Suppose you had two groups of 70 year olds, one whose parents had lived to be 100 years old and the other whose parents died at a younger age. Which group would you expect to live longer?
This isn’t a trick question and the answer is no surprise but the question is why. Why do the offspring of centenarian parents live longer?
Dellara F. Terry and colleagues from Boston University make a persuasive case that the benefit is conferred through reductions in cardiovascular risk.
They report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society that septuagenarian children of centenarian parents were 81% less likely to die during a 3.5-year follow-up than age-matched controls, and same group was 78% less likely to have a heart attack, 83% less likely to have a stroke, and 86% less likely to develop diabetes.
And yet the children of centenarians were just as likely as the second group to develop cancer, depression, glaucoma, bone fractures, thyroid disease, hypertension, macular degeneration and dementia.
“The most dramatic difference we’ve seen among centenarian offspring, one that’s been consistent throughout the period we’ve been following them, is the decreased prevalence of heart disease and its risk factors,” Dr. Terry told the New York Times.
OK so is it nature or nurture?
“Just because something is familial doesn’t mean it’s all genetic,” Terry explained to the Times. “It could be there are health-related behaviors they have learned from their parents. It’s also possible it’s genes, or the absence of bad genes, they inherited from their parents.”
Which is another way of saying we don’t know right now but if we can figure it out we’ll let you know.