure, due to lack of data. This may capture the link between youthful appearance and less age-related hearing loss. , as less outdoor work probably means less occupational exposure to UV rays (sunlight) and noise.

Skin aging is also linked to cellular aging and shorter telomere length – a structure that protects the genetic material in each cell’s chromosomes. Shortening, which occurs naturally with age, is what causes the immune system to age, as well as other parts of the body, and is linked to the onset of disease.

“It is known that skin cell senescence (aging) is associated with shorter telomere length. And when they shorten, because they are poorly protected, the cells do not renew themselves properly and their functions are compromised, affecting the functioning of all the organs of the body,” explained Crepaldi.

It should be emphasized that telomeres are considered the key to aging and, according to experts, lifestyle changes help maintain their health; exercise and the adoption of a healthy diet are the basis. There are studies that also link emotional health, such as stress, to the shortening of this protection, which wears out.

In summary, the team concluded that “both physical and cognitive health are associated with facial appearance, highlighting PI (perceived age) as a biomarker of morbidities and indicating that a person’s appearance can be used as a sign additional clinic in physical assessment”.

With information from O GLOBO

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