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Study: Aging well runs in families

By Debra Goldschmidt
CNN Medical Unit


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CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- Children of people who have reached 100 years of age are less likely to suffer from a number of cardiovascular diseases, according to a study presented Monday at the annual Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association.

Dr. Dellara Terry of the Boston University School of Medicine looked at 177 children of people who lived to be at least 100 years old and were living independently into their 90s.

She compared those children with 166 children of couples born the same years as the centenarians but at least one of whom had died at age 73.

In comparing the two groups of offspring, the investigators found that the children of centenarians have a health advantage, particularly when it comes to cardiovascular disease and its related risks.

This includes lower rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure and irregular heart rhythms.

The researchers also found that children of centenarians experience a significantly later age of onset if they do experience high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease or stroke. And they found that fewer take prescribed medication and tend to weigh less.

Terry concluded that aging well "seems to be familial."

Further analysis of the study participants is under way to determine why. More answers are expected in coming years as the participants are followed longer.

If their apparent health advantage turns out to be based on genetic differences, Terry said, children of centenarians could enjoy an extra edge in life. In the meantime, she said, children of shorter-lived parents can still adjust their lifestyles to focus on prevention.

"There's a lot we know about prevention, there's a lot we can do if our parents live to the average life expectancy. It won't get you to 100, but it may give you added years of a healthy aging," Terry said.

Longevity research says that people who age well may be aided by genetic advantages.

This research could lead to the conclusion that genes are responsible for cardiovascular risk factors and that the ability to age well is related to cardiovascular health, said Terry, director of the Genetics of Longevity Study at Boston Medical Center.



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