Coming to terms with your age is one thing, but what about your biological age? That’s how “old” your body really is, regardless of how many years ago you were born.
Researchers in China say they have found a way to detect biological aging through a simple urine test. The hope is the test can be used in preventative medicine to determine the risk of a person developing age-related diseases.
There are many theories behind what causes aging in the body.
One is that aging is brought on by oxidative damage to cells and tissues. It’s this biomarker that the researchers said they are able to measure.
“Oxygen by-products produced during normal metabolism can cause oxidative damage to biomolecules in cells, such as DNA,” said Dr. Jian-Ping Cai, a researcher involved in the study. “As we age, we suffer increasing oxidative damage, and so the levels of oxidative markers increase in our body.”
One of these markers, referred to as 8-oxoGsn, was found in animal urine studies to increase with age.
Cai and his colleagues set out to see if this was true for humans as well, so they measured 8-oxoGsn in 1,228 residents of China between the ages of 2 and 90.
They found an age-associated increase in the biomarker for participants who were older than 21.
Researchers hope the test can be used to predict the likelihood of developing age-related diseases as well as determine the effectiveness of future treatments designed to slow the aging process.
“What I think is most promising from this particular study is that if there is a way to accurately and consistently quantify the physiological age of a person or organism, it would provide an amazing tool for further studying treatments against aging. It would mean that we could follow a treatment for a few months or years to determine efficacy rather than the lifespan of the subject,” Jae Hur, PhD, assistant professor of biology at the Harvey Mudd College in California, told Healthline.
What is deep breathing?
The way you breathe can impact your whole body, helping to regulate important functions such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can also reinforce proper body mechanics that put less stress on your body as you move.
Deep breathing is also called abdominal or belly breathing. It involves inhaling slowly and deeply through the nose, causing the lungs to fill with air as the belly expands.
This type of breathing is associated with many health benefits, from reducing stress to lowering blood pressure.
While these benefits are widely known, the busy pace of life plus a sedentary work environment have conditioned many of us to take only quick, shallow breaths. Over time, this weakens the strength of our respiratory muscles. It also creates tension in the upper body that can alter our posture and undermine our health.
If you’re a shallow breather, regular physical activity and brief sessions of respiratory muscle training can reverse these symptoms and help to improve your quality of life.
Air is inhaled and exhaled by contractions of the respiratory muscles that surround your lungs. The diaphragm is the primary muscle used in the process of inhalation. It’s a dome-shaped muscle located inside the lower ribs at the base of the chest. During inhalation, your diaphragm contracts to create space in your chest cavity for your lungs to expand.
Your intercostal muscles, located between your ribs, assist your diaphragm by elevating your rib cage to allow more air into your lungs. Other muscles around your neck and collarbone assist the intercostals if breathing becomes impaired. These muscles include the sternocleidomastoid, serratus anterior, pectoralis minor, and scalenes. All of these increase the speed and amount of movement your ribs are capable of.
Breathing rate can vary with age, weight, tolerance to exercise, and general health. For the average adult, a normal breathing rate consists of 12 to 18 breaths per minute. However, several factors can impair respiratory function, creating a pattern of quick, shallow breathing.
Sudden or chronic pain can activate a section of the nervous system that governs many bodily systems, including your breathing rate, heat rate, and body temperature. Chronic stress and strong emotions such as rage or fear intensify your fight-or-flight response, which can impair your breathing rate.
Poor posture also contributes to breathing pattern dysfunction. This is commonly seen in people who spend long hours sitting each day. Rounded shoulders and a forward head posture cause the muscles around the chest to tighten. That tightening limits the ability of the rib cage to expand and causes people to take more rapid, shallow breaths.
Breathing from your chest relies on secondary muscles around your neck and collarbone instead of your diaphragm. When this breathing pattern is accompanied by poor posture, many muscles in your upper body aren’t able to function properly.
The longer you sit during the day, the less your body is able to fight the forces of gravity and maintain a strong, stable core.
Tight accessory muscles around the chest cause a rounded shoulder and forward head posture. This weakens the back by inhibiting muscles that help maintain an upright posture, including the:
- latissimus dorsi
- middle trapezius
- quadratus lumborum
Tight accessory muscles can also cause shoulder instability and impingement syndromes. The tightness can inhibit muscles and tendons that allow you to move your shoulder blades freely. These muscles and tendons include the:
- serratus anterior
- biceps tendon
- posterior deltoid
A slow, steady breathing pattern enhances core stability, helps improve tolerance to high-intensity exercise, and reduces the risk of muscle fatigue and injury. Taking balanced, equal breaths should be your goal.
A good way to practice balanced breathing is to take a deep inhale, count to four, and then release a deep exhale to the same count.
If you’re unsure of whether you’re a shallow breather, place your palm against your abdomen beneath your rib cage and exhale. Take a deep breath and follow the movement of your hand. If your hand moves as your abdomen expands, you’re breathing correctly.
If your hand only moves slightly but your shoulders elevate, you may want to consider practicing breathing exercises to strengthen your muscles and reinforce proper breathing patterns.
Performing deep breathing exercises along with general fitness training can increase the strength of the respiratory muscles. Breathing techniques such as roll breathing can also be used to develop full use of the lungs while controlling the rhythm of respiration.
If you have a neuromuscular disorder, lung disease, or injuries from trauma, you may want to purchase a breathing exercise machine to increase lung volume and encourage deep breathing.
There are many benefits to deep breathing. It helps to foster a sense of calm, reduce stress and anxiety levels, and lower blood pressure. In fact, deep breathing is the basis for all meditative and mindfulness practices.
Practicing healthy breathing patterns also allows you to build your endurance for strenuous exercise.
to make lifestyle choices that are associated with better health. For example, you don’t need a test like this to know that smoking is bad for your health,” Swerdlow said.
So what does he suggest is the best way to maximize your lifespan?
“Live in a safe and healthy environment, with a good public health infrastructure. Have good doctors. Pursue a lifestyle that cares for, as opposed to abuses, your body, and choose your parents wisely,” he advised.