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By FlowerPowerMom.com expert, Lorne Brown B.SC., CA, Dr.TCM, FABORM, CHt.

If you are one of the millions of 35 + woman trying to conceive you should feel encouraged by some exciting new studies suggesting that it may be possible to improve a woman’s egg quality and slow down, or even reverse premature aging. The explanation for this lies in what medical science is now learning about the difference between chronological and biological aging.

 

Chronological versus Biological Age

Your chronological age is determined by how many birthdays you’ve had. And there is nothing you can do about that except to celebrate!  But your biological age—how well your body systems function compared to others that are the same age– appears to be something that you can influence by your diet and lifestyle.

Scientists have established what they call biomarkers for many of our physiological processes like, blood pressure, muscle strength, and immune system function. Your biological age is determined by comparing these biomarkers to the average results of others who have the same chronological age.

It appears that the reproductive system may be another important “biomarker” for aging. Your ovaries use up more energy than any other organ in the body and you can think of them as “the canaries in the coal mine” as they are particularly susceptible to factors that cause premature aging in other systems in the body.

For example studies show that women who smoke experience menopause, on average, two years earlier than women who don’t smoke. That means that their “reproductive age” is at least two years older than non-smokers with the same chronological age.

It appears that your ability to conceive a child depends more on the age that you go into menopause (your biological age) than simply how many birthdays you have had (your chronological age). Conversely, your reproductive age may be a predictor for longevity as a whole.

A study of centenarians (women who lived to be over 100) showed a much higher than normal number of them had given birth in their late 40’s and even 50’s The fact that they were able to conceive and give birth at this advanced aged suggests that they were aging at a slower rate than their less fertile peers.

A study published in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology on biological versus chronological ovarian age shows that both environmental and genetic factors contribute to egg quantity and quality, and that biological age is more important than chronological age in predicting the outcome of in vitro fertilization (http://www.rbej.com/content/7/1/101).

This variability in the rate at which people age seems to have more to do with lifestyle and environmental factors than innate genetics.

For examples, studies of the Okinawans of Japan, who had the longest life expectancy as well as the longest health expectance of any people in the world, show that diet, exercise, stress and lifestyle can have a very significant impact on your health and longevity.

 

Accelerated Aging

What causes accelerated aging?

Accelerated aging is primarily the result of the evil twins: inflammation and oxidative stress. Together they disrupt the homeostasis (balance) of the body, interfere with the metabolic feedback system and cause body functions to decline.

 

Inflammation

Inflammation in your body occurs normally when your body tries to defend itself against injury or invading diseases. According to Dr Mark Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution, this normal response goes wrong when your defense system begins attacking itself. This overactive immune response can create chronic hidden inflammation (High insulin levels are the most common source of chronic inflammation). Hidden inflammation is at the root of most chronic illness: heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and causes accelerated aging in all the system the body including the reproductive system.

 

Oxidative stress

The role of your metabolism is to take the oxygen you breathe and the food you eat and process it to make energy. When the food is burned or metabolized with oxygen in the mitochondria; waste is produced in the form of free radicals that create a chain reaction of rusting or oxidation

Oxidative stress is the by-product of this energy production in the same way that exhaust is the by-product of your car engine burning gas.

The problem arises when your body is subject to chronic oxidative stress as the result of environmental toxins, allergens, eating too many calories, stress, and a poor quality diet high in refined carbs and unhealthy fats.

Oxidative stress accelerates ageing by affecting your body’s regulatory systems, such as the nervous, endocrine and immune and reproductive system. This “disregulation” causes the feedback systems of your body to function less efficiency and impairs your body’s ability to maintain homeostasis (balance) and, therefore, health and fertility.

One of the most powerful things you can do to minimize oxidative stress is to eat a diet high in antioxidants. Deeply coloured fruits and veggies like cranberries, blueberries, plums, blackberries yams, beets, broccoli and carrots are particularly rich in anti-oxidants like polyphenols. These miraculous compounds clean up the free radicals and positively affect cell to cell signaling, receptor sensitivity, inflammatory enzyme activity and gene regulation.

 

Stress

Chronic stress is another factor that speeds up the biological clock. Stress hormones like cortisol wreak havoc on the body and its systems, interfere with insulin levels, cause weight gain, create inflammation and damage DNA.

A recent study has shown that anxiety in women was associated with shorter telomeres http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0040516

Telomeres are DNA-protein complexes at the ends of chromosomes (like the tips on the ends of your shoe laces that prevent them from unravelling).  They protect chromosomes from deteriorating and guard the genetic information at the ends of chromosomes during cell division. Telomeres are considered markers of biological or cellular aging. Shortened telomeres have been linked to increased risk of cancers, heart disease, dementia and mortality.

 

Factors that Cause Accelerated Aging

The main factors that cause your biological (and hence reproductive) clock to tick faster are:

  • Processed high GI diet
  • Too many calories
  • Lack of antioxidants (fruits and vegetables) in the diet
  • Chronic  stress
  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor sleep
  • Social isolation and lack of support network
  • Environmental toxins

The good news is that by changing your diet and life style you can reverse the process of accelerated aging, slow down your reproductive clock and achieve peak fertility.

 

Notes for this blog:

Dr. Lorne Brown B.Sc, CA, Dr. TCM, FABORM, CHt is the founder and clinical director of Acubalance Wellness Centre, the first Traditional Chinese Medicine clinic in British Columbia dedicated to reproductive health and fertility. He is also a panel expert for FlowerPowerMom.com–to watch his video discussion on how TCM can enhance later fertility, go to: http://www.achildafter40.com/our_expert_panel/.

After receiving his Dr. of Chinese Medicine at Vancouver’s International College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Lorne completed extensive postgraduate training in gynecology, obstetrics and reproductive medicine under notable experts in the field. He is a Fellow of the American Board of  Oriental Reproductive Medicine (ABORM) (http://www NULL.aborm NULL.org/), and a registered Clinical Hypnotherapist.

9 Responses to What Is Your Real Reproductive Age?

  1. Carolyn (http://www NULL.mommyinthmiddle NULL.com) says:

    Boy, this is like reading my own recipe for conception. I conceived at 45 and wasn’t really trying. But really, I WAS, I just didn’t know it yet.

    Because pregnancy came 18 months after quitting my career (temporarily anyway) and eliminating a boatload of stress. Chronic stress, that is.

    Then, because I wanted to get healthy, I made a whole laundry list of lifestyle changes.

    For example, I established a better exercise routine, healthier sleep habits, a sunnier outlook on life.

    My high cholesterol drove me to cut back on junk food and bulk up on the ol’ bright orange and dark green leafy veggies – rich in antioxidants.

    After my son came along, I did let some of these healthy habits slip. So maybe that’s why I’m finishing menopause at the average age of 52.

    Here’s hoping I’ll be one of those ninety-something women who gets to see her son marry and give her grandchildren.

    Thanks for this article, Angel and Dr. Brown, I’m sure it will help a lot of women (after all, it’s never to late to slow down the biological clock!)

  2. Sharyl V says:

    It was only AFTER I had gastric bypass at the age of 43, and I got my life and body back in order, did I conceive. And let me tell you, I wasn’t trying to concieve at all. We didn’t use birth control but I figured the chances were next to nothing anyways, so who cares??
    At 45, I found out I was pregnant. I had my baby at 46. I am now 47 and my baby is 9 months old, and the biggest blessing EVER.
    Something I thought would NEVER be possible………IS!!! And I wouldn’t change it for anything. I wish I could have another!!!

  3. Lylas says:

    Although these suggested lifestyle changes are good at any age, I’m not sure women in their late 40’s and early 50’s will be able to influence their fertility substantially solely because of them.
    One interesting idea in this article is that later menopause may translate to longevity. Since I’m 53 and have regular periods, I’m hoping this is a sign I’ll see my grandchildren grow up. My son is only two so it is nice to think that is possible.

  4. Karlyn says:

    A twist on the chronological versus biological age issue –

    I remember when I had my initial IVF consult at 46 years old (after having had two beautiful healthy children earlier at the ripe old ages of 39 and 40, and using clomid for only one of those pregnancies) my IVF nurse told me, “Honey, just because you look like you are 36 does not mean you have 36 year old eggs….”

    Flash forward eight months later, pregnant with my daughter and in the last weeks of my pregnancy, I was doing the usual “rounds” of ob-gyn doctor visits. The doctor I was seeing that day looked at his chart, looked at me, looked at his chart again and told me, “I don’t understand why you are here this morning. You are 46 years old and having the pregnancy of a 26 year-old. Go back to work. You’re doing great.”

    I so wanted to find that IVF nurse to tell her that even with my 46 year old eggs I was “kickin’ it” in terms of my pregnancy!

    BTW – I work full time and have been running and exercising regularly and making smart dietary choices for the last 25 years. It can be done and done well!

  5. Angel LaLiberte (http://www NULL.flowerpowermom NULL.com) says:

    Hi Karlyn,
    My husband and I went to an IVF clinic when I was 44. He had fertility issues and we were not ready to take the route of an egg donor. The clinic basically gave us a push out the door, as if to say: “Good luck with that!”. LIttle did I know I was already pregnant at the time and gave birth just before turning 45. My husband wanted to send the clinic a picture of our beautiful baby daughter.
    Certainly, fertility does decline significantly after 40, but that does not mean conception is impossible and I think there’s a lot we can do to enhance our fertility and reduce the impact of aging, especially if we start sooner than later.
    BTW, anyone who wants to read up on the story, can click here: http://flowerpowermom.com/natural-conception-after-40/ (http://flowerpowermom NULL.com/natural-conception-after-40/)

  6. Kenda Packard (http://AmericanHealthJournaldotcom) says:

    AmericanHealthJournal is looking for partner sites in the medical field. AHJ is a health content site which contains over three thousand of high quality medical videos. We are looking for blog owners who may be interested in content based partnerships. We can offer content exchanges, link exchanges, and exposure to your site. Contact us at our contact form on our site.

  7. Lisa says:

    I have been trying with my husband for 5 months to get pregnant, naturally. We have not used any fertility drugs to date. The doctor has told me that I am healthy, and my hormones are in good order. I will be 42 in October and every month that goes by I feel more defeated. I dread getting my period, and I feel so disappointed that we have not conceived yet. I have purchased many ovulation kits to help predict ovulation.

  8. Janna.W (http://bbbn NULL.ga2h NULL.com/) says:

    interesting post.. i believe my two problems are stress n poor sleep .. thnx

  9. Simone says:

    Question is: can you still conceive if you have low egg reserve? My AMH is below 0.5, and I already lost a pregnancy at 37 weeks due to sudden severe preeclampsia… so what chances do I really have to conceive again? would healthy diet/life style really help beat these factors?… :(

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