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Aging is an inevitable process that we all must go through and considering the alternative – death – something we should embrace and try to do well. 1 Due to advances in the medical field (vaccines, antibiotics, surgery, preventative medicine) people are living longer. 2,3 In fact, it is predicted that most of the current millennial generation born in developed countries will live to be 100. 4 Although we are living longer, the important question is – Are these years going to be spent in good health? 5 The increase in diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol means that we may not be living healthier, longer lives. 1,6 Not only do these conditions lead to poor health in old age but they can also accelerate the ageing process in parts of the body e.g. the blood vessels. 7

What are advanced glycated end-products (AGEs)?

People with diabetes especially suffer accelerated aging and early onset of degenerative illnesses such as heart disease and strokes. 8 An underlying culprit behind these complications is tissue glycation – this occurs when excess blood sugar link to proteins and fats in the body tissues to form advanced glycated end-products (AGEs). 9

This cross linkage causes: 9

  • Increased inflammation and free radicals in the tissues
  • Widespread damage to virtually all cells, tissues and organs in the body
  • Stiffening of the tissues – e.g. muscles, tendons, joints, bones, heart, blood vessels, skin and eye lens
  • Decreased function of the organs
  • Accelerated aging

Humans are exposed to two types of AGEs – exogenous AGEs that are found in foods and endogenous AGEs that are produced in the body. 9 People with diabetes produce an excessive amount of AGEs and are therefore at a higher risk for accelerated aging. 9 Foods processed at high temperatures e.g. cheeses, sausages, processed meats, commercial breakfast cereals and foods cooked at high temperatures e.g. deep-fried, roasted or grilled foods are high in AGEs and their intake should be restricted. 9

advanced glycation endproduct (ages)

High blood pressure

man being tested for high blood pressure

High blood pressure accelerates age-related changes in the blood vessel to the point that young people with high blood pressure have similar blood vessels to older people with normal blood pressure. 10

These blood vessels: 10

  • Are stiffer and less flexible
  • Are inflamed and calcified
  • Don’t function as well as normal blood vessels

Importantly, when the high blood pressure is controlled, these changes are diminished. 10

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diabetes spelled out with digital testing machine

The high sugar levels in diabetes promote cellular senescence (cells stop growing), which is a fundamental ageing mechanism that occurs in the skin, muscle, fat and kidney tissues. 11

Diabetes also results in high levels of “AGEs” (advanced glycation end products) in the body, which lead to skin hardening and wrinkle formation. 9,12

People with both obesity and diabetes are at risk for skin changes like those seen in the elderly: 12

  • Decreased skin elasticity
  • Drier skin
  • More wrinkles

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High cholesterol

cholesterol dial indicating high

High cholesterol can not only damage the lining of the blood vessels, but it can also promote aging of the blood vessels. 13

Blood vessels in patients with high cholesterol:

  • Are stiffer and less flexible 14
  • Develop fatty plaques 13

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References: 1. Stanner S, Denny A. Healthy ageing: the role of nutrition and lifestyle – a new British Nutrition Foundation Task Force Report. Nutr Bull 2009;34:58-63. 2. Bunker JP. The role of medical care in contributing to health improvements within societies. Int J Epidemiol 2001;30(6):1260-1263. 3. American Hospital Association. When I’m 64. How Boomers Will Change Health Care. [online] [Cited 2017 Mar 29]. Available from: URL: 4. Christensen K, Doblhammer G, Rau R, Vaupel JW. Ageing populations: the challenges ahead. Lancet 2009;374(9696):1196-1208. 5. World Health Organization (WHO). Global Health and Aging. [online] [Cited 2017 Mar 29]. Available from: URL: 6. Mak TN, Caldeira S. The Role of Nutrition in Active and Healthy Ageing. For prevention and treatment of age-related diseases: evidence so far. JRC Science and Policy Reports. [Online] 2014 [cited 2016 Mar 15]. Available from: URL: 7. Barton M, Husmann M, Meyer MR. Accelerated Vascular Aging as a Paradigm for Hypertensive Vascular Disease: Prevention and Therapy. Canadian J Cardiol 2016;32(5):680-686. 8. National Institute of Diabetes and Disgestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke. [online] 2017 Feb [cited 2018 Nov 13]. Available from: URL: 9. Semba RD, Nicklett EJ, Ferrucci L. Does Accumulation of Advanced Glucation End Products Contribute to the Aging Phenotype? J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2010;65A(9):963-975. 10. Harvey A, Montezano AC, Touyz RM. Vascular biology of ageing – Implications in hypertension. J Molecul Cellul Cardiol 2015;83:112-121. 11. Palmer AK, Tchkonia T, LeBrasseur NK, Chini RN, Xu M, Kirkland JL. Cellular Senescence in Type 2 Diabetes: A Therapeutic Opportunity. Diabetes 2015;64:2289-2293. 12. Ibuki A, Kuriyama S, Toyosaki Y, Aiba M, Hidaka M, Horie Y, et al. Aging-like physiological changes in the skin of Japanese obese diabetic patients. SAGE Open Med 2018;6:1-6. 13. Tetè S, Tripodi D, Rosati M, Conti F, Maccauro G, Saggini A, et al. Endothelial cells, cholesterol, cytokines, and aging. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol 2012;25(2):355-363. 14. Jani B, Rajkumar C. Ageing and vascular ageing. Postgrad Med J 2006;82:357-362.

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