Do you feel you've aged 10 years since having Covid-19?

For me it was more like 20 years to be fair. My skin was grey, dry and wrinkled, I couldn't climb up the stairs without huffing and puffing, I had new onset angina, I was covered with Campbell de Morgan spots, old age pensioners would overtake me on a walk, and of course the brain fog which feels like early-onset dementia. My partner said that if they ever made a film of my Long Covid journey Dame Maggie Smith would play my role!

But seriously I put the "feeling ancient" to a whole body assault from a deadly virus. One from which, I have to keep reminding myself, that I had survived. With 2.15% of the total infected world population having died so far it is the roll of the dice.

Over the past 19 months I improved my nutrition, I researched and then promptly took every supplement known to man, I used an oxygen concentrator daily, I intermittently fast and I tried hyperbaric oxygen and far infrared therapies to try to feel like my former self again. I have improved marginally - but it is marginally.

I think most of us with Long Covid have symptoms which we may at one point considered to be common in an elderly population - fatigue, breathlessness, memory loss, sleep disorders and difficulty concentrating.

I NEVER in my wildest nightmares thought that Covid-19 would prove to have ACTUALLY aged me.

In a recent paper "Evidence for Biological Age Acceleration and Telomere Shortening in COVID-19 Survivors" the researchers demonstrated a biological age acceleration of up to 10 years.

Key points

Chronological age - your actual age

Biological age - how old your cells appear to be based on their current condition. Your biological age indicates how much aging and damage has occurred inside your body over the course of your lifetime.

If your chronological age equals your biological age it means that your body is aging appropriately.

If your biological age is less than your actual age, it means that your body is aging more slowly than what is typical for your age.

If your biological age is higher than your actual age, it may mean that there’s been a lot of damage to your cells and your body is aging more rapidly than someone of your actual age.

What did the researchers do?

They took a cohort of 117 COVID-19 survivors and 144 non-infected volunteers (COVID-19-free). The two groups in the study were not significantly different in terms of age, sex, and known clinical conditions before SARS-CoV-2 infection, except for a relatively higher incidence of BMI > 30 in the post-COVID-19 population compared with controls, as well as a record of more frequent lung diseases.

They analyzed their DNA using pyrosequencing of defined CpG islands which has previously been identified as suitable for biological age determination. The test they used was DeltaAge - where a positive DeltaAge is considered an acceleration of the biological age. Studies into patients with HIV and CMV have shown positive DeltaAges. They also knew from previous work that shorter telomeres ( see below) are associated with the risk of developing worse COVID-19 symptoms.

What did they find?

1. Biological age increase - the results showed a consistent biological age increase in the post-COVID-19 population, determining a DeltaAge acceleration of 10.45 ± 7.29 years (+5.25 years above the range of normality) compared with 3.68 ± 8.17 years for the COVID-19-free population (p < 0.0001).

The p number is very, very low which means this is a very, very significant finding.

2. A shortening of the telomeres in the post-COVID-19 cohort compared with COVID-19-free subjects (p < 0.0001). Telomeres are sections of DNA that found at the ends of each of our chromosomes. It's like a "cap" on the end of the chromosomes protecting them. There are several indications that telomere length is a good predictor of lifespan. It is not certain whether telomere shortening is responsible for ageing in humans or whether it is just a sign of ageing, like grey hair.

3. ACE2 expression was decreased in post-COVID-19 patients, compared with the COVID-19-free population. A low expression of ACE2 causes an accumulation of angiotensin II, which may exacerbate conditions leading to respiratory distress, hypertension, arrhythmia, cardiac hypertrophy, left ventricular function failure, atherosclerosis, and aortic aneurysms. Moreover, ACE2 is negatively correlated with ageing; it is relatively abundant in young and healthy people with significantly less risk of cardiovascular diseases, while a lower quantity is observed in the elderly.

In light of these observations, we hypothesize that some epigenetic alterations are associated with the post-COVID-19 condition, particularly in younger patients (< 60 years).

Summary of findings

What were their conclusions?

They found that a consistently accelerated DeltaAge - 5.22 years above the normal range in the post-COVID-19 population, and particularly for those chronologically under 60 years.

This observation was accompanied by significant telomere shortening in the post-COVID-19 population. There was reduced expression of ACE2.

"In light of these observations, we hypothesize that some epigenetic alterations are associated with the post-COVID-19 condition, particularly in younger patients (< 60 years)".

So what do you do now?

Firstly don't lose hope! Remember this is research and that doesn't always reflect YOU individually.

There are things that can help reduce your biological age which you may have already started in your Long Covid healing journey. Such as:

  • 16:8 Intermittent fasting

  • 15-20 minutes a day of intentional movement/ exercise

  • Infrared saunas, HBOT

  • Reduce EMF exposure

  • Don't smoke

  • Reduce exposure to environmental toxins

  • Reduce chronic stress

  • And my personal favourite - cold water swimming


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