When you’re thinking about your general health, chances are you’re factoring in your age, right? Well, it turns out that how old you are may not be the indicator of aging that we all once thought it was. Now, scientists are turning to something they call the “immune clock” as a better way to show what an individual’s aging process looks like.
According to a new study from Stanford University School of Medicine and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging that was published in Nature, chronological age may not be the only — or the best — marker for understanding someone’s general health. Instead, researchers wanted to investigate a phenomenon that they refer to as the “immune clock,” which denotes that immunity and your immune system as a whole could be a better way of understanding physical and mental well-being.
To do this, scientists drew blood samples from over 1,000 people during a seven-year period and tested them for proteins called cytokines, which signal the body’s immune response. Depending on the kinds and amounts of cytokines they detected, they could learn more about any person’s likelihood of death, cardiovascular disease, frailty, and other markers, than by just looking at an individual’s age. They concluded that this provides a fuller picture of what someone’s overall health looks like compared to just looking at how old they are.
Researchers hope that their study will lead to a greater focus on individualized treatments to settle specific immune health concerns, but they also believe it’ll make it clearer that immune health needs to be a priority for many people. Even if you don’t have access to a fancy blood test that can parse your cytokines, there are still plenty of ways to take control of strengthening your immune system right now. This includes eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, getting enough sleep every night, exercising regularly, and practicing good hygiene, like washing your hands, brushing your teeth, and bathing regularly.
By incorporating these simple habits into your routine, you can prove that age is nothing but a number!