We biologically age when we’re stressed.
Our biological age doesn’t always mirror our chronological age. It can be increased by disease, drugs, poor lifestyle and diet—and also, it seems, by stress.
Our biological clock speeds up rapidly when we’re stressed, even if it’s only been for a few weeks or months, say researchers from Duke University School of Medicine.
The good news is that biological age can also be reversed; get rid of the stress and we start to get younger. The biological age of people going through major surgery speeded up dramatically around the time of the procedure, but quickly reversed once the patient started to recover. Similarly, pregnant women’s biological age gets younger again after the birth, and the same was seen in people with a Covid-19 infection once they started to recover.
“The ability to recover from stress may be an important aspect of ageing and longevity,” said Vadim Gladyshev, one of the researchers.
Scientists can monitor biological ageing more accurately with the second-generation human DNA methylation clocks, which can detect transitory variations.
Although biological age can be reversed by de-stressing and eating a healthy diet, scientists don’t know if any longterm harm to healthy ageing has been done while our internal clock was speeding up—but that’s for a different research project, the researchers say.