How working out your ageotype could help you live healthier for longer

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Fabio Buonocore

THERE is a (probably apocryphal) story about Henry Ford sending agents out to junkyards across the US in search of scrapped Model Ts. The famous industrialist wanted to know which of the car’s vital components failed first, so he could do something about it. The agents reported back that every bit of the car was susceptible to failure, but some were more susceptible than others, except for one – a component of the steering system called the kingpin, which almost never failed. They expected Ford to announce plans to extend the working lives of the weaker components. Instead, he ordered his engineers to make less resilient kingpins. No point wasting good money on a component that always outlived the others.

As in Model T Fords, so, too, the human body. All of our parts are susceptible to the ravages of time, but it turns out that some age more quickly than others. Exactly which parts fail first is a bit of a lottery. “Everybody’s ageing differently,” says Michael Snyder, a geneticist at Stanford University in California. You might have a young immune system but elderly kidneys, for example, or a decrepit metabolism but youthful liver.

Now, studies have revealed that we tend to age down one of four different pathways. This is your “ageotype” – the principle way in which you, personally, are ageing. The bad news is that the oldest part of your body may be dragging the rest of it down. The good news is that by working out your ageotype, you might be able to target it to live healthier for longer.

The discovery of ageotypes has …

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