Live Life More Critical to Longevity Than Genetics, Finds New Swedish
Long running study
of elderly men finds longevity traits established before 60s
Feb. 7, 2011 -
How long your parents lived does not affect how long you will live.
Instead it is how you live your life that determines how old you will
get, says research from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. This
conclusion conflicts with a study released last July that claims to
predict exceptional longevity from genetic variants, but is in line with
ideas expressed by some who study centenarians.
(See sidebar for
links to other studies.)
study, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, also runs
counter to what many people just assume - that those with parents who
lived to be very old are more likely to live to a grand old age
"But that's just
not true,” says professor emeritus Lars Wilhelmsen. “Our study shows
that hereditary factors don't play a major role and that lifestyle has
the biggest impact."
The study group
consisted of men born in 1913 that have participated in health and
longevity studies in Gothenburg for many years.
Those in the
1913 Men Study who did not smoke, consumed moderate amounts of coffee
and had a good socio-economic status at the age of 50 (measured in terms
of housing costs), as well as good physical working capacity at the age
of 54 and low cholesterol at 50 had the greatest chance of celebrating
their 90th birthday.
new ground here," says Wilhelmsen.
"Many of these
factors have previously been identified as playing a role in
cardiovascular disease, but here we are showing for the first time that
they are important for survival in general."
the 1913 Men study with best chance to reach age 90 -
● did not smoke,
● consumed moderate amounts of
● had a good socio-economic
status at age 50
● had a good physical working
capacity at age 54 and
● had low cholesterol at 50.
He believes that
it is significant that the research illustrates so clearly that we do
not "inherit" mortality to any great extent, but instead that it is the
sum of our own habits that has the biggest impact.
clearly shows that we can influence several of the factors that decide
how old we get," says Wilhelmsen.
positive not only for the individual, but also for society as it doesn't
entail any major drug costs."
The 1913 Men
epidemiological study started up in 1963. A third of all male
50-year-olds in Gothenburg were called for a check-up that focused on
cardiovascular health. Every ten years since, a new group of
50-year-olds has been called in and those who were already taking part
in the study have been given another check-up.
This has enabled
researchers to follow the development of illnesses in a specific age
group, and to compare the health of 50-year-olds in 2003 with that of
50-year-olds in 1963, for example.
Women have also
been included in the study since 2003. Several variables have been
studied over the years, including BMI, smoking habits, cholesterol,
exercise habits and blood pressure.
The men born in
1913 were examined when they were 50, 54, 60, 67, 75 and 80. Of the 855
men who took part in the study from the start, 111 (13%) were still
alive at the age of 90.
Over the years
the material has generated many research articles and doctoral theses.
An interesting result came in 2008 when researchers were able to show
that the drop in the number of smokers, combined with lower cholesterol
levels and lower blood pressure, between 1963 and 2003 could offer an
explanation for the marked downturn in the number of heart attacks
during this 40-year period.
of Gothenburg, Sweden, has approximately 37,000 students and is one of
the major universities in northern Europe.