Dr. Jason Litner, MD FRCSC (photo)

How Your Genetics Affect Your Aging Process

How Your Genetics Affect Your Aging Process

Posted by Dr. Litner and Dr. Solieman on July 20th, 2016

Have you ever wondered why some individuals seem to naturally defy their age?

Or, conversely, why others look older than they actually are? It is the genetic lottery, you may quip – and it is quite true. Although environmental factors – exposure to sun, harmful habits such as smoking, stress – highly influence the aging process, our genes also play a significant role. A recent study reveals a connection between a certain gene and a person’s perceived age.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, focuses on a gene called MC1R. For reasons scientists still do not fully understand certain forms of MC1R – a gene associated with red hair and freckles – can make a person look older than they are. In the study, people were asked to estimate the age of 2,700 Dutch senior citizens. Scientists then studied the genetic code (DNA) of individuals whose ages were estimated to be beyond their actual years. The objective was to find a common string of code and their results indicated a link to a variant of MC1R. Precisely how the gene affects the appearance is vague, but evidence points to it having an impact on skin quality. MC1R is involved in DNA repair, which may provide some insight. A cell’s ability to correct damage is vital to the body’s functionality. Cellular repair and protection influences life span.

The science of aging is complex and an area of active research. While we are all subject to inner workings of our genes, it is important to remember that lifestyle and external factors remain important elements in the aging process. Moreover, how we age is related to our overall health, not just our looks. Maintaining a balanced and active lifestyle will help our bodies function efficiently and optimally – from the inside out. A poor diet can inhibit the body’s ability to heal and regenerate. Smoking and tobacco use depletes the skin of key nutrients and hydrating elements, leading to premature aging and an unhealthy complexion.

In addition to healthy lifestyle choices, proper skincare can also support more youthful skin. The skin should be protected daily from the ultraviolet (UV) to rays emitted by the sun. Tanning and burning not only contribute to wrinkles, sun spots, and leathery skin, they put the skin at risk for cancer. Applying a moisturizer with SPF 15 or higher every day can help shield the skin from UV radiation. Dermal fillers can help to add volume and hide wrinkles, but with proper care you can postpone the age where you need to think about these types of treatments.

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