Physical ailments increase the risk of premature death. Now studies confirm that PTSD or other mental health issues are also associated with early death. In recent years researchers have developed a reliable biomarker called the “GrimAge” marker. It is a genetic biomarker that can predict the risk of early death. A new study in those living with PTSD long with comorbidities confirmed the risk of premature death in the population group by using the GrimAge test. It’s important to note that there are available for post traumatic stress disorder treatments that can improve outcomes and reduce the risk of premature death.
It is pretty simple to understand that those living with chronic physical ailments are more likely to die early than healthier adults. Additionally, studies also show that those living with mental health disorders are also at risk of premature death. These are not just observations; researchers have also developed some lab tests that may help predict the risk of early death.
One of the simple ways to predict the age of any person living with PTSD and other mental disorders is a general health checkup. In addition, if a person has some physical comorbidities like diabetes and dementia, then the person is more likely to die early.
However, in the absence of physical ailments, predicting the risk of premature death is relatively complex.
Nonetheless, in such cases, doctors can use lab tests like measuring inflammation, various changes in the blood, testing for metabolic health like blood cholesterol level, and more. It appears that researchers have now developed a better way to predict the risk of premature death. They have identified a certain change in the cellular DNA. This change is called the “GrimAge” biomarker.
After years of research, researchers have found that the “GrimAge” genetic biomarker is quite good at predicting the risk of premature death. Here it is vital to understand that this biomarker is not related to biological aging but instead used to predict early death. Since researchers now have this biomarker that predicts the risk of early death, they can go further and try to understand the risk of premature death in various mental health conditions like PTSD. In the new study, researchers tested young patients living with PTSD and other comorbidities like substance abuse. They found the presence of the “GrimAge” biomarker in these young patients.
Those who have the “GrimAge” biomarker also show other changes like poor memory, cognitive decline, inflammation, cardiometabolic pathology, astrocyte damage, immune dysfunction, and more. So, researchers could also show changes in the brain scans.
These are some of the early studies in the direction of predicting premature death. Until now, most clinical studies focus on diagnosing physical ailments and predicting the risk of early death.
However, now researchers have a more reliable tool in their hands. By understanding the risk of premature death, even in the absence of any severe health disorders, researchers can now focus on finding new treatments for prolonging age. It means that these studies may help us enter a completely new era when the focus of medicine would be not just on managing health disorders but taking proactive measures to prolong life. It also means that in the future, we may see medications that may prolong life and not just treat health conditions.
What is good is that researchers are already able to detect very low levels of molecules associated with premature death. As a result, they can detect the risk of early death years or even decades before a person develops any physical ailments. Early detection of premature risk means that doctors have sufficient time to take early measures. As a result, they can take measures to reverse the adverse health consequences of stress and other mental health disorders.
By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP