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How Age Plays a Role in your Health

The prominence of aches and pains, wear and tear and the exacerbation of existing health issues often get dismissed as we get older. Without a doubt it’s often ourselves ignoring these niggles, but it may also be our health practitioners relying on passing years as an explanation. There is no denial that physiological functioning does indeed diminish over time especially for those most advanced in years. But it is time to look at the bigger picture in relation to age, ageing and its collaboration with other prominent risk factors to create disease and ill health.

In support of age’s culpability in disease development, health can be somewhat exposed when we reach middle age. Following Menopause (women) and Andropause (men) the diminished supply of steroid hormones lessens their protective nature against certain conditions. The extent of this health risk and possible decline is again dependent on many other factors. Even in Osteoarthritis where age is considered the strongest influencer, other contributors such as weight, nutrition and physical fitness play a part in the condition’s prognosis. As with other chronic diseases more prevalent later in life, age is a risk factor, not a cause.

2 Types of risk factors

Every disease state has risk factors, which are significant details about you that might contribute to a condition. Non-modifiable risk factors are characteristics you were born with such as biological gender, genetics and chronological age. Modifiable risk factors such as diet and exercise can be adjusted to assist in the prevention and management of disease. While age is non-modifiable, the rate of ageing is (somewhat) modifiable despite being inevitable. This is because biological ageing (of cells and tissues etc.) is highly dependent on environment and lifestyle. Ageing has an effect on all functions of the body over time, but the extent to which this is true is different for everybody.

Current research into ageing and disease has explored a wide variety of topics that demonstrate their contribution to illness development:

  • Genetics

  • DNA and the relationship to its environment

  • Gender

  • Socioeconomic status

  • Oxidative stress

  • Lifestyle choices i.e. smoking, exercise levels, alcohol consumption.

  • Nutrition – food choices, energy consumption.

  • Other illnesses, particularly Asthma and Chronic Kidney Disease.

  • Medication

  • Stress levels

  • Psychological health and resilience

  • Microbiome diversity

  • Anything that drives inflammation & inflammatory status

Allostatic Load – The study of risk factors

One branch of research focuses on what is called ‘Allostatic load’ (AL) which is often referred to as ‘wear and tear’ but can also be considered an objective measurement of health status based on risk factors. When AL is measured in individuals it can predict disease, life expectancy and physical functioning. Both modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors are used to determine AL, with the addition of blood testing for signs of inflammation, cholesterol, blood pressure, Body Mass Index and waist to hip ratio measurements. The studies into AL demonstrate the vast input that exists when it comes to determining health status, causes for disease and acute symptoms.

Please ask your practitioner questions if you are unsure about a diagnosis or cause of your symptoms. This can help you to determine more about how to approach your health from a holistic angle and change modifiable risk factors to work in your favour.

If you would like to get personalized advice on Nutrition, Lifestyle or health conditions, get in touch today:

Evidence Used:

Barry, L.E., O’Neill, C., & Heaney, L. G.(2020). Association between asthma, corticosteroids and allostatic load biomarkers: a cross-sectional study. Thorax, 75(10), 835-841. doi:

Kennedy. (2014). Geroscience: Linking Aging to Chronic Disease. Cell,159, 709-713

Klepin, H. D. (2015). Cancer in a Gerontological Context. Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, 70(6), 1-10. doi:10.1093/gerona/glv024

Kovacs, N. (2020). Nutrients that Provide Benefits of Caloric Restriction. Life Extension, 36-42.

Kusano, Y. (2016). Allostatic load differs by sex and diet, but not age in older Japanese from the Goto Islands. Ann Hum Biol, 43(1): 34–41. doi: 10.3109/03014460.2015.1013985

Sacitharan. P. K., & Vincent, T. L. (2016).

Cellular ageing mechanisms in osteoarthritis. Mamm Genome, 27:421–429. doi: 10.1007/s00335-016-9641-z

Tampubolon, G., & Maharani, A. (2018). Trajectories of allostatic load among older Americans and Britons: longitudinal cohort Studies. BMC Geriatrics, 18(255). doi:


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