What Biomarkers Are Important for Longevity?
In the quest for a long and healthy life, understanding the key factors that impact longevity is crucial. Biomarkers play a pivotal role in assessing your health status and predicting potential health risks. These measurable indicators offer valuable insights into the body's physiological processes, helping doctors and individuals make informed decisions about lifestyle, diet, and medical interventions. In this article, we will explore the concept of health biomarkers, discuss commonly measured biomarkers during standard doctor's visits, address their limitations, and finally, focus on some of the most important biomarkers for longevity.
What Are Biomarkers?
Biomarkers are quantifiable characteristics that provide valuable information about an individual's health status. They can be found in various body fluids like blood, urine, and saliva, and their levels can fluctuate depending on an individual's health, lifestyle, and genetic factors. Biomarkers are extensively used in clinical settings to diagnose diseases, monitor treatment effectiveness, and evaluate overall health status.
Commonly Measured Biomarkers During Standard Doctor's Visits
During a routine medical checkup, physicians typically assess several common biomarkers to gain insight into an individual's health. Some of the most common biomarkers measured during standard doctor's visits include:
Blood Pressure: An essential indicator of cardiovascular health, high blood pressure can increase the risk of heart complications.
Cholesterol (HDL, LDL, Total): Cholesterol levels influence heart health, with high levels of LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) and low levels of HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol") being associated with a higher risk of heart health decline.
Blood Glucose: Measures the amount of sugar in the blood and is vital in assessing issues related to glucose metabolism.
Body Mass Index (BMI): A ratio of weight to height, BMI is used to evaluate whether an individual's weight falls within a healthy range.
C-reactive Protein (CRP): A marker of inflammation, high levels of CRP can indicate underlying health issues and potential cardiovascular risks.
Liver Enzymes: AST and ALT are liver enzymes that can indicate liver function and possible liver health decline.
Limitations of Common Biomarkers
While the above biomarkers offer valuable information, they are only part of the larger picture of an individual's health. People are unique, and their health is influenced by a myriad of factors beyond what standard biomarkers can reveal. For example, two individuals may have similar cholesterol levels, but one might still be at a higher risk of cardiovascular health decline due to other factors like genetics, inflammation, and lifestyle choices.
Moreover, these common biomarkers may not be sufficient to predict an individual's longevity accurately. To achieve a comprehensive understanding of health and longevity, it is crucial to delve deeper into specific biomarkers that have a more direct correlation with the aging process and disease prevention.
Biomarkers for Longevity
Biomarker #1: hs-CRP (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein)
High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) is a biomarker of inflammation that plays a vital role in various health conditions, particularly related to cardiovascular health. While hs-CRP is commonly measured during standard doctor’s visits, the importance of this marker is often underdiscussed. Several studies have linked elevated levels of hs-CRP with an increased risk of cardiovascular events. Chronic inflammation is considered a contributing factor to the aging process and the development of age-related diseases (1).
Research on Longevity: A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2005 examined the association between hs-CRP levels and longevity in a large cohort of healthy women. The researchers found that higher hs-CRP levels were associated with an increased risk of mortality, even after adjusting for other risk factors. This suggests that reducing chronic inflammation, as indicated by lower hs-CRP levels, may contribute to improved longevity (2).
Biomarker #2: Apolipoprotein B (apoB)
Apolipoprotein B is a protein involved in lipid metabolism and is a component of atherogenic particles like LDL cholesterol. Elevated levels of apoB indicate an increased number of atherogenic particles, which are responsible for the formation of plaque in arteries, contributing to cardiovascular events.
Research on Longevity: A study published in 2021 investigated the association between apoB levels and mortality in older adults. The researchers found that higher apoB levels were associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality (3). This suggests that apoB may be a valuable predictor of longevity and cardiovascular health in older individuals.
Biomarker #3: Micronutrient Status
Maintaining optimal micronutrient status is of paramount importance for promoting longevity and overall well-being. Micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, play indispensable roles in various physiological processes within the body, supporting cellular function, DNA repair, antioxidant defense, and immune response. These essential nutrients act as cofactors for numerous enzymatic reactions, ensuring the smooth operation of biological pathways that are critical for health and vitality.
A deficiency in any of these micronutrients can lead to imbalances and disruptions in cellular processes, increasing the risk of age-related health decline. For instance, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a higher risk of bone density decline and cardiovascular events (4). Similarly, inadequate levels of vitamin B12 can result in neurological impairments and low energy (5). Magnesium deficiency may contribute to muscle weakness and cardiovascular issues, while insufficient zinc levels can compromise immune function and wound healing (6, 7).
The cumulative effects of nutrient deficiencies can accelerate the aging process, negatively impacting an individual's quality of life and reducing their overall lifespan. Therefore, promoting the importance of a well-balanced diet rich in essential micronutrients and encouraging regular health screenings to identify and address potential deficiencies becomes crucial in safeguarding longevity and optimizing health outcomes as individuals age.
Research on Longevity: A study published in 2018 examined the association between micronutrient levels and mortality in older adults. The researchers found that deficiencies in specific micronutrients, such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, and zinc, were associated with an increased risk of mortality. Adequate levels of these micronutrients were linked to a lower risk of death, highlighting their importance for longevity (8).
Biomarker #4: Telomere Length
Telomeres are protective caps at the ends of chromosomes that shorten with each cell division. Shortened telomeres are considered a marker of cellular aging and have been associated with various age-related health concerns.
Research on Longevity: A 2018 research review investigated the association between telomere length and mortality in a large cohort of older adults. The researchers found that individuals with longer telomeres had a lower risk of death from all causes and exhibited slower rates of age-related decline (9). This suggests that telomere length may serve as a biomarker of biological aging and potential longevity.
Biomarker #5: Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin sensitivity refers to how well the body responds to the hormone insulin, which is essential for regulating blood glucose levels. Insulin resistance, where the body becomes less responsive to insulin, is associated with increased all-cause mortality risk and metabolic disorders (10).
Research on Longevity: Countless studies support the importance of maintaining insulin sensitivity, including a 40-year cohort study published in 2021 which found insulin resistance to significantly increased risk of all-cause mortality (11).
Biomarker #6: Homocysteine
Homocysteine is an amino acid that, when present at high levels in the blood, is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular and cognitive health decline (12).
Research on Longevity: A meta-analysis published in 2017 investigated the association between homocysteine levels and all-cause mortality. The researchers found that higher homocysteine levels were associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular causes and all causes. Lowering homocysteine levels through nutritional interventions may have potential benefits for promoting longevity.
There are several supplements that have been shown to reduce homocysteine levels, including folic acid, vitamin b6, vitamin B12, and TMG. (13).
Biomarker #7: Biological Age Testing
Biological age testing has emerged as a fascinating approach to assess longevity and gain insights into one's overall health status. Unlike chronological age, which is simply the number of years an individual has lived, biological age reflects the functional state of the body and its cellular health. This concept takes into account various biomarkers, including DNA methylation, telomere length, and other physiological indicators, to estimate how well the body is aging relative to its chronological age.
Biological age testing provides individuals with a deeper understanding of their health and potential longevity. By evaluating specific biomarkers and comparing them to age-matched data, individuals can gauge whether their body is aging faster or slower than expected for their chronological age. For those whose biological age aligns with their chronological age or even appears younger, it indicates that their lifestyle choices, including diet, exercise, and stress management, may be positively impacting their longevity. On the other hand, a biological age that exceeds the chronological age may signal the need to adopt healthier habits and address potential risk factors to improve overall well-being and extend lifespan.
Moreover, using biological age testing to assess the effectiveness of supplement protocols adds an exciting dimension to personalized health journeys. As individuals incorporate various supplements into their wellness regimens, they can track changes in their biological age over time to gauge the efficacy of these interventions. Witnessing improvements in biological age aligned with the adoption of a supplement protocol can be a gratifying and motivating experience. It not only confirms that the supplements are contributing to overall health but also provides valuable feedback on which specific interventions may be most beneficial for an individual's unique physiology.
Interested in testing your biological age?
Research on longevity and health biomarkers has provided valuable insights into the factors that contribute to a longer and healthier life. High-sensitivity CRP, apoB, micronutrient status, telomere length, insulin sensitivity, and homocysteine are among the crucial biomarkers that have been studied in relation to longevity.
While these biomarkers offer valuable information, it's important to remember that longevity is a complex outcome influenced by various genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Incorporating healthy habits, regular exercise, and a balanced diet, along with personalized biomarker analysis, can contribute to enhancing overall health and promoting longevity. Always consult with healthcare professionals before making any significant changes to lifestyle or diet based on any biomarker or lab results.
- Banait T, Wanjari A, Danade V, Banait S, Jain J. Role of High-Sensitivity C-reactive Protein (Hs-CRP) in Non-communicable Diseases: A Review. Cureus. 2022;14(10):e30225. Published 2022 Oct 12. doi:10.7759/cureus.30225
- Ridker PM, Cannon CP, Morrow D, et al. C-reactive protein levels and outcomes after statin therapy. N Engl J Med. 2005;352(1):20-28. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa042378
- Ding M, Wennberg A, Ek S, et al. The association of apolipoproteins with later-life all-cause and cardiovascular mortality: a population-based study stratified by age. Sci Rep. 2021;11(1):24440. Published 2021 Dec 24. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-03959-5
- Amrein K, Scherkl M, Hoffmann M, et al. Vitamin D deficiency 2.0: an update on the current status worldwide. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2020;74(11):1498-1513. doi:10.1038/s41430-020-0558-y
- Ankar A, Kumar A. Vitamin B12 Deficiency. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; October 22, 2022.
- Razzaque MS. Magnesium: Are We Consuming Enough?. Nutrients. 2018;10(12):1863. Published 2018 Dec 2. doi:10.3390/nu10121863
- Lin PH, Sermersheim M, Li H, Lee PHU, Steinberg SM, Ma J. Zinc in Wound Healing Modulation. Nutrients. 2017;10(1):16. Published 2017 Dec 24. doi:10.3390/nu10010016
- Akbaraly TN, Ferrie JE, Berr C, et al. Alternative Healthy Eating Index and mortality over 18 y of follow-up: results from the Whitehall II cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;94(1):247-253. doi:10.3945/ajcn.111.013128.
- Wang Q, Zhan Y, Pedersen NL, Fang F, Hägg S. Telomere Length and All-Cause Mortality: A Meta-analysis. Ageing Res Rev. 2018;48:11-20. doi:10.1016/j.arr.2018.09.002
- Ausk KJ, Boyko EJ, Ioannou GN. Insulin resistance predicts mortality in nondiabetic individuals in the U.S. Diab Care. 2010;33(6):1179-1185. doi:10.2337/dc09-2110
- Moshkovits Y, Rott D, Chetrit A, Dankner R. The association between insulin sensitivity indices, ECG findings and mortality: a 40-year cohort study. Cardiovasc Diabtol. 2021;20(1):97. Published 2021 May 6. doi:10.1186/s12933-021-01284-9
- Son P, Lewis L. Hyperhomocysteinemia. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; May 8, 2022.
- Elias MF, Brown CJ. New Evidence for Homocysteine Lowering for Management of Treatment-Resistant HTN. Am J Hypertens. 2022;35(4):303-305. doi:10.1093/ajh/hpab194