Our bodies undergo many changes as we age. Some of these changes are noticeable, such as aches and pains, longer recovery from workouts, and stubborn body fat that you just can’t get rid of. Other changes may go unnoticed if you’re not regularly getting the right lab tests done. As you grow older, many blood markers move in the wrong direction, putting you at an increased risk for some chronic diseases. Read on to find out which blood markers are most affected by the aging process and what you can do to slow and possibly prevent some of these changes. What are Blood Markers?
Blood markers refer to certain blood tests that are used to check certain aspects of your health.
For example, cholesterol is a blood marker that doctors used to evaluate your heart health.
While researchers don’t know exactly what causes aging, they have observed consistent changes in many blood markers with age. Every system in the body is negatively affected by aging, with the most prominent being the hormone, immune, and cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) systems. Changes in specific blood markers clearly reflect this.
While some degree of change is inevitable (currently), there are ways to minimize the impact aging has on your lab markers. Keeping an eye on specific blood markers and taking the appropriate steps to keep them as close to youthful levels as possible will help you live healthier, for longer. Markers That Decrease With Age
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate ( DHEA -S ) is a steroid hormone produced primarily by the adrenal glands. It is also produced to a lesser extent by the brain and skin, as well as by the testes (in men) and ovaries (in women) [ 1 ].
Together with regular DHEA, DHEA-S is the most abundant steroid hormone circulating in the blood and is the precursor (building-block) to the more powerful sex hormones testosterone and estradiol , the main estrogen [ 2 ].
DHEA-S is important for:
DHEA-S levels peak around 20 years of age and begin to decline rapidly in the mid-’20s, with levels decreasing by as much as 80% at 75 years of age [ 6 ].
Lower DHEA-S levels have been linked to depression , non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), and heart disease [ 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 8 ].
There are a couple of options to help counteract this age-related decline: You can also take DHEA in supplement form to boost your DHEA-S levels. One study in 19 middle-aged men and women found 100 mg of DHEA for six months increased DHEA-S levels to those seen in young adults. If you have low DHEA-S levels and decide to go this route, make sure to routinely test your levels during supplementation and do so under the guidance of your doctor [ 13 ]. This supplement is great for some people, but there is evidence that supplementing with DHEA may promote the growth of prostate cancer [ 14 , 15 ].
2) Testosterone (Total, Bioavailable, and Free)
Testosterone is a hormone mainly produced by the testes in men and the ovaries in women. Less than 10% is produced by the adrenal glands and brain in both sexes [ 16 ].
Testosterone has a diverse range of beneficial effects throughout the body. It [ 17 , 18 , 19 ]: Improves bone health
Helps to build and maintain muscle mass (lean body mass) and strength
Increases red blood cell production
Improves libido and sexual function
Increases sperm production
Plays a role in mood and brain function
After the age of 30, total testosterone levels decrease by 1-2% a year in both men and women [ 20 , 21 , 22 ]. Free testosterone, the type that is not bound to anything and able to affect your cells and tissues, decreases at an even faster rate than total testosterone [ 23 ]!
Fortunately, there are ways to optimize your testosterone levels and minimize this decline: If you are overweight, research suggests that the best thing you can do to increase your testosterone levels is to lose weight. Obesity decreases testosterone levels, and low testosterone, in turn, increases fat accumulation, resulting in a vicious cycle. Implement a healthy diet and exercise regime to reach your weight goals [ 24 , 25 , 26 ].
Another important factor in testosterone production is sleep . Make sure you are getting enough uninterrupted sleep. This means avoiding blue light before bed or wearing blue-light blocking glasses, not drinking caffeine too late in the day [ 27 , 28 , 29 , 30 ]
Another great way to boost your testosterone levels is to exercise. Engage in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise several times a week [ 31 , 32 , 33 , 34 , 35 ].
Check your zinc and vitamin D levels, and increase them if you’re deficient [ 36 , 37 , 38 ]. Zinc is a crucial mineral for testosterone production. You can boost your zinc levels by eating oysters, beef, crab, cashews, and pumpkin seeds [ 36 , 37 ]. You can boost your vitamin D levels by spending more time in the sun.
Discuss the following supplements with your doctor. Studies suggest they may help increase testosterone levels Remember, always speak to your doctor before taking any supplements, because they may interfere with your health condition or your treatment/medications! 3) HDL-C HDL-C , also known as the “good cholesterol ”, is cholesterol that is being carried away from the cells and blood vessels back to the liver to be removed from circulation [ 51 ].Higher HDL-C levels are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. As we age, our HDL-C levels decrease gradually and our risk of heart disease increases [ 51 , 52 , 53 , 54 ].You can help slow this decline by: Exercising regularly. People who are less physically active have lower HDL-cholesterol levels [ 55 ]. Eat a balanced, healthy diet. Studies suggest that fiber, found in […]