For most of us, the ultimate aim is to live a long, happy and healthy life. And generally, we don’t ever expect to know when our number might be up.
However, new research from British scientists means that we might soon be able to know if we’re at risk of an early death – by analysing how far our ‘brain age’ differs from our real age.
In the study conducted by Imperial College London, doctors found that by analysing the brain, and the volume of brain tissue, they could be able to tell our how old our brain is, and how far it differs from our biological age.
The study found that, if our so-called brain age varied greatly from our real age, we could be at risk of dying younger. In particular, the study – when tested on adults in Scotland – found that the bigger the difference between your predicted brain age and your chronological age, the higher your risk of dying before the age of 80 – terrifying, right?
Similarly, the greater the difference in the two ages, the more likely you are to be in poor mental and physical health, and that those with an older brain age had a slower walking speed, a weaker hand grip, and a lower lung capacity.
It all sounds pretty scary. But here’s the good news. The findings could actually turn out to be pretty beneficial, as they should help doctors to advise people on how to change the age of their brain, and therefore improve their overall health.
James Cole, who led the study, explained, “People use the ‘age’ of an organ all the time to talk about health. Smokers are said to have lungs that are 20 years older than they should be, you can even answer online questionnaires about exercise and diet and get a ‘heart age’. This technique could eventually be like that.”
But before you get too excited about this new piece of tech, and how it might be able to improve your health, it’s worth being aware that it needs a fair bit more development before it can be widely used.
Cole revealed that the technique currently has a margin error of about five years – which they are hoping to improve.
And unfortunately, MRI scanners are still too expensive to allow the technique to be rolled out across the country – but researchers are apparently hoping that this expense will soon go down.
Cole verified, “In the long run it would be great if we could do this accurately enough so that we could do it at an individual level. However, at the moment, it’s not sufficiently accurate to be used at that sort of individual level.”