Children of centenarians live longer, healthier

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People who make it to the age of 100 may indeed have some “good genes” that they pass on their children, according to a new study.

The study, of more than 600 older U.S. adults, found that the children of centenarians tended to live longer and were substantially less likely to develop diabetes or suffer a heart attack or stroke over four years.

The results suggest that children of centenarians tend to retain a “cardiovascular advantage” over their peers as they age, note Emily R. Adams and colleagues at Boston University and Boston Medical Center.

“These findings reinforce the notion that there may be physiological reasons that longevity runs in families and that centenarian offspring are more likely to age in better cardiovascular health and with a lower mortality than their peers,” the researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The study included 440 men and women who had at least one parent who’d survived to age 100 or beyond, and 192 adults whose parents had lived an average life expectancy. The average age in both groups was 72 at the start of the study.

Over the next four years, Adams and her colleagues found, children of centenarians were 81 percent less likely to die and significantly less likely to develop cardiovascular problems or diabetes.

Only 0.7 percent suffered a heart attack during the study period, compared with 3.5 percent of the comparison group. Similarly, 1 percent of the centenarian group had a stroke, versus 6 percent of their peers.

Meanwhile, diabetes was newly diagnosed in just over 5 percent of the comparison group, but only 0.8 percent of the centenarian group.

“The current findings suggest that centenarian offspring are following in their parent’s footsteps, avoiding some of the vascular morbidities afflicting their peers and, more importantly, being less likely to die over time,” the researchers write.

They add that the results also stress the importance of good cardiovascular health in anyone’s chances of living an exceptionally long life.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, November 2008.

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