Can DNA Markers Predict Your Biological Age?

How understanding your biological age can help promote healthy longevity

Tick, tock, tick tock … our own biological clocks keep ticking no matter what we do. Many have searched in vain for an answer to be younger (Juan Ponce de León once tried to find the Fountain of Youth …) or, at least, look younger (many of Hollywood’s actors and actresses have undergone expensive plastic surgery to remove wrinkles or “crow’s feet” around their eyes). However, there seems to be no proven way to stop aging.

While we continue to struggle accepting that reality, would the next best thing to stopping aging be being able to predict how old we can become? Knowing when one’s own life will end may seem somewhat disturbing, but there are some good reasons for this – being able to better pinpoint any age-related diseases and/or deciding to become a parent could be examples.

How to Predict Your Biological Age

One of the latest methods claiming to provide you with this information is by measuring human telomeres. If you’re not familiar with human anatomy, telomeres are strings of DNA that protect the ends of human chromosomes (if a visual will help, just imagine someone wearing a hat to shield one’s head from the bright sun). As we age, our telomeres continue to work and have, in fact, been found to shorten over the course of time. This has led scientists to suggest that telomere length could indicate a person’s life span.

Knowing the probability of your own human longevity may or may not have some merit to it. Before you decide for yourself, do some research and/or listen to what the experts say. One such expert is Dr. William Hahn, a Harvard Medical School Professor and Chief Research Strategy Officer at Harvard-Affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who explains, “if your telomeres are long, it doesn’t guarantee that something bad won’t happen.”

Should you remain curious, there are numerous tests which can measure your own telomere length. Before you jump in, it should be noted that you will need to take multiple tests … the first test can only provide you a baseline length of your telomeres; subsequent tests can provide further information for comparison.

You could begin by turning to your own home computer and “Google searching” the term, “telomere testing”. You will be provided numerous pages of companies which market telomere testing kits which can be ordered for home use. Prick your finger to supply a drop of blood (or do a cheek swab if you’re anywhere near squeamish) and mail it back to the company. Testing will be completed (this may take a few weeks) and your results will be provided to you. If you prefer, another option is for you to consult with your own doctor. He/she can do this test for you or refer to a medical laboratory for analysis.

Other Factors for Healthy Longevity

It should be noted, however, that there are various other factors over and above telomere testing which will certainly promote healthy longevity, which will likely have heard before. Tips for positive aging include eating nutritiously, drinking plenty of water, avoiding excessive alcohol and/or drugs, sleeping regularly, and exercising. Your human body is like a machine, what you put into it greatly determines what you will get out of it.

If you want to take some time to do more research into telomere testing and deliberate if this is something that you want to do, please do so! Do know, however, that whatever and whenever you decide, your biological clock will keep ticking. Tick, tock, tick, tock …

Jane Fonda’s Surprising Secrets to Living Longer and Better

Advice on how to age well and achieve healthy longevity

Anyone who saw Jane Fonda present the award for Best Actor at the Academy Awards earlier this year will agree she looks fabulous for her age. If you missed the award show, you can catch her with Lily Tomlin on the Netflix series called “Grace and Frankie” to see what we mean. This Oscar-winning actress and activist looks terrific for an 80-year old, and I’d say she clocks at least 20 years younger.

Yes, some cosmetic surgery was involved but, as she’ll admit, it was worth it (and she didn’t have it done until she was 72). 1 And yes, perhaps it’s because, as those of us of a certain age will recall, she was one of the first female aerobics legends with exercise videos (first released in 1982), colorful leotards and leg warmers. She has been staying fit and eating well for decades and has long been an advocate for a healthy body and healthy mind. None of this hurts; in fact, it all helps.

Today, Fonda still emphasizes the importance of maintaining a good diet and exercise regime as the main vehicles for aging well because they affect a lot more than just your waistline. “The truest, most reliable beauty potion is regular vigorous exercises combined with good nutrition…. Exercise increases the circulation and brings a rich flow of nutrients and oxygen through the blood to the skin’s cells…During a workout, the skin’s temperature can rise from 86 to 90 degrees or more. This is thought to stimulate an increase in the production of collagen, which, together with other positive effects of exercise, thickens the skin – making it firmer, less wrinkled and better toned.” 1

Diet and Exercise for Healthy Longevity

Jane says exercising her mind and body on a regular basis helps. “Maintaining a healthy weight and strong heart and bones through regular physical exercise is a major ingredient for successful aging.” 2 In other words: never stop moving. Despite having osteoarthritis and having both a knee and hip replacement, she stays active and keeps moving – moving more slowly perhaps, than when she was younger, but moving. She still works out. She doesn’t run, but she walks. She doesn’t downhill ski, but she cross-country skis and does yoga.

She also adheres to the familiar phrase “you are what you eat”. An entire chapter in her best-selling book Prime Time focuses on the importance of diet and nutrition. Her key suggestions: avoid refined sugars and excess sodium, try complex carbs, colorful vegetables and lean meats. Cells regenerate at a slower rate as we age so everything we eat is important.

Oh, and don’t even think about smoking or drinking too much alcohol and make sure you get plenty of sleep. It’s never too late to cut bad habits; Jane claims she didn’t start cleaning up her act until she was in her 60’s.

In addition to diet and exercise, Jane Fonda has plenty of other advice to offer regarding aging gracefully, living better and having fun, even in your 70’s and 80’s. Implement one of these tips into your life and you’re on your way to achieving healthy longevity.

Jane’s Tips for Aging Well

  1. Check your outlook on aging. Revise how you think about aging. Think of aging like climbing a staircase. In an interview with Forbes magazine when she was only 73, Jane opined that “We need to reverse how we think about aging. The old paradigm was: you’re born, you peak at mid-life and then you decline…” 3 Look at aging as ascending, not descending a staircase, she suggests, and gaining well-being, spirit, soul, wisdom and the ability to be truly intimate and live a life of intention.
  1. Reflect on where you came from, learn, let go, move on.
  1. Let go of perfectionism; don’t worry about what people think. Like who you are.
  1. Foster relationships. Fonda believes strong interpersonal relationships are a key to remaining youthful. She notes that studies have shown that feeling connected to family and friends and romantic partners can help boost your health and happiness. 2

Jane’s Advice to Women

  1. Own your own power. Don’t feel you can’t exist without a man defining you. Be independent and strong but also don’t overlook your sex life. Jane says older women with active sex lives are healthier, happier and respond better to aging, and there’s science to back it up. Embrace love at every age.
  1. Do keep up your appearance; it means you still care about yourself. Take good care of your hair as well as your skin and dress with intention. An attractive, well-kept appearance doesn’t have to involve cosmetic surgery or expensive face creams. You don’t have to be wrinkle free to be beautiful. But you do have to like yourself and have a positive attitude.

A positive attitude makes all the difference: youth starts from within. As Jane says: “With age, two-thirds has to do with spirit, your soul…I’m way happier now, and I’m way younger now…The ‘good old days’ were pretty bad for me. The real good old days are now.”2



How Aging Research Will Reshape Our Lives

New research into the science of genomics may influence how we age, our capacity to build brain health and the likelihood of healthy longevity

Aging research has shown that longevity is indeed a heritable trait, estimated to be about 20 to 30 percent genetic. But that doesn’t mean you’re destined to follow in your parents or grandparents’ footsteps. There are many things you can do even if your personal leaf isn’t part of the family tree with longevity and/or optimum brain health.

New research published in June 2017 in Nature, says the maximum human lifespan could jump to 125 years 1.

“Several variables play a role in healthy longevity, including social community, exercise, and a sense of purpose in life,” says Roberta L. Kline, MD, CEO, Genoma International. Cultivating these can improve healthy longevity, and Kline says it’s believed that longevity can occur through both modification of gene expression as well as epigenetic changes.

Studies from the past decade have identified several hundred genes responsible for lifespan 2. However, researchers are currently still attempting to piece together how genes that affect life span influence how we age and how altering or manipulating these genes impacts healthy longevity.

That’s where the science of genomics comes into play.

The Science of Genomics

Kline says genomics looks at how our genes and nutrition interact, and if/how what we eat plays a huge role in our health and longevity. “We know our genes interact with other environmental influences, including social situations, emotions and stress, exercise, chemicals, medications and more. And that epigenetic changes are modifications to the DNA structure that don’t actually change the DNA itself, and are a way that our body responds and adapts quickly to all sorts of environmental factors. All of this adds up over our lifetimes to create health or disease.”

Genomics is playing a major role in longevity research. Much of it is still in the early stages, but some findings can be translated to everyday life today.

One of the major gene families being examined by genomics experts is the sirtuin group of genes, with SIRT1 being especially prominent. “This gene is responsible for turning on, or off, many other genes important in biological systems associated with aging like oxidative stress, inflammation, glucose regulation, lipid metabolism, cell death, and more,” says Kline.

One of the best ways to activate this gene is through periodic fasting. “And you don’t have to be on a multi-day fasting regimen. Research has shown that something as simple as fasting for 12 hours overnight helps activate this gene. So does eating until you’re about 80 percent full, rather than feeling stuffed,” adds Kline.

Building a Healthy Brain Throughout Your Lifetime

Neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life, rather than simply during the first few years of life, is also revolutionizing longevity and the way we view brain health.

“It was long thought the brain could not repair itself, that once it was injured or damaged by vascular disease, inflammation, or the beta-Amyloid of Alzheimer’s disease, that the trajectory of inevitable decline,” says Karyn Shanks, MD. An internist and founder and director of The Center for Medicine and Healing Arts in Iowa City, IA. “But now we know our brains are alive with the power of neuroplasticity. And that each and every cell has the inherent ability to recover, grow, and create new connections throughout our lifespan.”

Cognitive training appears to be the key to activating neuroplasticity, according to recent data 3. This training spans a wide range of activities from learning a new language, engaging in work and/or an active lifestyle, maintaining high literacy and challenging yourself to use your memory (for instance, remembering directions rather than relying on GPS).

Diet’s Impact in Boosting Brain Health & Longevity

Kline emphasizes that diet has also been found to play a major role in achieving healthy longevity and boosting brain health. Research agrees. Numerous studies indicate consuming antioxidants promotes lifespan extension.

One recent piece of research says the spice curcumin, found in the spice turmeric, has been well-studied for its anticancer properties, but now the spice has been found to increase the lifespan of animals. Researchers believe those results may translate to humans to promote long-term brain health and increase longevity.

Lace ‘em Up

Running has also recently been linked to increased longevity. A recent study published in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Disease says those who run, walk and cycle enjoy a longer lifespan than those who don’t 4. However, running, was specifically connected to the largest increase in healthy longevity, adding three years to a person’s lifespan. The researchers conclude that every one-hour run adds about seven hours to your overall lifespan.  Home Care Assistance Denver



6 Ways to Help Seniors Stay Physically Active as They Age

As we age, remaining physically active can become more difficult and exercise seems as though it takes a greater toll on our bodies. In fact, those are precisely the reasons as to why it’s so important for seniors to continue exercising. There are tons of benefits in staying physically active as you age 1, from reduced blood pressure to lower stress levels and diminished symptoms of anxiety and depression. The amount of benefits from exercise can go on and on.

Below are some great ways to promote healthy aging through physical activity.

Starting Out

Low-Level Physical Activity

It may not seem like much, but even walking around the house can make a huge difference in heart health among aging adults. According to a Surgeon General Report from the Center for Disease Control 1, seniors who log any level of physical activity whatsoever markedly decrease their chance of heart attack and stroke. Cleaning the house, taking a stroll to the mailbox, and even walking from room to room are all low-level activities that make a big contribution toward heart and brain health.

Studies also show many seniors have trouble with the word “exercise.” As physical abilities begin to decline in their later years, aging adults see the concept of exercise to be an overwhelmingly tall task. Therefore, it may help to avoid the word altogether and opt for phrases such as “physical activity” or “being active.”

Setting Goals

In a stage of life where one’s mental health is not where it used to be, confidence boosters are a must. These confidence boosters are even more productive if they’re accomplished through physical activities. Encouraging seniors to set challenging, yet easily attainable goals is highly recommended. Objectives such as “standing for 30 minutes a day” or “walking to the corner and back” can eventually evolve into more involved physical goals.

Healthy Aging With Other Seniors

Senior Centers

In addition to stimulating brain and mental health, senior centers are one of the best resources you can find when it comes to keeping aging adults physically active 2. No matter where you are, there’s a strong likelihood that you’ll find a local senior center nearby. Nearly 10 million older adults utilize senior centers each year.

These facilities not only offer volunteer programs and organize social outings, many offer exercise classes as well. It’s not uncommon for your local senior center to have trained staff on site available to teach aging adults yoga, Tai Chi, swimming, and general aerobics classes. Some centers have opportunities for seniors to learn how to line, ballroom, or even square dance, all of which are all great exercise options for seniors.

Senior-Friendly Sports

Sports that require manageable levels of physical exertion are perfect for aging adults. Golf is a great example of a fairly accessible sport that promotes healthy aging among seniors, especially if they’ve been playing that sport throughout their lives. Even if a senior decides to use a cart, the sport still requires a moderate level of walking on grass that’s perfect for seniors looking to get active. Bowling, a casual game of frisbee, or tossing a tennis ball around are smart options as well.


Fall Prevention

Every 11 seconds, a senior citizen is treated at the ER for a fall 3. Aging adults may be averse to the idea of physical activity because of a perceived likelihood of fall risk. In fact, physical activity and exercise can greatly prevent the risk of falls in seniors, as it heightens one’s agility and ability to react.

That being said, there are some precautions to take when choosing the best exercises for fall prevention. First of all, talk to a doctor. The doctor can help identity the certain health conditions that can increase the likelihood of falls, including eye and ear conditions 4. Medications and history of past falls can influence the probability of a future incident. In the event that a senior is more prone to falls, supervised water workouts are ideal.

Wearing the proper footwear is another safety tip for avoiding injury. Make sure the senior is wearing shoes that fit correctly and have proper tread. There are types of shoes that can decrease joint painas well, so consider shopping around for footwear that is both safe and practical for exercise.

Be Aware of the Senior’s Environment

Many hazards that affect exercises for seniors actually have nothing to do with the seniors themselves. When coming up with physical activities, be sure the aging adult’s surroundings are safe. If it’s an outdoor activity, watch out for holes or errant balls when near a sports field. Additionally, if the weather is excessively warm, consider taking the activity inside. It’s important to note, however, that there can be dangers indoors as well. Remove glass tables or surfaces like small rugs or objects floors that can easily be slipped and tripped upon.


Every bit of physical activity helps when it comes to healthy aging. Utilize local resources like senior centers, find an activity that piques the senior’s interest, and staying safe all contribute to a senior’s ability to enjoy life into their later years.

The Balanced Care Method™ seeks to help seniors start and maintain a healthy activity level. The Balanced Care Method™ is a holistic program that promotes healthy diet, physical exercise, mental stimulation, socialization and sense of purpose. The program was built on studies demonstrating that only one-third of our longevity is based on genetics and two-thirds on lifestyle factors within our control.

Home Care Assistance caregivers are trained in the Balanced Care Method, offering the first senior care solution with an emphasis on balance and longevity. By working with specific lifestyle behaviors, Home Care Assistance caregivers extend and enhance the lives of seniors, helping them live longer, happier, lives at home. Learn more about how the Balanced Care Method™ can help your aging loved one today.