Sagging Eyelids? Your Age and Genetics May Be the Reason

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Sagging Eyelids? Your Age and Genetics May Be the Reason

Date of Content: May 3, 2024
Written by: Jess Gayo
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD

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Overview

Ever looked in the mirror and noticed your eyelids drooping more than they used to? Eyelid sagging, also known as dermatochalasis, is a common condition that affects the appearance and function of the eyes.

Eyelid sagging occurs when the muscles responsible for lifting the eyelids weaken or the skin loses its elasticity. This can lead to a tired or aged appearance and, in severe cases, can impair vision. Various factors contribute to eyelid sagging, including aging, which is the most prevalent cause. 

While eyelid sagging is often associated with older adults, it can affect people of all ages, including children. Understanding the underlying causes and potential treatments is essential for managing and mitigating the impact of eyelid sagging on both appearance and eye health.

What is Eyelid Sagging?

Age-related eyelid sagging or drooping, in the forms of dermatochalasis or ptosis, are common conditions that occur as part of the natural aging process. As people age, the skin and muscles around the eyes undergo changes that lead to the drooping of the upper eyelids. The primary factors contributing to this condition include the weakening of the levator muscles, which are responsible for lifting the eyelids, and the loss of skin elasticity due to decreased collagen production.

The skin around the eyes is particularly delicate and thin, making it more susceptible to the effects of aging. Over time, the connective tissues that support the eyelids can stretch and weaken, causing the eyelids to droop. This can give the face a tired or aged appearance and, in more severe cases, can obstruct vision.

Genetics plays a significant role in age-related eyelid sagging. If your parents or close relatives experienced ptosis, you are more likely to develop it as well. Additionally, lifestyle factors such as prolonged sun exposure, smoking, and poor skincare can accelerate the aging process and exacerbate eyelid sagging. For example, UV radiation from the sun can break down collagen and elastin fibers in the skin, hastening its loss of firmness and elasticity. Understanding the interplay between genetics and lifestyle can empower individuals to take proactive steps in managing age-related eyelid sagging.

What Causes Eyelid Sagging?

Eyelid sagging can stem from a variety of causes. Understanding these causes helps individuals grasp how genetics, lifestyle, and health conditions can impact their appearance and eye health.

  • Aging: The most common cause of eyelid sagging is aging. As people get older, the levator muscles, which lift the eyelids, can weaken. Additionally, the skin around the eyes loses elasticity due to decreased collagen production, leading to droopy eyelids.
  • Genetics: Genetics plays a significant role in eyelid sagging. If your parents or grandparents had ptosis, you’re more likely to experience it. This genetic predisposition affects the structure and strength of the eyelid muscles and skin.
  • Medical Conditions: Several medical conditions can cause or exacerbate eyelid sagging. Myasthenia gravis, a disease that disrupts the communication between nerves and muscles, often leads to eyelid sagging. Neurological disorders, like Horner’s syndrome, and systemic conditions such as diabetes can also weaken the eyelid muscles.
  • Trauma and Surgery: Trauma to the eye or surrounding area can damage the muscles or nerves responsible for eyelid movement. Similarly, previous eye surgeries can sometimes result in ptosis, either due to muscle damage or postoperative complications.
  • Lifestyle Factors: While less common, certain lifestyle factors can contribute to eyelid sagging. Chronic rubbing of the eyes, poor diet, and smoking can accelerate the loss of skin elasticity and muscle tone, leading to droopy eyelids.

Understanding these causes highlights the multifaceted nature of eyelid sagging. Genetics, health conditions, and lifestyle choices all interplay to influence whether someone might develop ptosis. Awareness of these factors can help individuals take proactive steps in managing their eye health and appearance.

Is Eyelid Sagging Genetic?

To uncover genetic risk factors for eyelid sagging, a 2018 genome-wide association (GWAS) study was conducted with 502 unrelated Caucasian women from the Paris region, aged between 44 and 70 years old, with an average age of 57.6 years. The severity of their eyelid sagging was categorized into six levels by a dermatologist using standardized facial photographs.

Taking into account potential risk factors such as age and smoking habits, this study identified significant genetic links to eyelid sagging. Specifically, two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on chromosome 10, rs16927253 (P = 7.07 × 10^-10) and rs4746957 (P = 1.06 × 10^-8), were strongly associated with the severity of eyelid sagging. The rs16927253-T and rs4746957-A alleles showed a protective effect against eyelid sagging. These SNPs are found in the MACROH2A2 (a.k.a. H2AFY2) gene, which is part of the H2A histone family and are also near the AIFM2 gene, which induces apoptosis. 

Additionally, SNPs near the type XIII collagen COL13A1 gene on chromosome 10 and the ADAMTS18 gene on chromosome 16 were identified with a false discovery rate below 0.25, suggesting they might also play a role in eyelid sagging severity. This study highlights several genes that could be important in understanding the genetic factors behind eyelid sagging.

An older 2014 study aimed to identify both non-genetic and genetic risk factors for sagging eyelids. Researchers examined 5,578 unrelated Dutch Europeans from the Rotterdam Study and 2,186 twins from the UK Adult Twin Registry (TwinsUK). Participants’ eyelid sagging was assessed using digital photographs, with severity classified into four categories.

Key findings showed that 17.8% of the Rotterdam Study participants had moderate to severe dermatochalasis. Significant risk factors included age, male sex, lighter skin color, and higher body mass index (BMI). Current smoking was also borderline significant. The study estimated that 61% of the risk for sagging eyelids was due to genetics, based on data from 1,052 twin pairs from TwinsUK, where 15.6% showed dermatochalasis.

A GWAS involving participants from both cohorts identified a significant protective effect of the C-allele of rs11876749  in the DLGAP1 gene, near the TGIF1 gene, which is linked to skin aging. This genetic variant showed a recessive protective effect against sagging eyelids (P = 1.7 × 10^-8). 

The study concluded that, in addition to aging, factors such as male sex, genetic variants, lighter skin color, high BMI, and possibly smoking are involved in the development of sagging eyelids. Dermatochalasis is typically observed in middle-aged or older adults, leading to cosmetic concerns and potentially serious issues like visual field loss and headaches.

What Other Factors Can Affect Eyelid Sagging?

Eyelid sagging is influenced by various environmental factors that can accelerate the aging process and exacerbate the condition. Understanding these factors can help individuals take preventive measures to maintain their eyelid health. Here are the key environmental factors that can affect eyelid sagging:

  1. Sun Exposure: Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is one of the most significant environmental contributors to eyelid sagging. UV rays penetrate the skin and damage collagen and elastin fibers, which are essential for maintaining skin elasticity and firmness. Over time, this breakdown leads to thinner skin and increased sagging around the eyes. To protect against UV damage, it’s important to wear sunscreen with a high SPF, use sunglasses that offer UV protection and wear hats to shield the face from direct sunlight.
  2. Pollution: Air pollution, particularly in urban environments, exposes the skin to harmful particles and free radicals that can accelerate aging. Pollutants such as ozone, particulate matter, and nitrogen dioxide can cause oxidative stress, leading to inflammation and the degradation of skin proteins. This results in the loss of skin elasticity and firmness, contributing to eyelid sagging. Regular cleansing to remove pollutants and using skincare products with antioxidants can help mitigate these effects.
  3. Smoking: Smoking is a major environmental factor that accelerates the aging process, including the development of eyelid sagging. The chemicals in tobacco smoke cause vasoconstriction, reducing blood flow and depriving the skin of essential nutrients and oxygen. Additionally, smoking increases the production of free radicals, which damage collagen and elastin fibers. Studies have shown that smokers are more likely to develop wrinkles and sagging skin compared to non-smokers. Quitting smoking can significantly improve skin health and slow down the aging process.
  4. Diet and Nutrition: Diet plays a crucial role in skin health. A diet high in processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats can accelerate aging and contribute to eyelid sagging. Conversely, a diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals can support collagen production and maintain skin elasticity. Key nutrients include vitamin C (found in citrus fruits, berries, and leafy greens), vitamin E (found in nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables), and omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts). Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water also helps maintain skin moisture and elasticity.
  5. Sleep Habits: Poor sleep habits can contribute to eyelid sagging and other signs of aging. During sleep, the body repairs and regenerates tissues, including the skin. Lack of sleep can lead to increased stress levels and the production of cortisol, a hormone that breaks down collagen. Ensuring adequate, quality sleep helps the skin to recover and maintain its firmness. It’s recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night and practice good sleep hygiene, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and creating a restful environment.
  6. Facial Expressions: Frequent or repetitive facial expressions can lead to the formation of wrinkles and sagging skin around the eyes. For example, squinting, frowning, or smiling can cause the skin to fold and crease. Over time, these expressions can contribute to the weakening of the skin and muscles around the eyes. Wearing sunglasses to reduce squinting and practicing facial relaxation techniques can help minimize these effects.
  7. Stress: Chronic stress affects the body in numerous ways, including the health of the skin. Stress triggers the release of cortisol, which can break down collagen and elastin fibers. This not only accelerates the aging process but also leads to the formation of wrinkles and sagging skin. Managing stress through activities like exercise, meditation, and mindfulness can help protect skin health.

By understanding and addressing these environmental factors, individuals can take proactive steps to protect their skin and potentially delay the onset of eyelid sagging. Combining a healthy lifestyle with good skincare practices can make a significant difference in maintaining youthful and firm eyelids.

Is Eyelid Sagging Permanent?

Age-related eyelid sagging is generally a permanent condition due to the natural aging process. While the condition itself is permanent, there are effective treatments available to address and manage eyelid sagging. 

Non-surgical options include the use of skin-firming creams and treatments that can temporarily tighten the skin around the eyes. For a more long-lasting solution, surgical procedures like blepharoplasty can remove excess skin and tighten the muscles, significantly improving the appearance of sagging eyelids.

Can You Prevent Eyelid Sagging?

Preventing age-related eyelid sagging entirely is not possible due to the natural aging process and genetic predisposition. However, there are several strategies to slow down the progression and minimize its effects. Here are some scientifically-backed methods to help maintain firm and youthful-looking eyelids:

  1. Protect Against UV Damage: Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is a significant factor in skin aging. UV rays break down collagen and elastin, leading to sagging skin. Wearing sunscreen with at least SPF 30, applying it around the eyes, and using sunglasses that block UV rays can protect the delicate skin of the eyelids from sun damage.
  2. Maintain a Healthy Diet: Nutrition plays a crucial role in skin health. A diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals supports collagen production and skin elasticity. Key nutrients include.
  3. Vitamin C: Found in citrus fruits, berries, and leafy greens, it helps in collagen synthesis.
  4. Vitamin E: Present in nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables, protects skin from oxidative stress
  5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, they help maintain skin hydration and elasticity. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water is also essential for keeping the skin supple.
  6. Avoid Smoking: Smoking accelerates skin aging by reducing blood flow and depleting essential nutrients, causing the skin to lose its elasticity. The chemicals in tobacco smoke also increase the production of free radicals, which damage skin cells. Quitting smoking can significantly improve skin health and slow down the aging process.
  7. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene: Adequate sleep is vital for skin regeneration. During sleep, the body repairs and regenerates skin cells, including those around the eyes. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night and practice good sleep hygiene, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and creating a restful environment.
  8. Use Skincare Products: Incorporating anti-aging skin care products can help maintain skin firmness. Look for products containing:
  9. Manage Stress: Chronic stress increases cortisol levels, which can break down collagen and elastin. Managing stress through activities like yoga, meditation, and regular exercise can help protect skin health.
  10. Facial Exercises: Facial exercises can help strengthen the muscles around the eyes. Gentle exercises, such as raising the eyebrows and holding for a few seconds or lightly tapping the area around the eyes, can improve muscle tone and skin elasticity.

By incorporating these habits into daily life, individuals can help slow the progression of age-related eyelid sagging. While genetics play a significant role, lifestyle choices and preventive measures can make a considerable difference in maintaining youthful-looking eyes.

Ways to Treat Eyelid Sagging

Treating age-related eyelid sagging, or ptosis, involves a range of options from non-invasive therapies to surgical interventions. Here are some effective ways to address this condition, based on scientific evidence and expert recommendations:

Topical Treatments

Using anti-aging skincare products can help improve the appearance of sagging eyelids. Key ingredients include:

  • Retinoids: These vitamin A derivatives stimulate collagen production and enhance skin cell turnover, leading to firmer, smoother skin. Retinoids are available in prescription forms like tretinoin and over-the-counter options like retinol.
  • Peptides: Peptides are short chains of amino acids that signal the skin to produce more collagen and elastin. Products containing peptides can help improve skin firmness and elasticity around the eyes.
  • Hyaluronic Acid: This powerful humectant retains moisture, plumping the skin and reducing the appearance of sagging. It helps maintain skin hydration, making the eyelids look smoother and more youthful.

Non-Surgical Procedures

Several non-surgical treatments can effectively address eyelid sagging:

  • Botox: Botulinum toxin injections can lift the brow and reduce the appearance of drooping eyelids by temporarily paralyzing the muscles that pull the eyelids down. This creates a more lifted and youthful appearance.
  • Dermal Fillers: Hyaluronic acid-based fillers can add volume to the area around the eyes, reducing the appearance of sagging. They work by filling in hollows and supporting the skin structure.
  • Laser Therapy: Laser treatments, such as fractional CO2 lasers, can stimulate collagen production and tighten the skin around the eyes. These procedures help improve skin texture and firmness.
  • Radiofrequency (RF) Therapy: RF treatments use energy waves to heat the deep layers of the skin, stimulating collagen production and tightening the skin. This non-invasive procedure can be effective in reducing eyelid sagging.

Surgical Options

For more pronounced sagging, surgical intervention may be necessary:

  • Blepharoplasty: This is the most common surgical procedure for treating eyelid sagging. During blepharoplasty, excess skin, fat, and muscle are removed or repositioned to create a more youthful appearance. The procedure can be performed on the upper eyelids, lower eyelids, or both. It not only improves aesthetics but can also enhance vision if sagging eyelids obstruct the field of view.
  • Ptosis Surgery: If the sagging is due to muscle weakness, ptosis surgery can correct the underlying muscle dysfunction. This involves tightening or reattaching the levator muscle, which lifts the eyelid, resulting in a more open and alert eye appearance.

Lifestyle Modifications

Certain lifestyle changes can support the health of the skin around the eyes:

  • Healthy Diet: Consuming a diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals can support skin health. Foods high in vitamin C, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids are particularly beneficial for maintaining skin elasticity.
  • Sun Protection: Protecting the skin from UV damage is crucial. Wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats can help prevent further sagging by reducing collagen breakdown.
  • Avoid Smoking: Smoking accelerates skin aging by decreasing blood flow and depleting essential nutrients. Quitting smoking can improve skin health and slow down the aging process.

Manage Chronic Conditions

Chronic health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol can increase the risk of hearing loss. Managing these conditions through medication, lifestyle changes, and regular medical check-ups can help prevent or delay the onset of age-related hearing loss.

Regular Skincare Routine

Adopting a consistent skincare routine can help maintain the firmness of the eyelid skin:

  • Cleansing: Gently cleanse the skin around the eyes to remove dirt and pollutants that can contribute to skin aging.
  • Moisturizing: Use a hydrating eye cream to keep the skin around the eyes moisturized and supple.
  • Antioxidants: Incorporate products with antioxidants, such as vitamin C serums, to protect the skin from free radical damage.

Facial Exercises

Facial exercises can strengthen the muscles around the eyes, potentially reducing sagging. Simple exercises, such as raising the eyebrows and holding for a few seconds or gently tapping the area around the eyes, can help tone the muscles and improve skin elasticity.

By combining these treatments and lifestyle changes, individuals can effectively manage age-related eyelid sagging. While genetics play a significant role, proactive measures can significantly enhance the appearance and health of the eyelids.

LifeDNA’s Age-Related Eyelid Sagging Trait Report

Discover the key to maintaining youthful eyes with LifeDNA’s Eyelid Sagging Trait Report. As we age, understanding how our genetics influence the aging process becomes crucial. LifeDNA offers a comprehensive Aging Report that delves into your unique genetic profile, helping you understand your body’s needs as you grow older.

LifeDNA’s Eyelid Sagging Trait Report is part of an extensive suite of over 200 trait reports available under various categories, including NutritionWellness, Vitamins and Supplements, Fitness, Personality and Cognition, Sleep, and Skincare. Our scientifically backed insights provide personalized recommendations to help you tackle eyelid sagging and other age-related changes.

By availing of LifeDNA’s reports, you gain access to tailored advice based on your genetic makeup. Whether you want to improve your skin health, optimize your nutrition, enhance your fitness routine, or understand your sleep patterns, LifeDNA has you covered. Our Premium Reports, like the AgingReport and Methylation Genes Report, offer in-depth analysis and actionable insights that empower you to take control of your wellness journey.

LifeDNA makes it easy to start your path to better health. With personalized recommendations, you can make informed decisions about your skincare routine, dietary choices, and overall wellness. Our reports highlight the importance of genetics in your daily habits and lifestyle, guiding you to achieve optimal health.

Begin your wellness journey today with LifeDNA’s plans. Embrace a future where you understand your body better and make choices that align with your genetic predispositions. Get started with LifeDNA and take the first step towards a healthier, more vibrant you. Explore our range of reports and see how your unique genetic profile can shape a better tomorrow.

Summary

  • Eyelid sagging, in the forms of dermatochalasis and ptosis, affects both appearance and eye function, often leading to a tired look and impaired vision.
  • Aging is a primary cause, as eyelid muscles weaken and skin loses elasticity.
  • While common in older adults, sagging eyelids can affect any age group, including children.
  • Genetic predisposition plays a significant role in eyelid sagging.
  • Lifestyle factors like sun exposure, smoking, and poor skincare can accelerate eyelid sagging.
  • Medical conditions such as myasthenia gravis and neurological disorders can also cause ptosis.
  • Trauma and surgery around the eyes can lead to eyelid sagging due to muscle damage.
  • Environmental factors like pollution and poor diet contribute to the aging of the skin around the eyes.
  • Protective measures include using sunscreen, maintaining a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and ensuring adequate sleep.
  • Genetic studies have identified SNPs near certain genes that influence eyelid sagging severity.
  • Non-surgical treatments include skin-firming creams, Botox, dermal fillers, laser therapy, and radiofrequency therapy.
  • Surgical options like blepharoplasty and ptosis surgery offer more permanent solutions to severe eyelid sagging.
  • A consistent skincare routine and facial exercises can help maintain skin firmness around the eyes.
  • Understanding genetic and environmental factors can help individuals manage and prevent eyelid sagging effectively.

References

  1. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1212294-overview?form=fpf
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-aging-eye-when-to-worry-about-eyelid-problems#:~:text=Ptosis.,can%20also%20cause%20this%20condition.
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/eyelid-drooping
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK500000/#:~:text=Horner%20syndrome%20is%20a%20rare,in%20the%20sympathetic%20nerve%20supply.
  5. https://www.infocusops.com/how-droopy-eyelids-can-affect-vision/#:~:text=Causes%20of%20Droopy%20Eyelids&text=Sun%20Exposure%3A%20Sun%20exposure%20negatively,it%20can%20cause%20droopy%20eyelids.
  6. https://www.healthline.com/health/droopy-eyelid-exercises#:~:text=Resistance%20workout,while%20trying%20to%20close%20them.
  7. https://columbuseyelid.com/blog/risk-factors-for-droopy-eyelids/#:~:text=There%20are%20a%20few%20steps,making%20people%20younger%20in%20appearance.
  8. https://www.medicinenet.com/how_do_you_fix_droopy_eyelids/article.htm
  9. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-best-options-for-droopy-eyelids-circles-and-sags
  10. https://procoal.co.uk/blogs/beauty/can-you-use-retinol-on-droopy-eyelids
  11. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/blepharoplasty/about/pac-20385174#:~:text=blepharoplasty%20is%20done-,How%20blepharoplasty%20is%20done,excess%20skin%20from%20the%20eyelids.
  12. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/surgery/ptosis-surgery#:~:text=Ptosis%20surgery%20is%20an%20operation,causing%20your%20eyelid%20to%20sag.

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*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

Our reports and suggestions do not diagnose or treat any health conditions or provide any medical advice. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any major lifestyle changes or if you have any other concerns about your results.

Genetic Insights into the Risk of Repeated Falls

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Genetic Insights into the Risk of Repeated Falls

Date of Content: May 9, 2024
Written by: Harvey Talento
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD

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Overview

Repeated falls in older adults pose significant risks, impacting their quality of life and healthcare costs. Factors such as reduced muscle mass, muscle strength, and environmental hazards contribute to the vulnerability of older adults to falls. Studies indicate that a considerable percentage of older adults experience repeated falls, with risk factors including the use of antidepressants, depression, and limited physical activity. Falls in older adults are a leading cause of injury-related deaths, with about 36 million falls reported annually in the United States alone, leading to injuries that require medical treatment and restrict daily activities. Recurrent falls can result in functional decline, mortality, and a cascade of individual and socioeconomic problems, emphasizing the importance of preventive measures and comprehensive assessments to identify and address the risk factors associated with falls in older adults.

Risk of repeated falls

Increased Vulnerability with Repeated Falls

Research suggests that a single fall significantly increases the likelihood of experiencing another one.  This escalating risk stems from several factors.  First, a fall can lead to physical injuries like fractures, which can impair mobility and balance, making future falls more likely.  Second, the psychological impact of a fall can be substantial, with older adults developing a fear of falling that can lead to social isolation and decreased physical activity, which further increases fall risk.  Finally, recurrent falls are often a marker of underlying health conditions that contribute to falls, such as balance problems, muscle weakness, or cognitive decline.

Consequences of Repeated Falls

Repeated falls in older adults can have a cascading effect on their physical and mental well-being. Here’s a breakdown of the potential consequences:

Physical Consequences

  • Injuries: Falls can cause a range of injuries, from minor scrapes and bruises to serious fractures like hip fractures. Hip fractures can be particularly debilitating, often requiring surgery and extensive rehabilitation. In some cases, they can lead to a loss of independence and even increased mortality risk.
  • Pain: Both acute pain from injuries and chronic pain from conditions like arthritis can be exacerbated by falls, making it more difficult for older adults to stay active and mobile.
  • Reduced mobility: The fear of falling or physical limitations caused by injuries can lead to a decline in mobility. Older adults may become less likely to leave their homes or participate in activities they previously enjoyed, leading to a decrease in overall fitness and function.
  • Hospitalization: Serious injuries from falls often require hospitalization, which can be disruptive and stressful for older adults. It can also lead to a decline in functional abilities and an increased risk of institutionalization.

Mental and Emotional Consequences

  • Fear of falling: Fear of falling is a common consequence of a previous fall. This fear can significantly impact the quality of life, leading older adults to avoid activities they perceive as risky and restrict their social interactions.
  • Loss of confidence: Repeated falls can erode self-confidence and make older adults feel less independent. This can lead to feelings of helplessness and depression.

Social isolation: The fear of falling or physical limitations can lead to social isolation, as older adults may withdraw from activities or social gatherings for fear of falling again.

Overall Impact

The cumulative effect of these physical and mental consequences can be a significant decline in an older adult’s overall health and well-being.  Repeated falls can lead to a loss of independence, decreased quality of life, and even an increased risk of mortality.

How Genetics May Influence The Risk of Repeated Falls

Genetics can play a role in influencing the risk of repeated falls in older individuals. A large GWAS study conducted on the UK Biobank population revealed that falls have a genetic component, with about 35% of the variability in the likelihood of experiencing at least one incident fall and 45% of the variability in the risk for recurrent falls being attributed to genetic factors.

The study was conducted among over 89,000 cases and 362,000 controls. Despite the complex genetic architecture of fall risk, the study identified several previously indicated, and three novel fall-associated loci, and found a small but significant SNP-based heritability of 2.7% with these novel loci alone.

The three novel fall-associated loci were located at 7p21.3 (rs2709062), 19q12 (rs2111530), and 5q21.3 (rs243110). 

To highlight one of the new genetic loci; the variant rs2111530 maps close to the gene TSHZ3 and its antisense. TSHZ3 is a gene encoding a zinc-finger transcription factor that is suggested to have a role in cortical development and in the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental disorders.

In addition, the studies on cerebellum tissue showed the highest gene expression enrichment for the 3 fall-associated variants, suggesting that biological processes related to movement control, locomotion, adaptation of posture, and dynamic regulation of balance may play a role in shaping the complex mechanisms underlying fall risk.

Additionally, the study found that the risk of falling also had positive genetic correlations with fractures, insomnia, neuroticism, depressive symptoms, and different medications, and negative genetic correlations with muscle strength, intelligence, and subjective well-being.

Non-Genetic Factors Influencing The Risk of Repeated Falls

Several factors contribute to the risk of repeated falls in older adults.  These can be broadly categorized into intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

Intrinsic Factors (Relating to the Individual)

  • Musculoskeletal issues: Age-related decline in muscle strength, balance, and flexibility makes falls more likely. Conditions like arthritis can further limit mobility and coordination.
  • Vision problems: Poor vision can impair depth perception and make it difficult to navigate uneven surfaces or obstacles, increasing fall risk.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions like Parkinson’s disease, dementia, or chronic pain can affect balance, gait, and cognitive function, all contributing to falls.
  • Medications: Some medications, particularly those affecting blood pressure or the nervous system, can cause dizziness or drowsiness, increasing fall risk. A medication review can help identify if adjustments are needed.

Foot problems: Foot pain, ill-fitting footwear, or poo

Extrinsic Factors (Environmental Hazards)

Additional Considerations

  • Fear of falling: A psychological consequence of a previous fall, the fear of falling can lead to social isolation and decreased physical activity, both of which further increase fall risk.
  • Nutritional deficiencies: Vitamin D deficiency, for example, can contribute to muscle weakness and bone health problems, both of which increase fall risk.

The Importance of Prevention

Given the significant risks associated with recurrent falls, prevention becomes paramount.  A multi-pronged approach that addresses both intrinsic and extrinsic factors is most effective.

Addressing intrinsic factors may involve:

  • Exercise programs to improve strength, balance, and flexibility
  • Vision assessments and correction of any impairments
  • Medication review to identify and potentially adjust medications that may affect balance
  • Physical therapy to address gait and balance issues

Modifying extrinsic factors includes:

  • Improving home safety by removing clutter, installing grab bars, and ensuring adequate lighting
  • Wearing proper footwear with good traction
  • Using assistive devices like canes or walkers when needed

About the LifeDNA Aging Report

Understanding your personal risk factors for falls can significantly help in preventing them, especially as you age. The LifeDNA Aging Report offers a comprehensive genetic analysis that provides personalized insights into various aspects of aging, including your risk for repeated falls. This report evaluates your genetic predisposition to falls and provides actionable health advice tailored to your unique genetic profile. By knowing your specific risks, you can take proactive measures such as modifying your home environment, adjusting your exercise routine, and consulting with healthcare providers to mitigate these risks effectively.

Empower yourself with knowledge and take control of your wellness journey. The LifeDNA Aging Report is a valuable tool that offers you the information needed to make informed decisions and adopt a proactive approach to aging. Don’t wait for a fall to happen – order your LifeDNA Aging Report today.

Summary

  • Repeated falls in older adults greatly affect their quality of life and healthcare costs.
  • Approximately 36 million falls are reported annually in the U.S., often leading to serious injuries and restricted daily activities.
  • Falls can cause severe injuries like fractures and reduced mobility, often leading to hospitalization.
  • Fear of falling and loss of confidence can result in social isolation and depression.
  • Genetics account for 35% of the variability in single falls and 45% in recurrent falls.
  • Key genetic loci associated with fall risk are SNPs rs2709062, rs2111530 near TSHZ3, and rs243110. 
  • Fall risk is genetically correlated with fractures, insomnia, neuroticism, depressive symptoms, muscle strength, and overall well-being.
  • Non-genetic factors of risk of repeated falls include musculoskeletal issues, vision problems, certain medical conditions, medications, and foot problems.
  • Home safety hazards and poor footwear significantly increase fall risk.
  • A comprehensive approach involving exercise, vision assessments, medication reviews, physical therapy, and home safety improvements is essential to reduce fall risk.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6509467/
  2. https://www.msdmanuals.com/en-jp/professional/geriatrics/falls-in-older-adults/falls-in-older-adults
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378512220304242
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/falls/facts.html
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235613/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557971/
  7. https://www.nature.com/articles/s42003-020-01256-x
  8. https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/geriatrics/falls-in-older-adults/falls-in-older-adults
  9. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/falls-and-falls-prevention/falls-and-fractures-older-adults-causes-and-prevention
  10. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/11471956_Preventing_falls_in_older_people_Impact_of_an_intervention_to_reduce_environmental_hazards_in_the_home

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Can Age-related Hearing Loss Be Genetic?

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Can Age-related Hearing Loss Be Genetic?

Date of Content: May 1, 2024
Written by: Jess Gayo
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD

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Overview

Hearing loss is often perceived as a natural consequence of aging, silently encroaching on the quality of life for millions worldwide. However, the consequences of age-related hearing loss (ARHL) extend far beyond mere inconvenience. Delving into the reasons behind this phenomenon reveals genetic predispositions, environmental influences, and physiological changes.

What is Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is a multifaceted phenomenon influenced by various genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. At its core, hearing loss often stems from damage to the delicate structures within the inner ear responsible for detecting sound waves and transmitting them to the brain for interpretation. This damage can manifest in several ways.

Genetic predispositions play a significant role in determining an individual’s susceptibility to hearing loss. Research has identified numerous genes associated with hearing impairment, including those involved in the development and maintenance of crucial auditory structures like the hair cells and the cochlea. Variations in these genes can affect how effectively the inner ear functions, increasing the likelihood of hearing loss over time. Environmental factors also play a pivotal role in hearing health. 

The aging process itself contributes to hearing loss, a condition known as presbycusis. As individuals grow older, the structures within the inner ear naturally deteriorate, leading to a decline in hearing acuity. This age-related decline is often compounded by genetic predispositions and environmental exposures, highlighting the complex interplay of factors influencing hearing health.

Age-related hearing loss

When Does Age-related Hearing Loss Usually Start?

Age-related hearing loss typically begins to manifest in individuals as they enter their 40s or 50s, although the effects may not become noticeable until later in life. Research indicates that the prevalence of age-related hearing loss increases with advancing age, with a significant rise observed after the age of 65. By the age of 75, approximately half of all individuals experience some degree of hearing impairment.

The gradual onset of age-related hearing loss is often attributed to a combination of genetic predispositions and cumulative exposure to environmental factors over time.

Is Age-related Hearing Loss Genetic?

A 2014 study investigated the genetics behind age-related hearing loss by analyzing data from different groups of people across Europe and Asia. They looked at over 2 million genetic variations in nearly 5,000 individuals and found that a specific gene, called salt-inducible kinase 3 (SIK3), was linked to hearing ability. This gene was particularly associated with how well people could hear different pitches of sound.

Further studies on mice showed that the mouse Sik3 gene is expressed in the cells of the inner ear during both early development and adulthood. This suggests that the SIK3 kinase may play a role in the development and maintenance of hearing throughout life.

This study found that that one genetic variant, the SNP rs681524 in the SIK3 gene seems to influence how well people can hear as they get older. Understanding the role of this genetic variant could help scientists develop new treatments for age-related hearing loss in the future.

To uncover more about the genetic factors behind ARHL, a 2019 research revealed data from over 250,000 volunteers aged 40 to 69. They found 44 specific genetic regions linked to hearing loss including genes ​​EYA4, TRIOBP, ARHGEF28, NID2, and CTBP2. Interestingly, 34 of these regions were newly discovered, shedding light on previously unknown factors contributing to hearing loss.

These genetic regions are related to various aspects of hearing, such as how the inner ear works and how the brain processes sound. Surprisingly, some of these genetic regions were also linked to personality traits and psychological characteristics for the first time. This research opens up new avenues for developing treatments for age-related hearing loss and highlights the importance of genetic factors in understanding the condition.

What Other Factors Can Influence Age-related Hearing Loss?

Environmental factors play a significant role in influencing age-related hearing loss, contributing to its onset and progression alongside genetic predispositions. Understanding these environmental influences is crucial for individuals seeking to protect their hearing health as they age. Here are several key environmental factors that can affect age-related hearing loss:

  1. Noise Exposure: Prolonged exposure to loud noises is one of the most significant environmental risk factors for hearing loss. Occupational noise, such as machinery or construction work, and recreational activities like attending concerts or using personal listening devices at high volumes can damage the delicate structures of the inner ear over time. The intensity and duration of noise exposure play crucial roles in determining the extent of hearing damage.
  2. Ototoxic Chemicals: Certain chemicals and medications have been identified as ototoxic, meaning they can damage the auditory system and contribute to hearing loss. Common ototoxic substances include certain antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, and heavy metals like lead and mercury. These substances can disrupt the function of hair cells in the inner ear or damage the auditory nerve, leading to hearing impairment.
  3. Smoking: Smoking has been linked to an increased risk of hearing loss. The toxins in cigarette smoke can restrict blood flow to the inner ear, depriving it of essential nutrients and oxygen. This diminished blood flow can accelerate the degeneration of auditory structures and contribute to age-related hearing loss. Additionally, smoking is associated with higher rates of cardiovascular disease, which further exacerbates the risk of hearing impairment.
  4. Cardiovascular Health: Poor cardiovascular health is a significant risk factor for age-related hearing loss. Conditions such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, and diabetes can compromise blood flow to the inner ear, impairing its function and leading to hearing impairment. Maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system through regular exercise, a balanced diet, and managing risk factors like high blood pressure can help preserve hearing health as individuals age.
  5. Diet and Nutrition: Certain dietary factors may influence the risk of age-related hearing loss. Research suggests that diets high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E may help protect against hearing loss by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the auditory system. Conversely, diets high in saturated fats, cholesterol, and processed foods may contribute to vascular damage and increase the risk of hearing impairment.
  6. Exposure to Environmental Toxins: Exposure to environmental toxins such as heavy metals, pesticides, and industrial chemicals may also contribute to age-related hearing loss. These toxins can accumulate in the body over time and disrupt cellular function in the auditory system, leading to hearing impairment. Minimizing exposure to environmental toxins through proper safety measures and pollution control efforts can help mitigate this risk.

Environmental factors play a significant role in influencing age-related hearing loss, interacting with genetic predispositions to impact auditory health. By understanding and addressing these environmental influences, individuals can take proactive steps to protect their hearing as they age, leading to improved quality of life and well-being.

What are the Types of Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss can be categorized into several distinct types, each with its own underlying causes and characteristics. The main types of hearing loss include:

  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the delicate hair cells in the inner ear or the auditory nerve pathways that transmit sound signals to the brain. This type of hearing loss is typically permanent and can be caused by a variety of factors, including aging, genetic predispositions, exposure to loud noises, ototoxic medications, and certain medical conditions like Meniere’s disease.
  • Conductive Hearing Loss: Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a blockage or damage in the outer or middle ear that prevents sound waves from reaching the inner ear. Common causes of conductive hearing loss include ear infections, wax buildup, fluid accumulation in the middle ear, perforated eardrum, or abnormalities in the ear canal or middle ear bones. Conductive hearing loss can often be treated medically or surgically, depending on the underlying cause.
  • Mixed Hearing Loss: Mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss, involving both damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve and obstruction or dysfunction in the outer or middle ear. This type of hearing loss requires a comprehensive evaluation and may involve a combination of medical, surgical, and rehabilitative interventions to address both components.

Understanding the type of hearing loss an individual is experiencing is essential for determining the most appropriate treatment and management strategies. By identifying the underlying causes and characteristics of hearing loss, individuals can work with healthcare professionals to develop personalized plans to preserve and optimize their auditory function.

Can Age-related Hearing Loss or Presbycusis Impact Mental Health?

Age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, can have a significant impact on mental health. Research has shown a strong association between hearing loss and various cognitive and emotional issues, including depression, social isolation, and cognitive decline. 

The strain of struggling to hear and communicate effectively can lead to feelings of frustration, anxiety, and low self-esteem, particularly in social settings. Social isolation often follows, as individuals may withdraw from social activities and interactions due to difficulties understanding conversations and feeling embarrassed or misunderstood.

Furthermore, untreated hearing loss has been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults. The cognitive load of trying to compensate for hearing difficulties may detract from cognitive resources available for other tasks, potentially contributing to cognitive impairment over time.

Addressing age-related hearing loss through early intervention, such as hearing aids or assistive listening devices, can help mitigate these negative effects on mental health. By improving communication abilities and enhancing social engagement, individuals with presbycusis can maintain their mental well-being and overall quality of life as they age.

What are the Symptoms of Age-related Hearing Loss?

Age-related hearing loss manifests gradually over time and can vary in severity among individuals. Common symptoms of age-related hearing loss include:

  • Difficulty Understanding Speech: Difficulty understanding speech, especially in noisy environments or when multiple people are talking, is a hallmark symptom of age-related hearing loss. Individuals may find themselves frequently asking others to repeat themselves or misunderstanding conversations.
  • Muffled or Distorted Sound Perception: Sounds may appear muffled or distorted to individuals with age-related hearing loss. This can affect their ability to perceive and interpret various auditory cues accurately.
  • Difficulty Hearing High-Frequency Sounds: Age-related hearing loss often initially affects the ability to hear high-frequency sounds, such as the chirping of birds or the ringing of a telephone. As the condition progresses, it may also impact lower-frequency sounds.
  • Increasing Volume on Electronic Devices: Individuals with age-related hearing loss may find themselves needing to increase the volume on televisions, radios, or electronic devices to hear adequately.
  • Tinnitus: Tinnitus, or ringing, buzzing, or hissing sounds in the ears, is commonly associated with age-related hearing loss. It may occur intermittently or persistently and can worsen in quiet environments.
  • Social Withdrawal: Struggling to hear and understand conversations can lead to frustration and embarrassment, prompting individuals to withdraw from social activities and interactions.
  • Fatigue and Stress: The effort required to concentrate and decipher speech can be mentally exhausting, leading to increased feelings of fatigue and stress, especially after prolonged social interactions.

Recognizing these symptoms is essential for early intervention and management of age-related hearing loss. Seeking professional evaluation and hearing assessments can help individuals address their hearing concerns and improve their overall quality of life.

Ways to Reduce Potential of Age-related Hearing Loss

Protecting hearing is essential for maintaining overall well-being, especially as individuals age. Fortunately, several strategies can help reduce the potential for age-related hearing loss. Here are some evidence-based approaches:

Minimize Exposure to Loud Noise

Limiting exposure to loud noises is one of the most effective ways to prevent hearing loss. Individuals should avoid prolonged exposure to noisy environments, such as concerts, construction sites, or loud machinery. When exposure to loud noise is unavoidable, wearing ear protection such as earplugs or noise-canceling headphones can help reduce the risk of damage to the inner ear.

Use Hearing Protection

In situations where exposure to loud noise is unavoidable, wearing hearing protection devices can significantly reduce the risk of hearing damage. Earplugs and earmuffs are effective at blocking out harmful noise levels while still allowing individuals to hear essential sounds, such as conversations or alarms.

Monitor Volume Levels

When listening to music or watching television, individuals should be mindful of the volume levels. Keeping the volume at a moderate level and taking breaks to give the ears a rest can help prevent overexposure to loud sounds and reduce the risk of hearing loss over time.

Maintain Cardiovascular Health

Research has shown a strong link between cardiovascular health and hearing health. Individuals should strive to maintain a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, managing stress, and avoiding smoking. These lifestyle habits can help improve blood flow to the inner ear and reduce the risk of age-related hearing loss.

Manage Chronic Conditions

Chronic health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol can increase the risk of hearing loss. Managing these conditions through medication, lifestyle changes, and regular medical check-ups can help prevent or delay the onset of age-related hearing loss.

Limit Ototoxic Medications

Some medications, including certain antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), have been associated with hearing loss. Individuals should consult with their healthcare provider about the potential ototoxic effects of medications and explore alternative treatment options whenever possible.

Protect Against Head Trauma

Head injuries can damage the delicate structures of the inner ear and lead to hearing loss. Taking precautions to prevent head trauma, such as wearing helmets during sports or using seat belts while driving, can help protect hearing health.

Get Regular Hearing Screenings

Regular hearing screenings are essential for detecting hearing loss early and implementing appropriate interventions. Adults should undergo hearing evaluations as part of their routine healthcare appointments, especially as they age or if they notice changes in their hearing abilities.

Stay Engaged Socially

Social isolation has been linked to an increased risk of age-related hearing loss and cognitive decline. Staying socially active and engaged can help stimulate the brain and preserve auditory function. Participating in social activities, joining clubs or organizations, and maintaining close relationships with family and friends can all contribute to overall hearing health.

By incorporating these strategies into their daily lives, individuals can take proactive steps to reduce the potential for age-related hearing loss and preserve their hearing as they age.

LifeDNA’s Age-Related Hearing Loss Trait Report

Unlock the secrets of your genetic blueprint with LifeDNA’s report on Age-related Hearing Loss. Designed to provide valuable insights into your predisposition to age-related hearing loss, this comprehensive report empowers you to take control of your hearing health like never before.

Our scientifically backed report delves deep into your unique genetic profile, uncovering key genetic markers associated with age-related hearing loss. By understanding your genetic predispositions, you can make informed decisions about your lifestyle, habits, and nutrition to support optimal hearing health as you age.

At LifeDNA, we believe that nutrition and lifestyle plays a crucial role in overall wellness, including hearing health. That’s why our report on Age-related Hearing Loss doesn’t just stop at genetics – it also provides personalized recommendations tailored to your individual needs. Whether it’s incorporating specific nutrients known to support auditory function or implementing lifestyle changes to protect against environmental factors, our report equips you with the knowledge you need to thrive.

But that’s not all – with over 200 trait reports available across our Wellness, Vitamins and Supplements, Fitness, Personality and Cognition, Sleep, and Skincare categories, LifeDNA offers a comprehensive approach to wellness that goes beyond just genetics. Plus, with premium reports like the Aging Report and Methylation Genes Report, you can gain deeper insights into specific aspects of your health.

Take the first step towards a healthier, happier you today. Avail of LifeDNA’s plans and start your wellness journey with confidence. Your genetic roadmap awaits – uncover the possibilities and embrace your best self with LifeDNA.

Summary

  • Age-related hearing loss (ARHL) is common among older adults, affecting about one-third of individuals by the age of 65.
  • Hearing loss can stem from genetic predispositions, environmental factors, and physiological changes within the inner ear.
  • ARHL typically starts to manifest in individuals in their 40s or 50s, with prevalence increasing significantly after the age of 65.
  • Genetic studies have identified specific genes, such as salt-inducible kinase 3 (SIK3), associated with age-related hearing loss.
  • Environmental factors like noise exposure, ototoxic chemicals, smoking, poor cardiovascular health, and diet can also influence age-related hearing loss.
  • Understanding the different types of hearing loss, including sensorineural, conductive, and mixed, is crucial for effective management and treatment.
  • Age-related hearing loss can impact mental health, leading to social isolation, depression, and cognitive decline.
  • Recognizing symptoms like difficulty understanding speech, muffled sound perception and tinnitus is essential for early intervention.
  • Strategies to reduce the potential for age-related hearing loss include minimizing exposure to loud noise, using hearing protection, monitoring volume levels, maintaining cardiovascular health, managing chronic conditions, limiting ototoxic medications, protecting against head trauma, getting regular hearing screenings, and staying socially engaged.

References

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/age-related-hearing-loss
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10512576/#:~:text=Age%2Drelated%20hearing%20loss%20(ARHL)%2C%20also%20known%20as,affect%20older%20adults%20%5B2%5D.
  3. https://www.who.int/health-topics/hearing-loss#tab=tab_1
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3689008/
  5. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/presbycusis#:~:text=What%20is%20presbycusis%3F,of%20the%20change%20at%20first.
  6. https://www.ncoa.org/adviser/hearing-aids/presbycusis-age-related-hearing-loss/#:~:text=Presbycusis%20definition&text=It’s%20caused%20by%20damage%20to,older%20in%20the%20United%20States.
  7. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3429484#:~:text=Three%20characteristics%20are%20discussed%20here,and%20(3)%20impulse%20noise.
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5482333/
  9. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/chemicals.html#:~:text=Exposure%20to%20certain%20chemicals%20can,the%20harmful%20effects%20of%20noise.
  10. https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/50940-Smoking-and-hearing-loss#:~:text=Smoking%20is%20a%20well%2Destablished,including%20hearing%20loss.
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9698578/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4693596/
  13. https://www.asha.org/public/hearing/types-of-hearing-loss/
  14. https://www.ncoa.org/adviser/hearing-aids/presbycusis-age-related-hearing-loss/#:~:text=Presbycusis%2C%20or%20age%2Drelated%20hearing,of%20life%20and%20mental%20health.
  15. https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/a/age-related-hearing-loss-presbycusis.html
  16. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hearing-and-hearing-loss/hearing-loss-common-problem-older-adults#:~:text=Tinnitus%20is%20sometimes%20the%20first,ear%20canal%20can%20cause%20tinnitus.
  17. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/age-related-hearing-loss#:~:text=To%20help%20safeguard%20your%20hearing,with%20earplugs%20or%20protective%20earmuffs.
  18. https://www.cell.com/ajhg/fulltext/S0002-9297(19)30347-7?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0002929719303477%3Fshowall%3Dtrue
  19. https://academic.oup.com/hmg/article/23/23/6407/2900883

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Great source of information I was looking for a platform to make use of my existing raw data from Ancestry. I’m glad I found LifeDNA. I originally took a DNA test to learn about my roots and it’s great to know that my DNA could also play a big role in my health, diet, and even my skin. Overall, all the reports are incredible.
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The Genetics of Age-Related Muscle Mass Loss

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The Genetics of Age-related Muscle Mass Loss

Date of Content: May 2, 2024
Written by: Jess Gayo
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD

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Overview

As people age, their bodies undergo numerous changes, one of the most significant being the gradual loss of muscle mass, a condition scientifically known as sarcopenia. This silent thief can dramatically affect strength, mobility, and overall quality of life, making it a crucial topic for those interested in healthy aging.

What is Muscle Mass Loss?

Muscle mass loss is the gradual decline in muscle tissue that occurs as a natural part of aging. This process is not just a matter of getting weaker; it can significantly impact overall health, mobility, and quality of life.

Several factors contribute to muscle mass loss. One of the primary culprits is a sedentary lifestyle. As people age, they tend to become less active, leading to muscle atrophy due to disuse. Regular physical activity, especially resistance training, is crucial to maintain muscle mass.

Hormonal changes also play a significant role. In men, declining testosterone levels contribute to muscle loss. Similarly, in women, the drop in estrogen after menopause accelerates muscle deterioration. Both hormones are essential for muscle growth and maintenance. Genetics significantly influence how muscles age. 

Nutrition is another key factor. Adequate protein intake is vital for muscle repair and growth. Without sufficient dietary protein, muscle loss can accelerate. Additionally, chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular conditions can exacerbate muscle deterioration by impairing blood flow and nutrient delivery to muscle tissues.

Maintaining muscle mass requires a proactive approach. By understanding the genetic and lifestyle factors involved, individuals can take targeted steps to preserve their muscle health and maintain their quality of life as they age.

Age-related muscle mass loss

When Does Age-Related Muscle Mass Loss Usually Start?

Age-related muscle mass loss, or sarcopenia, typically begins around the age of 30. From this point, most individuals lose about 3-5% of their muscle mass per decade, with the rate of loss increasing significantly after age 60. This gradual decline can impact strength, mobility, and overall health.

Recognizing that age-related muscle loss often begins in one’s 30s emphasizes the importance of early intervention. Regular exercise, a balanced diet rich in protein, and awareness of genetic factors can help maintain muscle mass and promote healthier aging.

Is Age-Related Muscle Mass Loss Genetic?

CAV1 Gene

A 2014 study explored the role of the Caveolin-1 (CAV1) gene in the development of sarcopenia within a Taiwanese population. Researchers examined 175 sarcopenia patients (including those with pre-sarcopenia, sarcopenia, and severe sarcopenia) and 327 age- and gender-matched controls.

The study focused on six single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the CAV1 gene: C521A, G14713A, G21985A, T28608A, T29107A, and G32124A. Among these, the G14713A variant showed a significant association with sarcopenia. Individuals with AG or AA genotypes of the G14713A SNP had a 1.65 to 1.78 times higher risk of developing sarcopenia compared to those with the GG genotype. Specifically, carriers of the AG or AA genotypes were more likely to have sarcopenia and severe sarcopenia, but not pre-sarcopenia.

The study suggested that the CAV1 G14713A (rs3807987) variant is critical in sarcopenia development. Individuals with the A allele of this gene variant are at a higher risk of sarcopenia, suggesting that this genetic marker could be used for early detection and prevention strategies.

VDR Gene

In an older 2004 study, researchers studied the relationship between vitamin D receptor (VDR) genotypes and muscle mass in 302 older Caucasian men, aged 58-93. They used dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry to measure body composition and collected data on health, physical activity, and diet. Participants were genotyped for two VDR polymorphisms: The so called FokI (FF, Ff, ff) and BsmI (BB, Bb, bb).

The BsmI polymorphism showed no significant link to fat-free mass (FFM). However, the FokI polymorphism (rs2228570 A>G) was significantly associated with total FFM, appendicular FFM, and relative appendicular FFM. Specifically, men with the FF genotype (two risk alleles) had significantly lower FFM compared to those with Ff or ff genotypes. For example, the total FFM was 57.6 kg for FF, 59.4 kg for Ff, and 59.4 kg for ff.

Logistic regression adjusted for age revealed that FF homozygotes (rs2228570-GG) had a 2.17 times higher risk of sarcopenia (low muscle mass) compared to men with at least one risk allele. This suggests that the FokI polymorphism significantly influences muscle mass and sarcopenia risk in older men.

For the FokI polymorphism, the FF genotype was also linked to lower body mass and BMI, but not to differences in age, height, physical activity, caloric or protein intake, vitamin D levels, or body fat percentage. Vitamin D supplementation did not vary by genotype and did not affect results.

The study found no interaction between FokI genotype and vitamin D levels affecting the FFM. Sarcopenia prevalence was 24.8%, with a higher frequency of FF genotypes in sarcopenic men. FF men had a 2.17-fold increased risk of sarcopenia compared to ff men, independent of age. The BsmI polymorphism was not linked to sarcopenia.

FokI genotype also correlated with quadriceps strength, but adjusting for FFM differences eliminated this association, suggesting the FokI effect on muscle strength is mediated through its impact on muscle mass.

ACTN3 Gene

In another 2017 study, researchers investigated how the ACTN3 gene variation affects muscle and bone health in older Korean adults. The study included 62 men and 270 women with an average age of 73.7 years. Using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, they measured body mass index (BMI), body fat, muscle mass, and bone mineral density (BMD). They found out that 46.8% of men and 23.3% of women had sarcopenia.

Participants were genotyped for the ACTN3 R577X polymorphism (rs1815739) using TaqMan probes. Results showed that individuals with the XX genotype (rs1815739-TT) of the ACTN3 gene had a significantly higher risk (2.2x) of both sarcopenia (muscle loss) and osteoporosis compared to those with the RR genotype. Specifically, XX homozygotes had more than twice the risk of sarcopenia, even after adjusting for factors like age, gender, body fat, and vitamin D levels. However, the increased risk of osteoporosis in XX homozygotes was no longer significant after similar adjustments.

Also, significant differences in bone health were observed among ACTN3 genotypes. RR and RX genotypes had higher BMDs and T-scores for the femur neck and total body compared to XX genotypes. RR homozygotes also had higher BMDs for the femur neck and total body than XX homozygotes. For muscle mass, RR homozygotes had higher appendicular skeletal muscle mass (ASM) compared to XX homozygotes. This highlights the connection between adequate muscle mass and bone health, both critical for healthy aging.

IGFBP3 Gene

Researchers in a 2014 study also investigated how specific genetic polymorphisms influence muscle mass in older Taiwanese adults. Previous studies showed that variations in the genes for insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and its binding protein-3 (IGFBP3) can affect blood levels of IGF-1, which is linked to muscle size. This study aimed to explore the effects of IGF1, IGFBP3, and IGFBP5 gene polymorphisms on appendicular skeletal muscle mass (ASMI) in this population.

The study was conducted in a community setting with a random sample of 472 older adults from the Taichung Community Health Study for Elders (TCHS-E). Participants underwent dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) to measure muscle mass, and their genetic profiles and serum IGF-1 levels were analyzed.

Results showed that 7.1% of participants aged 70 or younger, 8.8% of those aged 71 to 75, and 23% of those older than 75 had a low muscle index (ASMI). Serum IGF-1 levels were significantly lower in the low ASMI group compared to the normal ASMI group. The study found a significant association between the SNP rs2854744 near the IGFBP3 gene and low ASMI. Additionally, the SNP rs6214 on the IGF1 gene significantly affected serum IGF-1 levels.

The combined effect of rs6214 and rs2854744 was particularly notable. Elders with the GG genotype of rs6214 AND AC or CC genotypes of rs2854744 had a 3.18-fold higher risk of low ASMI compared to those with the AA genotype of both SNPs, after adjusting for various factors like age, gender, smoking, exercise, hyperlipidemia, and albumin levels. Those with a rs2854744-AC (=TG) genotype alone had a 1.66-fold higher risk of low ASMI.

These findings suggest that rs2854744 near the IGFBP3 gene, as well as the rs6214 on the IGF1 gene and are important genetic factors influencing muscle mass in older Taiwanese adults living in metropolitan areas.

What Other Factors Can Influence Age-Related Muscle Mass Loss?

Various environmental factors that interact with genetic predispositions influence age-related muscle mass loss. Understanding these factors can help individuals adopt strategies to mitigate muscle loss and maintain muscle health as they age. Here are the key environmental factors affecting age-related muscle mass loss:

  1. Physical Activity Levels: One of the most significant environmental factors is physical activity. Regular exercise, particularly resistance training and weight-bearing activities, helps maintain muscle mass and strength. Physical inactivity, on the other hand, leads to muscle atrophy. Studies have shown that individuals who engage in regular physical activity experience slower rates of muscle loss compared to those with sedentary lifestyles. 
  2. Diet and Nutrition: Adequate nutrition is crucial for muscle health. Protein intake, in particular, plays a vital role in muscle maintenance and growth. Older adults require higher protein intake to stimulate muscle protein synthesis effectively. A diet rich in essential amino acids, found in animal and plant proteins, helps preserve muscle mass. Additionally, nutrients such as vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants support muscle function and reduce inflammation.
  3. Hormonal Changes: While hormonal changes are partly genetic, environmental factors such as stress, sleep, and diet can influence hormone levels. Chronic stress and poor sleep can lead to hormonal imbalances that exacerbate muscle loss. For example, cortisol, a stress hormone, can promote muscle breakdown. Ensuring adequate sleep and managing stress through mindfulness and relaxation techniques can help maintain hormonal balance.
  4. Chronic Diseases: Chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can accelerate muscle loss. These conditions often result in inflammation and impaired blood flow, which negatively affect muscle health. Managing chronic conditions through medication, lifestyle changes, and regular medical check-ups is essential to mitigate their impact on muscle mass.
  5. Inflammation: Chronic low-grade inflammation, often associated with aging, contributes to muscle degradation. Environmental factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and exposure to pollutants can increase inflammatory markers in the body. Consuming anti-inflammatory foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish, and avoiding processed foods can help reduce inflammation.
  6. Smoking and Alcohol Consumption: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are detrimental to muscle health. Smoking impairs blood flow and nutrient delivery to muscles, while excessive alcohol intake can interfere with protein synthesis and hormonal balance. Quitting smoking and moderating alcohol consumption are crucial steps to protect muscle mass.
  7. Sunlight Exposure: Vitamin D, synthesized through sunlight exposure, is vital for muscle function. It aids in calcium absorption and muscle contraction. Older adults often have reduced outdoor activity, leading to vitamin D deficiency. Ensuring sufficient sunlight exposure or taking vitamin D supplements can support muscle health.
  8. Social and Psychological Factors: Social isolation and psychological stress can negatively impact physical health, including muscle mass. Engaging in social activities, maintaining strong social networks, and seeking mental health support when needed can contribute to overall well-being and indirectly support muscle health.
  9. Healthcare Access: Access to healthcare services, including regular check-ups, physical therapy, and nutritional counseling, is crucial for the early detection and management of sarcopenia. Environmental factors such as socioeconomic status and geographic location can influence access to quality healthcare. Ensuring regular health screenings and professional guidance can help manage and prevent muscle loss.
  10. Occupational and Recreational Activities: The nature of one’s occupation and recreational activities can influence muscle mass. Jobs requiring physical labor or frequent movement help maintain muscle strength, while sedentary jobs contribute to muscle loss. Engaging in recreational activities that involve physical exercise, such as hiking, dancing, or gardening, can counteract the effects of a sedentary occupation.

While genetics play a significant role in age-related muscle mass loss, environmental factors such as physical activity, diet, chronic disease management, and lifestyle choices significantly influence the rate and extent of muscle loss. By addressing these factors through informed lifestyle changes, individuals can effectively mitigate muscle mass loss and promote healthier aging.

What are the Different Types of Muscle Mass Loss?

Muscle mass loss can occur in several forms, each with distinct causes and characteristics. Understanding these types helps in identifying the underlying issues and tailoring effective prevention and treatment strategies.

  • Sarcopenia: Sarcopenia is age-related muscle mass loss that typically begins in adulthood and accelerates after the age of 60. It results from a combination of factors, including hormonal changes, reduced physical activity, and inadequate nutrition.
  • Cachexia: Cachexia is a severe form of muscle wasting often associated with chronic diseases such as cancer, heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Unlike sarcopenia, cachexia involves a complex interplay of inflammation, metabolic changes, and reduced appetite, leading to significant muscle loss and weight loss. It is a serious condition that requires medical intervention to manage both the underlying disease and the muscle wasting.
  • Disuse Atrophy: Disuse atrophy occurs when muscles are not used for extended periods, leading to shrinkage and weakness. This can happen due to prolonged bed rest, immobilization after an injury, or a sedentary lifestyle. Without regular muscle stimulation through physical activity, muscles lose their strength and size. Fortunately, disuse atrophy can often be reversed with physical therapy and increased activity.
  • Neurogenic Atrophy: Neurogenic atrophy is caused by nerve damage or diseases affecting the nervous system, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS), or spinal cord injuries. When nerves that control muscles are damaged, the muscles cannot function properly and begin to waste away. This type of muscle loss is often more severe and harder to reverse, requiring specialized medical and rehabilitative care.

Understanding these various types of muscle mass loss highlights the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle, proper nutrition, and seeking medical advice for underlying health conditions. Recognizing the role of genetics can also guide personalized approaches to preventing and managing muscle loss effectively.

Is Age-Related Muscle Mass Loss Dangerous to Your Health?

Age-related muscle mass loss, known as sarcopenia, can pose significant health risks. As muscle mass declines, it leads to decreased strength and mobility, increasing the likelihood of falls and fractures. According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of injury among older adults, and muscle weakness is a major contributing factor.

Sarcopenia also affects metabolic health. Muscles play a crucial role in regulating glucose levels and maintaining metabolic balance. Reduced muscle mass can lead to insulin resistance, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, lower muscle mass is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Loss of muscle mass can also impact overall quality of life. It can lead to difficulties in performing daily activities, such as climbing stairs, carrying groceries, or even rising from a chair. This decline in physical function can result in increased dependence on others and a loss of independence, which can negatively affect mental health.

Ways to Reduce Potential of Age-Related Muscle Mass Loss

Age-related muscle mass loss is a common concern as individuals age. Fortunately, there are several evidence-based strategies that can help reduce the risk and mitigate the effects of muscle loss. Here are some ways to preserve muscle mass and function:

Regular Exercise

Engaging in regular physical activity, particularly resistance training and strength exercises, is one of the most effective ways to combat muscle mass loss. Studies have shown that resistance training increases muscle mass, strength, and functional capacity in older adults. Aim for at least two to three sessions per week, focusing on major muscle groups such as legs, arms, chest, back, and core.

Protein-Rich Diet

Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth, making adequate protein intake crucial for preserving muscle mass. Older adults may require higher protein intake to maintain muscle health. Aim to include protein-rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds in your diet. Consuming protein with each meal and snack throughout the day can help optimize muscle protein synthesis.

Balanced Nutrition

In addition to protein, a balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants supports overall muscle health. Ensure adequate intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats to provide essential nutrients for muscle function and repair. Avoid excessive intake of processed foods, sugary snacks, and unhealthy fats, which can contribute to inflammation and muscle deterioration.

Hydration

Staying hydrated is essential for optimal muscle function. Dehydration can impair muscle performance and recovery. Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day, particularly before, during, and after exercise.

Bone Health

Strong bones are essential for supporting muscle function and preventing falls and fractures. Ensure adequate intake of calcium, vitamin D, and other bone-supportive nutrients through diet and, if necessary, supplementation. Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, and dancing also promote bone health.

Regular Medical Check-Ups

Regular medical check-ups allow for early detection and management of underlying health conditions that may contribute to muscle mass loss, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hormonal imbalances. Work with healthcare professionals to address any health concerns and develop a personalized plan for maintaining muscle health.

Social Engagement

Maintaining social connections and engaging in meaningful activities can positively impact overall health and well-being, including muscle health. Participate in social activities, hobbies, and community events to stay active and connected.

Mind-Body Practices

Mind-body practices such as yoga, tai chi, and meditation can improve balance, flexibility, and body awareness, reducing the risk of falls and injuries. These practices also promote relaxation and stress management, which can benefit overall muscle health.

By incorporating these strategies into daily life, individuals can proactively reduce the potential of age-related muscle mass loss and promote healthier aging. Consult with healthcare professionals or certified fitness trainers for personalized guidance and support in implementing these recommendations.

LifeDNA’s Age-Related Muscle Mass Loss Trait Report

Unlock the secrets of aging gracefully with LifeDNA’s Age-Related Muscle Mass Loss Trait Report. Delve into the depths of your genetic blueprint to uncover personalized insights into how your body responds to the passage of time. Our scientifically-backed and comprehensive report provides you with valuable information about your genetic predisposition to age-related muscle mass loss.

By understanding your unique genetic profile, you can tailor your lifestyle choices to better support your muscle mass as you age. Whether it’s optimizing your exercise routine, fine-tuning your nutrition, or implementing targeted supplementation, our report empowers you to make informed decisions that align with your genetic predispositions.

LifeDNA offers a range of comprehensive reports covering various aspects of wellness, nutrition, fitness, sleep, skincare, vitamins and supplements, personality and cognition, and more. With more than 200 trait reports available under our 7 main reports, you can gain a holistic understanding of your genetic makeup and how it impacts your daily life.

Don’t wait until the signs of aging catch up with you—start your wellness journey today with LifeDNA. Take the first step towards a healthier and more vibrant future by unlocking the secrets hidden within your DNA. With our premium reports and personalized insights, you can take control of your well-being like never before. Begin your journey to a better you today.

Summary

  • Age-related muscle mass loss, or sarcopenia, significantly affects strength, mobility, and quality of life. Muscle mass loss begins around age 30, accelerating after age 60, impacting overall health and daily functions.
  • Factors contributing to muscle loss include a sedentary lifestyle, hormonal changes, nutrition, chronic diseases, and genetics. Regular physical activity, especially resistance training, is crucial to maintain muscle mass.
  • Genetic factors significantly influence muscle aging. Specific genetic polymorphisms, such as in the CAV-1 GFBP3, VDR, and ACTN3 genes, are linked to muscle mass in older adults.
  • Environmental factors such as physical activity, diet, hormonal changes, chronic diseases, inflammation, smoking, alcohol consumption, sunlight exposure, social engagement, and healthcare access also influence muscle mass loss.
  • Types of muscle mass loss include sarcopenia, cachexia, disuse atrophy, and neurogenic atrophy.
  • Sarcopenia, age-related muscle loss, increases the risk of falls, fractures, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Strategies to reduce muscle mass loss include regular exercise, a protein-rich diet, balanced nutrition, hydration, bone health, regular medical check-ups, social engagement, and mind-body practices.
  • Genetics and environmental factors together influence age-related muscle mass loss, necessitating proactive lifestyle choices to maintain muscle health and quality of life.

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30427277/#:~:text=Sarcopenia%20is%20a%20loss%20of,costly%20hospitalization%20and%20extended%20rehabilitation.
  2. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/resistance-training-health-benefits
  3. https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/sarcopenia-with-aging
  4. https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/risk-factors/physical-inactivity
  5. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22187-cortisol
  6. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease-(copd)#:~:text=Overview,damaged%20or%20clogged%20with%20phlegm.
  7. https://iv.iiarjournals.org/content/28/3/383.long
  8. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2017/4239648/
  9. https://www.jamda.com/article/S1525-8610(14)00772-5/abstract
  10. https://www.jamda.com/article/S1525-8610(14)00772-5/abstract
  11. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease-(copd)#:~:text=Overview,damaged%20or%20clogged%20with%20phlegm.
  12. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/161618
  13. https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-disuse-atrophy-2564682
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470208/#:~:text=Introduction-,Cachexia%20is%20a%20complicated%20metabolic%20syndrome%20related%20to%20underlying%20illness,%5D%5B4%5D%5B5%5D
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32533969/#:~:text=Neurogenic%20atrophy%20refers%20to%20the,in%20some%20circumstances%2C%20reduced%20survival.
  16. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis-als#:~:text=Amyotrophic%20lateral%20sclerosis%20(ALS)%2C,voluntary%20muscle%20movement%20and%20breathing.
  17. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/multiple-sclerosis/#:~:text=Multiple%20sclerosis%20(MS)%20is%20a,it%20can%20occasionally%20be%20mild.
  18. https://www.cdc.gov/falls/facts.html
  19. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/23167-sarcopenia
  20. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/fatigue
  21. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/what-is-body-composition
  22. https://www.landmarkhealth.org/resource/five-ways-to-maintain-muscle-mass-as-you-age/
  23. https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/understanding/howgeneswork/protein/
  24. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/mind-body-practice

Customer Reviews

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*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

Our reports and suggestions do not diagnose or treat any health conditions or provide any medical advice. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any major lifestyle changes or if you have any other concerns about your results.