Cracking the code of healthy aging: new approaches to staying healthy as we age
Our population is aging – by 2050 people aged over sixty will represent more than 20% of the world population, and we are rapidly approaching a time when there will be more older people on our planet than younger, a historical first.1,2
S. Jay Olshansky, Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Chicago, speaking at the Healthspan Show 2021
Our increased lifespan is, in part, testament to the success of modern medicine. And whilst aging is a privilege of our generation, scientists are now turning their focus to aging healthily, so our later years can be enjoyed as much as our younger ones.
How can we make our extended lifespan a healthy one? And how can the healthcare industry support people to manage aging well themselves?
What do we mean by aging?
The aging process - and in particular how it can be slowed down or even rejuvenated - bewitches scientists worldwide. There is consensus that aging is associated with two things. Firstly, the progressive decline of numerous physiological processes, e.g., our body’s ability to accurately regulate our temperature or heartrate, and secondly, our risk of developing severe diseases like cancer or cardiovascular disease, increases as we get older.
Scientists have also distinguished between two types of age: our chronological age based on our birthdate, and our biological age, which measures the true age our cells, tissues and organs appear to be, based on biochemistry. Whilst we can’t alter our chronological age, are there things we can do to manage our biological age? Experts came together recently at the Healthspan Show, an event dedicated to those developing wellness solutions that facilitate healthy aging, to discuss exactly how that might work.
A new blueprint for healthy aging - driven by science
The current approach to healthy aging is traditional. As we age, we are encouraged to take supplements to ‘top up’ something we might be deficient in, thus ‘reacting’ to the aging process. But is this making a real difference to our health, and can we proactively manage our aging process instead?
Studies show that our body’s physical decline starts around 30 years of age, and scientists have also recently discovered the root causes of aging at cellular level.3, 4 Epigenetics – the study of how our behaviour and environment can cause changes that affect the way our genes work – is also helping us understand the complexity of the aging process and the impact interventions, like nutritional supplements, have on aging.5
The epigenetic changes that occur during aging means cells are more prone to age-related diseases and decline of physiological function. However, these changes are reversible, and can be modulated by factors including physiological stimuli, for example, the sense of touch which affects simple motor skills and hand grip strength and environmental factors such as diet, exercise and alcohol consumption.5
By harnessing this new scientific knowledge, we can age more healthily from an earlier starting point. This is a new blueprint for healthy aging, focused on proactivity and personalisation that helps prevent aging and disease.
Did you know…
- Life expectancy at birth in 1900: 47.3 years*6
- Life expectance at birth in 2018: 78.7 years7
- Women typically live longer than men, around 8 years in Europe8
- Google receives over 1 billion health questions every day9
- By 2030, those aged 60+ are expected to make up > 50% of consumer spending growth** 10
*U.S. data, **in developed countries
A proactive focus on prevention to manage health aging
According to Healthspan data, just 20% of people feel comfortable managing their own health.11 However, a shortage of healthcare professionals (HCPs) worldwide means we increasingly need to get to grips with managing our own health to help prevent disease.12
Chief Scientific Officer, Bayer Consumer Health, speaking at the Healthspan Show 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted a need to take responsibility for our health, exploring the root causes of good health and applying long-term solutions and health innovations that improve quality-of-life.
One of the things making this transition to proactive personal health management easier is the validation of consumer wellness products and services by experts who endorse the efficacy of a product. This has led to higher quality offerings from health and wellness companies, and consumer confidence in taking a product that – in lieu of a visit to the doctor – is endorsed by HCPs.
And as we become more empowered to take charge of our health, companies are responding by focusing more scientific resource into the development of personalised and proactive healthy aging solutions. In fact, results from a new survey of healthy aging experts show clear focus on these themes – the top three healthy aging trends experts see as having the most future potential are digital therapeutics, active aging and biohacking.13
Partnering for successful healthy aging
But experts agree that partnerships - across the health and wellness industry, as well as between the individual and their healthcare provider - are key to optimising this. As demonstrated by events like the Healthspan Show, the elixir of healthy aging is being worked on by different scientific teams worldwide who focus on various aspects of the aging journey. It’s only by partnering together and pooling our knowledge and resources that we can create healthy aging solutions or technologies that crack the aging code and rejuvenate our everyday health and wellness.
It’s also clear that whilst extending the human lifespan has a fascinating hold for scientists and technologists, longevity on its own is no longer the goal. As experts continue to work together, as our knowledge of the aging process deepens and technology becomes more and more powerful, we are becoming more cognisant of our healthspan vs. our lifespan. This means retaining our health and quality-of-life for as long as possible, rather than living for a long time, but in poor health. As discussions at the Healthspan Show demonstrated, we’re poised on the precipice of a new revolution in healthy aging, and at Bayer’s Consumer Health division, we’re excited to take the leap.
If you are interested in working with us at Bayer’s Consumer Health division, or chatting more about partnership opportunities, reach out at: PartnerWithUs@Bayer.com to connect.
- WHO. Ageing and health. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ageing-and-health (last accessed June 2021)
- WHO. Ageing: Global population. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/population-ageing (last accessed June 2021)
- Hall KS, et al.,2017. Physical Performance Across the Adult Life Span: Correlates With Age and Physical Activity. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 72(4):572–578
- DiLoreto R, Murphy CT. 2015. The cell biology of aging. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 26:4524-4531
- Alegría-Torres JA, Baccarelli A, Bollati V. 2011. Epigenetics and lifestyle. Epigenomics. 3(3):267-77
- Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Life expectancy at birth, at 65 years of age, and at 75 years of age, by race and sex: United States, selected years 1900–2007. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/2010/022.pdf (last accessed June 2021)
- Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. National Vital Statistics Report. United States Life Tables. 2018. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr69/nvsr69-12-508.pdf (last accessed June 2021)
- WHO. 10 facts on healthy ageing in Europe. Available at: https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/Life-stages/healthy-ageing/data-and-statistics/10-facts-on-healthy-ageing-in-europe (last accessed June 2021)
- The Telegraph. Dr Google will see you now. Search giant wants to cash in on your medical queries. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2019/03/10/google-sifting-one-billion-health-questions-day/ (last accessed June 2021)
- McKinsey & Company. McKinsey Global Institute. Urban World: The Global Consumers to Watch 2016. Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/featured%20insights/urbanization/urban%20world%20the%20global%20consumers%20to%20watch/urban-world-global-consumers-full-report.pdf (last accessed June 2021)
- Lanzi, Filippo. (May 2021). “Wellness for prevention” - the opportunity for FMCG to deliver population-wide health improvement. The Healthspan Show.
- European Commission. Analysis of shortage and surplus occupations 2020. Available at: https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/22189434-395d-11eb-b27b-01aa75ed71a1/language-en (last accessed June 2021)
- Bayer Consumer Health. Data on File.
We talked to Cecilia Caetano, Gynecologist/Obstetrician and Director of Menopause Management at Bayer, about the importance of education and why women should proactively talk more about their symptoms and be mindful of their health.