May 07, 2024

Biological Age vs. Chronological Age—Why It Matters  


We all want the same thing: the chance to live a full, rich, active life for as long as we can. Unfortunately, time only moves in one direction. Traditionally, most people have thought of the aging process as equally fixed. But longevity researchers have developed an exciting new framework for thinking about aging that offers hope now … and even more in the future.

The key is knowing we have two different ages

Our chronological age is what it sounds like - the literal number of years we’ve been alive. There’s no going back on this one. 

Our biological age refers to how old our physical cells are. It turns out we have some control here! 

Understanding biological age is helping longevity science unlock the secret to why some people of similar chronological ages have much longer healthspans – periods of life where they enjoy their chosen life adventures free of aging-related diseases. 

How does it work?

Biological age is sometimes called epigenetic age because it refers to changes that occur in our genes that may keep them from promoting healthy cells.

To get into the weeds a little, the main ways this happens are: 

Methylation: a natural biochemical process that changes how our body reads our DNA without altering the original DNA sequence. Normally, this flexibility has important regulatory functions and other benefits for us. But external factors can cause it to happen incorrectly – so our cells don’t receive the right information.

Transcription is impaired – the process of translating information from a DNA segment into proteins that help our cells function healthily.  

Telomere shortening: Telomeres are protective caps at the ends of chromosomes that shorten every time our cells divide – and can be damaged by external factors. When they get too short, cells can no longer divide.  

In summary, our cells age, stop doing their jobs, and leave us vulnerable to cardiovascular disease, lung disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other consequences that ramp up our biological age.

The hallmarks of aging 

The Hallmarks of Aging is a concept in scientific research that identifies key factors contributing to the aging process. These hallmarks are like markers that scientists use to understand how and why we age. They include a wide range of factors such as DNA damage, inflammation, and changes in cell communication. As our understanding of aging grows, so does the list of hallmarks, with new discoveries continually being added. These hallmarks help scientists develop strategies to slow down aging and improve overall health as we grow older. A review of the history of their development published in Frontiers in Aging in 2024 lists these biomarkers: 

  • Cellular senescence 
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction 
  • Deregulated nutrient-sensing 
  • Stem cell exhaustion 
  • Altered intercellular communication 
  • Chronic inflammation 
  • Gut dysbiosis 
  • Telomere attrition 
  • Genomic instability 
  • Epigenetic alterations 
  • Loss of proteostasis 
  • Disabled macroautophagy 
Now it can be measured

Turning back biological aging is not a myth or wishful thinking. There are multiple proven tests that can measure epigenetic age at the genetic level, including: 

  • Epigenetic clock  
    • Measures the harmful changes caused by methylation 
  • Telomere length  
    • Measures the shortening of these protective chromosomal caps 
  • Transcriptomic predictors 
    • Tracks changes in the way our genes send correct information to cells 
  • Proteomic predictors 
    • Measures changes in the types and levels of proteins needed for good health 
  • Metabolomics-based predictors 
    • Measures the levels and balances of small molecules needed for healthy metabolism  
  • And combinations of the above 

Test, learn and act

Anyone who wants to hack their healthspan can now take the following steps: 

  1. Test your own markers for epigenetic aging  
  2. Make appropriate lifestyle changes 
  3. Commit to a longevity mindset! 

A reputable genetic testing company can identify and analyze your own epigenetic markers while keeping your valuable medical information confidential and safe. Here are three companies we like (Sunlighten is not affiliated with them): 

All of these science-backed services analyze your DNA (through either a blood or saliva test) to determine your biological age and give you actionable info on factors like your pace of aging and risks of specific diseases – then make recommendations for lifestyle changes you can follow and track.  

A proven healthspan hack 

How do we know we can reverse biological aging? Because of studies like these: 

  • An American Heart Institute study found participants with the highest scores and healthy lifestyle choices had a biological age on average of six years younger than their chronological age.
  • An eight-week study published in the journal, Aging, found that six women between the ages of 50 and 72 lowered their biological ages from 1.22 to 11 years through dietary and lifestyle changes.
  • A one-year trial supported by grants from the National Institute of Health evaluated the effects of diet and exercise (alone and in combination) on 107 adults 65+ with obesity – and saw decreases of biological age by an average of 2+ years.  
  • Studies with both mice and human volunteers suggest that we may soon be able to chemically reprogram cells to a more youthful state. 

We have more information about how regular infrared sauna use can impact your healthspan on our Longevity page.

Think and live longer 

The bottom line? It’s a good idea to know your biological age, adopt a healthier lifestyle, and stay curious about the latest longevity developments and wellness treatments that may become available to you – and which we plan to update you in the LotusLife Library.

It won’t come as a surprise that we believe Sunlighten infrared technology can be one of the keys to promoting a younger biological age. While you relax in a stress-free sauna, our patented, scientifically-proven technology will boost your heart health, reduce inflammation, remove toxins, strengthen immunity, and promote good sleep – all factors in improving epigenetic health. 

Here’s to your best possible healthspan!  

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WRITTEN BY: Sunlighten

Shining light on infrared technology, Sunlighten® is the #1 choice for personalized infrared light treatments. Since 1999, we have been committed to innovating wellness products and services that empower our customers to improve their quality of life. Our patented SoloCarbon® technology rejuvenates the body by delivering the highest dose of infrared energy to the body - proven up to 99% effective. Our technological innovations are fueled by our passion to make a difference. And we are building a global community of businesses, consumers, and trusted experts to support each other along the way and make the world a healthier, happier place.

Sunlighten saunas are not a medical device as defined by Section 201(h) of the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act. Sunlighten provides general information relating to various medical conditions for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for advice provided by a doctor or other qualified health care professional. Please consult with your physician regarding diagnosis or treatment.