It’s already well known that having long-lived parents is associated
with a lower risk for clogged arteries in the heart, and longer
But what about other kinds of heart and blood vessel problems?
“To our knowledge,” the research team writes in the Journal of the
American College of Cardiology, “this is the first study” to find a
link between parental longevity and lower risks for heart failure,
the heart rhythm problem known as atrial fibrillation, as well as
diseases of blood vessels in the arms and legs.
The researchers looked at more than 186,000 middle-aged offspring
from England, Wales and Scotland who had a deceased parent. They
started tracking participants between the ages of 55 and 73,
following them for at least eight years.
Not surprisingly, the older a participant’s mother and father were
at their death, the longer the participant lived, too. This was true
even when participants’ age, sex, ethnicity, education, income,
smoking, alcohol use, physical activity and body mass index were
taken into account.
But the researchers also found that offspring of longer-lived
parents were less likely to have strokes, high blood pressure,
anemia, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation and circulation
disorders affecting blood vessels outside of the heart and brain
that are known as peripheral vascular disease.
“This research is important as it shows that knowing the age at
which your parents died provides information on your own risk of
death and disease,” said study co-author Dr. Luke C. Pilling, a
research fellow at the University of Exeter Medical School in the
But that doesn’t mean people who lost parents at younger ages can’t
improve their health, noted Pilling.
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“Current public health advice about being physically active, eating
well, and not smoking are very relevant, so people can take their
health into their own hands,” he told Reuters Health by email.
Many factors, including genetics, living in the same environment and
similar lifestyle choices, play a role in parental longevity and
survival and health in their offspring, said Pilling.
“But even accounting for these factors, parents’ lifespan is still
predictive in their offspring,” he said.
The concept that parental disease history predicts offspring disease
isn’t new, said Dr. Nisha Parikh, a cardiologist at the University
of California, San Francisco who was not involved with the study.
“That’s why we routinely ask about parental history,” she said. “But
we haven’t paid attention to longevity, and this study highlights
longevity as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.”
The findings should prompt people to pay attention to the health and
aging of their parents, she added.
“If you have a parent that died at an early age, this might be a
reason to go to a doctor to have them screen for heart disease risks
and have those risk factors appropriately treated,” she said.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2bFCLWs Journal of the American College of
Cardiology, online August 23, 2016.
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