A good heart is hard to find

A good heart is hard to find

Having parents who lived to a ripe old age means you are likely to live long and stay healthy after your seventies too.

Our chances of survival increased by 17 per cent for each decade that at least one parent lives beyond the age of 70.

Those with longer lived parents had lower incidence of multiple circulatory conditions including heart disease, heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and atrial fibrillation

For example the risk of death from heart disease was 20 per cent lower for each decade that at least one parent lived beyond the age of 70.

In addition, for each longer lived parent the risk of cancer was reduced by seven per cent.

The study led by the University of Exeter for the first time found evidence that knowing the age at which your parents died could help predict your risk not only of heart disease, but many aspects of heart and circulatory health.

Scientists said if they can slow down ageing they can also delay the onset of diseases as they both share the same biological pathways.

The findings was based on the health of 186,000 middle-aged offspring, aged 55 to 73 years, followed over a period of up to eight years as part of the UK Biobank.

Dr Janice Atkins at Exeter’s Medical School said: “To our knowledge, this is the largest study to show that the longer your parents live, the more likely you are to remain healthy in your sixties and seventies.

“Asking about parents’ longevity could help us predict our likelihood of ageing well and developing conditions such as heart disease, in order to identify patients at higher or lower risk in time to treat them appropriately.”

The findings build on a study by the same Exeter team earlier this year which established a genetic link between parents’ longevity and heart disease risk in 75,000 participants in the UK Biobank.

Couple with bicyles living longer

It found offspring of longer-lived parents were more likely to have protective variants of genes liked to coronary artery disease, systolic blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Joint author Dr Luke Pilling said: “This work helps us identify genetic variations explaining the better health of people with longer-lived parents.

“We prominently found genetic factors linked to blood pressure, cholesterol levels and smoking, which underlines how important these avoidable and treatable risks are.

“However, we also found novel genetic factors, which could provide new clues to help us understand why having longer-lived parents has health benefits.”

Programme leader Professor David Melzer added: “It’s been unclear why some older people develop heart conditions in their sixties while others only develop these conditions much later in life or even avoid them completely.

“Our research tells us that, while avoiding the well-known risk factors such as smoking is very important, there are also other factors inherited from parents.

“As we understand these parental factors better, we should be able to help more people to age well.”

Co-author Professor George Kuchel, Director at the University of Connecticut Centre on Ageing added: “Ageing is the most important risk factor for common chronic conditions such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer, which are likely to share pathways with ageing and therefore interventions designed to slow biological ageing processes may also delay the onset of disease and disability, thus expanding years of healthy and independent lives for our seniors.”

The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.