Long-Lived Parents = Low Heart Risk
Parents Who Live to Age 85+ Bequeath Heart Health to Descendants
March 12, 2007 -- Parents who survive to 85 or older bequeath heart health
to their descendants, a long-term study shows.
That's good news for the rare person who has two exceptionally long-lived
parents. But it's also good news for the rest of us.
Why? At about age 40, the study shows, children of long-lived parents smoke
less, have lower blood pressure, and have lower cholesterol levels than similar
adults whose parents died before age 85. This means they are at much lower risk
of heart disease
And there's a lot the rest of us can do about those risk factors, says study
researcher Daniel Levy, MD, director of the Framingham Heart Study and a
scientist at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
"Modifying these risk factors will increase your likelihood of surviving
to old age without heart disease, which is the No. 1 killer of both men and
women," Levy tells WebMD. "If we could eliminate high
blood pressure, eliminate high cholesterol
levels, and eliminate cigarette smoking, we would eliminate about 90% of heart
Levy and colleagues at Boston University found that at the average age of
40, people who had two parents survive to 85 or older had fewer heart-disease
risk factors than did people with parents who died before age 85.
And over 12 years of follow-up, children of long-lived parents had a
significantly slower increase in heart disease risk. Having just one long-lived
parent also seemed to slow progression of heart disease risk -- but not nearly
as much as having two parents who reached age 85.
Will You Survive to 85?
Levy stresses that with a healthy lifestyle -- and, perhaps, a little help
from your doctor -- you can have the heart disease
risk profile of someone whose parents lived very long lives.
But you may not be able to match these genetically gifted individuals in
life span, suggests Clyde B. Schechter, MD, associate professor of epidemiology
and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y.
"You don't have much chance of making it to 95 or 100 unless your
parents did, no matter what you do," Schechter tells WebMD. "For the
common man, genetic background isn't as important as behavior. There is a lot
you can do to determine how long you will live. But those things will get you
from 65 to 85 -- not to 95."
If that's the case, why look at the small number of people who have
inherited longevity? For clues, Levy and Schechter say.
Both of these researches -- and many others -- are trying to pinpoint the
genes and genetic factors linked to long life. That work has only just
"If we can track down the specific genes, and how they work, that may
someday lead to discoveries of new approaches to preventing heart disease,"
Schechter says. "But products or new things people can do to make
themselves metabolically look like people who live to the ripe old age of 100
-- that is a couple of decades away."