Aging in the Face and Longevity

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

Imagine this: After signing up for a new life insurance policy, an insurance underwriter visits you to take your blood pressure and weight, but then takes a snapshot of your face as well. That picture shows all the aging in your face: saggy skin, mottled spots, and wrinkles. Then the underwriter uploads your photo into a computer program that calculates how long you will live. In the future, aging in the face could be used as a biomarker for lifespan and how much insurance costs you.

Predictive Technology That Uses Aging in the Face

Aging in the face can determine your expected longevityThe technology of facial recognition has been used to hunt criminals and to guess the features of a missing child as an adult. But this same technology could soon be used to predict your lifespan. A system is being designed by scientists to analyze the health prospects of an individual based on how their face has matured.

This idea was set forth by a biodemographer of the University of Illinois in Chicago, Jay Olshansky. According to him, it is well known in the aging field that some individuals tend to grow old, or senesce, faster while for others the aging process is relatively slow. The children of those who age slower also tend to live longer lives compared to other individuals.

Even though this research on facial recognition technology is in the initial stages, it has managed to spark interest in insurance company executives. They view it as an excellent means to determine premiums. Olshansky also felt this technology could benefit individuals by encouraging them to change their lifestyles to healthier ones before it is too late.

In this technology, a computer is used to scan a picture of the face to determine aging signs. While referencing all the known factors that have an impact on longevity like an individual’s smoking history, education level, gender, and race, the system will then evaluate all parts of the jowl, mouth, brow, eyes, and cheeks. The computer will examine these sections for shading variations that indicate drooping, dark spots, lines, or any other aging changes that will then be compared to other individuals of the same background and age to determine their future appearance.

Could We All Live to Be 100?

The aging population in the United States is growing day by day. Research to determine ways to increase the healthy years is a hot topic for private and public entities.

Recently the National Institutes of Health introduced an exceptional collaborative project across 20 of its 27 specialized institutions for addressing longevity and aging in the hopes of working with other emerging ventures on this topic.

The social and economic implications could be overwhelming. According to longevity experts, one day it will become common to live to 100 years. Apart from this, the quality of life during an individual’s final years could improve drastically, which will also reduce the burdens that the aging population imposes.

According to Olshansky, co-author of the Health Affairs’ paper as well as a research associate at the Centre on Aging of the University of Chicago, an increase in life expectancy by 2.2 years by slowing the process of aging might help save about $7.1 trillion in entitlement and disability programs in over 50 years.

Focusing more on the aging process instead of age-related diseases, according to longevity experts, is the main key to extend a healthy life. They state that even slight progress in slowing the process of aging, such as aging in the face, could make a much larger difference in social systems and quality of life than major progress in tackling merely one disease.

As a matter of fact, experts propose that existing drugs being used for age-related problems might even work as they are already slowing it overall.

Even though it is unclear whether people might live 150 years one day, as a few have predicted, experts are quite optimistic that healthspan or number of healthy years could be increased significantly and age-related diseases could be reduced.

The Role of Chronic Stress in Aging

It will be interesting as aging research progresses to discover more ways that chronic stress plays into our health and longevity. When chronic stress is present, it affects the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response system, which has system-wide effects on your body, from detoxification and metabolism, to hormone levels and heart function. A slow metabolism also creates issues with aging in the face, body, and fitness. Chronic stress can also be a big contributor to premature aging and aging in the face through other mechanisms.

When the body is facing chronic stress, the NEM stress response system becomes compromised. Part of the NEM stress response system is the inflammation circuit and response, which involves the microbiome, gut, and immune system. To deal with stress, the inflammation response creates a hostile environment to keep harmful intruders away. These include toxins, parasites, viruses, and bacteria. At the same time, it cleans away the cells and tissues that were already damaged by the pathogens.

Stress-induced inflammation also has an effect on the body’s telomeres. These are the protective caps at the ends of one’s cell chromosomes. When they get changed or shortened, their function is compromised and the cells age faster. In fact, a study in San Francisco, California found that chronic stress is associated with shorter length of telomeres. Moreover, these shortened telomeres were the equivalent of about ten years of additional aging. Another research study in Boston found that women with shorter telomeres also suffered from phobic anxiety.
As chronic stress continues, the body eventually suffers from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). This is a condition that is characterized by significant hormonal imbalance. Among the hormones affected is the primary stress hormone cortisol. Unfortunately, high levels of cortisol can also increase oil production in the body. This, in turn, can lead to skin problems and further encourage skin aging.

Tips to Prevent Aging in the Face

Now that you have a better idea of how chronic stress can readily contribute to aging in the face, it’s time to learn what you can do to stop premature aging. However, you may also want to consult your physician first before trying an anti-aging solution, especially if you have a serious condition like AFS.

That said, here are some ways to prevent aging in the face while combating chronic stress:

Supplement with omega-3.

Omega-3 fatty acids can combat oxidative stress and aging itself. In fact, a study in California found that an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids is inversely associated with telomere shortening.

Take some collagen.

Collagen is the fibrous protein found in the skin, bones, tendons, and several connective tissues. Taking a collagen supplement can help heal skin damage and stop aging.

Take care of your gut.

Eating healthy and reducing inflammation both play a role in slowing aging. Taking a good probiotic can also help keep your gut young.

Detoxify your body regularly.

Proper detoxification and cleansing of the body helps remove toxins that speed up the aging process. You can do this by drinking lots of water and exercising daily. Meanwhile, you can also do a face detox by having a regular facial done or using a facial cleanser regularly. This way, harmful bacteria and other toxins can be effectively removed.

Eat well, live healthily.

To be able to fight off stress more effectively and prevent any signs of aging, you need to commit to a healthy lifestyle. It is therefore important to maintain a wholesome diet and a healthy lifestyle while aging to manage the NEM stress response and other systems in the body.

Today, premature aging is a serious problem, and stress is one of its main contributors. By handling stress better, you can keep your face from aging too quickly. And the steps you take to care for your body lead to a happier and healthier life.

© Copyright 2015 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

When the body is experiencing chronic stress, it can cause premature aging in the face without warning. This is because stress can induce inflammation in the body, which leads to shortened telomeres. When this happens, the body experiences cellular aging.

Aging in the face