Scientists identify two decades of life when a woman's biological clock speeds up and what might work to slow it.
Biological aging is a natural process associated with changes in the body's cells and tissues over time. However, environmental exposures, health conditions, diet, and lifestyle can influence how fast these biological age changes occur.
Because most research measuring biological aging has focused on male and female participants, a team of Chinese scientists wanted to look at women specifically to understand the sex-specific features of aging.
In their research published on July 28 in Med, the team measured four areas of biological age — lipid metabolism, hormonal regulation, tissue fitness, and chronic inflammation — in 113 female participants between the ages of 20 and 66.
To calculate these biological age parameters, the scientists took blood and feces samples and measured around 175 other biological variables, including bone density, lung function, and muscle mass. Moreover, the participants completed five action competence tests and a questionnaire about their lifestyle habits.
Armed with this information, the team was able to measure the participants' biological age.
Going a step further, the researchers analyzed the participants' biological clocks to determine when they aged faster. As part of this analysis, they looked at gene expressions associated with aging.
They found that the 30s and 50s are periods of life when women may experience an acceleration in the aging process.
Specifically, they found that lipid and hormone metabolism drove the aging process in the 30s. However, in the 50s, menopause was the driving factor, dramatically changing immunity, metabolite function, and hormone levels.
Intrigued by these menopause-related findings, the scientists investigated whether hormone replacement therapy (HRT) might influence the biological clocks in women during this life stage.
They found that aging clock scores were lower in women who took HRT. Still, the study authors note that HRT carries risks for cancer and blood clots, so it shouldn't be considered a remedy for aging.
While the research included a small sample of women and only looked at a single time in each of their lives, the authors say these findings help construct a more detailed picture of how women age. Moreover, it provides the basis for gauging the female aging process, which may lead to the development of anti-aging strategies.