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Are Senescent Cells A Key To Healthy Aging? What We Know So Far

Gretchen Lidicker, M.S.
Author:
January 13, 2023
Gretchen Lidicker, M.S.
mbg Health Contributor
By Gretchen Lidicker, M.S.
mbg Health Contributor
Gretchen Lidicker earned her master’s degree in physiology with a focus on alternative medicine from Georgetown University. She is the author of “CBD Oil Everyday Secrets” and “Magnesium Everyday Secrets.”
Image by Oleksii Syrotkin / Stocksy
January 13, 2023

Healthy aging is a topic that always garners a lot of attention. And it makes sense! Aging is universal. None of us (except maybe Jennifer Lopez and Paul Rudd?) are exempt from the passage of time. 

As you age, your risk of developing a disease or falling severely ill increases. Age is one of the major risk factors1 for inflammatory diseases, as well as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, dementia, and cancer. 

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To put it simply: The older we get, the more likely it is that things go wrong. But what explains this phenomenon? According to an article published in Nature Aging2, the answer may lie in a specific type of cell, called a senescent cell.

Healthy aging and your cells.

Senescent cells3 are a unique type of cell in that they stop dividing in response to stressors but don't die like other cells. Instead, they stick around wreaking havoc in the body, producing chronic inflammation

Researchers have suspected for years that these cells play a key role in age-related disease. Most recently, researchers from the Jackson Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health have collected and analyzed 18 tissues from healthy humans across their life span to understand exactly how these cells are involved in the aging process.

The early results of this ongoing research project, published in the journal Nature Aging2, showed that removing senescent cells from human tissue delayed the onset of age-related issues and was associated with longevity.

Time to get to know your senescent cells?

You might read this and think: Time to get rid of all my senescent cells! But unfortunately, it's not quite that simple. Like most cells, senescent cells play multiple roles in the body. The molecules expressed by senescent cells are involved in embryonic development, wound healing, and childbirth too. 

This makes them a complicated and ambiguous area of research—and this study is just scratching the surface. It doesn't tell us exactly how to leverage senescent cells for a longer, healthier life while still taking advantage of their benefits. That said, it does give us the clear message that therapies that remove senescent cells—an area of medical research called senotherapeutics—is absolutely worth paying attention to.

In the future, these therapies might just hold the key to health span and longevity. Researchers are hopeful that the more we learn about senescent cells, the better we can become at identifying individuals at higher risk for age-related disease, too.

In the meantime, we can still focus on the healthy aging tools that have plenty of science backing them up. There is a long list, but some of the more doable ones include: 

  • Play team sports: We all know that exercise is beneficial to our health. But according to a study4 published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, competitive sports like tennis, badminton, and soccer are even more beneficial for longevity than solo sports like cycling, swimming, or running. This could be due to the fact that they promote social interactions too, which have also been associated with longevity.
  • Get your micronutrients: Your body is an incredibly complicated machine, and nutrients—including vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, magnesium, and iron—help all the moving parts run smoothly. One easy way to cover your nutritional bases is to take a daily multivitamin. (Here are 18 of our favorites to try out!) Taking a high-quality multivitamin has also been linked5 to healthy cognition as you age. 
  • Eat high-quality food: A study published in 20176 showed that people who increased their intake of healthy foods (like fish, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables) by 20% decreased their risk of early death by up to 17% over the course of 12 years. 
  • Look on the bright side: A positive mindset is key to healthy aging. One study on over 100,000 women7 showed that those considered to have "high levels of optimism" lived between 11 and 15% longer than those who were the least optimistic. Here are a few ways to train yourself to be genuinely more optimistic.
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The takeaway. 

When it comes to aging, we're all in it together. Senescent cells may hold a key to preventing age-related illness, but we're still a long ways off from knowing exactly how senescent cell therapies might be used. Until then, we can focus on eating healthy, supplementing where necessary, staying active, and being positive in the quest for improved longevity and health span.

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Gretchen Lidicker, M.S.
Gretchen Lidicker, M.S.
mbg Health Contributor

Gretchen Lidicker is an mbg health contributor, content strategist, and the author of CBD Oil Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Hemp-Derived Health and Wellness and Magnesium Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Epsom Salts, Magnesium Oil, and Nature's Relaxation Mineral. She holds a B.S. in biology and earned her master’s degree in physiology with a concentration in complementary and alternative medicine from Georgetown University.