Background: Biological processes of aging are thought to be modifiable causes of many different chronic diseases. Measures of biological aging could provide sensitive endpoints for studies of risk factors hypothesized to shorten healthy lifespan and/or interventions that extend it. But uncertainty remains about how to measure biological aging and if proposed measures assess the same thing. Method: We tested four proposed measures of biological aging that could be quantified with available data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), Klemera-Doubal method (KDM) Biological Age, homeostatic dysregulation, Levine Method (LM) Biological Age, and leukocyte telomere length. Results: We analyzed data collected during 1999–2002, when all four biological aging meausres could be taken. Participants’ KDM biological ages, homeostatic dysregulation levels, LM biological ages, and telomere length were all correlated with their chronological ages. KDM Biological Age, homeostatic dysregulation, and LM Biological Age were all correlated with one another, but these measures were uncorrelated with telomere length. Participants’ with more advanced biological aging performed worse on tests of physical, cognitive, and perceptual functioning and reported more limitations to their daily activities and more pain, and rated themselves as being in worse health. In parallel, participants with risk factors for shorter healthy lifespan exhibited more advanced biological aging. In both sets of analyses, effect-sizes tended to be larger for KDM Biological Age, homeostatic dysregulation, and LM Biological Age as compared to telomere length. Discussion: The cellular-level aging biomarker telomere length may measure different aspects of the aging process as compared to the patient-level physiological composite measures KDM Biological Age, homeostatic dysregulation, and LM Biological Age. Studies aiming to test if risk factors accelerate aging or if interventions may slow aging should not treat proposed measures of aging as interchangeable.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Biological Psychiatry