Advanced biological ageing predicts future risk for neurological diagnoses and clinical examination findings

Brain. 2023 Dec 1;146(12):4891-4902. doi: 10.1093/brain/awad252.


Age is a dominant risk factor for some of the most common neurological diseases. Biological ageing encompasses interindividual variation in the rate of ageing and can be calculated from clinical biomarkers or DNA methylation data amongst other approaches. Here, we tested the hypothesis that a biological age greater than one's chronological age affects the risk of future neurological diagnosis and the development of abnormal signs on clinical examination. We analysed data from the Swedish Adoption/Twin Study of Aging (SATSA): a cohort with 3175 assessments of 802 individuals followed-up over several decades. Six measures of biological ageing were generated: two physiological ages (created from bedside clinical measurements and standard blood tests) and four blood methylation age measures. Their effects on future stroke, dementia or Parkinson's disease diagnosis, or development of abnormal clinical signs, were determined using survival analysis, with and without stratification by twin pairs. Older physiological ages were associated with ischaemic stroke risk; for example one standard deviation advancement in baseline PhenoAgePhys or KDMAgePhys residual increased future ischaemic stroke risk by 29.2% [hazard ratio (HR): 1.29, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.06-1.58, P = 0.012] and 42.9% (HR 1.43, CI 1.18-1.73, P = 3.1 × 10-4), respectively. In contrast, older methylation ages were more predictive of future dementia risk, which was increased by 29.7% (HR 1.30, CI 1.07-1.57, P = 0.007) per standard deviation advancement in HorvathAgeMeth. Older physiological ages were also positively associated with future development of abnormal patellar or pupillary reflexes, and the loss of normal gait. Measures of biological ageing can predict clinically relevant pathology of the nervous system independent of chronological age. This may help to explain variability in disease risk between individuals of the same age and strengthens the case for trials of geroprotective interventions for people with neurological disorders.

Keywords: biological ageing; examination; twin study.

Publication types

  • Twin Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics
  • Brain Ischemia*
  • Dementia* / diagnosis
  • Dementia* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Ischemic Stroke*
  • Stroke* / diagnosis
  • Stroke* / epidemiology