What’s Your Ageotype? New Research Suggests There Are Four Different Ways We Age

Everyone grows old, but that doesn’t mean we follow the same aging journey. One person might have heart problems in their fifties, but have an excellent metabolism. Another might be at high risk for diabetes, with a robust immune system that never seems to fail. 

There’s a lot of speculation as to why some people age differently than others. Your genetic makeup and lifestyle both play a role, but gender may also be a factor. Women seem to age faster than men, which may be due to the health changes that can accompany menopause.

If you ask Dr. Michael Snyder, a professor and the chair of genetics at Stanford Medicine, the question is not why people age differently but which parts of the body are aging faster than others.

Dr. Snyder is referring to what he and a team of researchers call “ageotypes” — a way of looking at how certain parts of the body change over time. In his work, he’s found people fall into one or more of the following four categories: metabolic, hepatic, immune, and nephrotic.

“As we’re measuring people very deeply, we can see which parts seem to be wearing out more than others,” he explains.

Understanding which parts of your body are aging fastest may one day help you target the areas most in need of medical attention. This type of tailored treatment has the potential to slow down accelerated aging and possibly help people live longer. Ageotypes are an ongoing but exciting new field of research. Here’s what we know so far.

What are the four different ‘ageotypes’?

Ageotypes are biological pathways in the body where the aging process is most active. Think of a car, says Dr. Snyder. Like a person, a car doesn’t last forever, but it’s rare for it to die out of the blue. Most likely, certain parts wear out first.

This wear down can looks different depending on whether you’re a metabolic, immune, hepatic (liver), or nephrotic (kidneys) ager, he says. People who are immune agers may find themselves producing high levels of inflammation and having a harder time clearing cancer. Metabolic agers could have a hard time controlling their blood sugar and are prone to having Type 2 diabetes later in life. Kidney and liver agers likely have signs of trouble in these two organs. 

You may find yourself falling into a combination of two categories, such as being a liver and immune ager. It’s possible your category could also change as you age.

As ageotype research continues, more ageotype categories may be discovered. Since his research only involved 43 men and women, Dr. Snyder says there is not enough data to verify if people can be cardio- or neuro-agers. “Four major categories popped out, but we know that many others exist.”

Could knowing your ageotype help you live longer?

Currently, there’s no available test to measure your ageotype. However, several longevity companies offer metabolic profiling that could give you an idea of which category you fall into. Another option is your medical history, says Melanie Goldey, the CEO of Tally Health and Trinna Cuellar, head of research and development at Tally Health. Your medical history, including your blood sugar levels, insulin levels, and high hemoglobin A1C levels (a popular biomarker for kidney function), creatinine levels, and immune markers could also provide another clue to your ageotype.

By the time people hit their 40s, they can work with their health care provider to consider some of the ways they may be aging faster. Knowing if you are a metabolic ager, for example, could reshape how you eat — perhaps switching to a healthy diet. Someone with an immune ageotype might take more priority in their sleep habits to reduce their risk for inflammatory and immune-related disease.

Knowing your ageotype can help you live longer because it can give you a sense of what parts of your body are most prone to accelerated aging, says Goldey and Cuellar. “This information can help you make changes to your health behavior that focus on the areas of your body that are most at risk for accelerated aging.”

“People worry this is going to turn people into hypochondriacs, but I think not,” Dr. Snyder adds. “This information will help people take personal responsibility for their own health and maintain long healthy lives.”

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