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Live Long? Die Young? Answer Isnít Just in Genes
Old 08-31-2006, 08:47 AM   #1
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Live Long? Die Young? Answer Isnít Just in Genes

Why is it that twins, who share the same genes, have different diseases and different life spans?* NY Times discusses.

Quote: Life spans, says James W. Vaupel, who directs the Laboratory of Survival and Longevity at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, are nothing like a trait like height, which is strongly inherited.

ďHow tall your parents are compared to the average height explains 80 to 90 percent of how tall you are compared to the average person,Ē Dr. Vaupel said. But ďonly 3 percent of how long you live compared to the average person can be explained by how long your parents lived.Ē*

ďYou really learn very little about your own life span from your parentsí life spans,Ē Dr. Vaupel said. ďThatís what the evidence shows. Even twins, identical twins, die at different times.Ē On average, he said, more than 10 years apart.

The likely reason is that life span is determined by such a complex mix of events that there is no accurate predicting for individuals. The factors include genetic predispositions, disease, nutrition, a womanís health during pregnancy, subtle injuries and accidents and simply chance events, like a randomly occurring mutation in a gene of a cell that ultimately leads to cancer.

The result is that old people can appear to be struck down for many reasons, or for what looks like almost no reason at all, just chance. Some may be more vulnerable than others, and over all, it is clear that the most fragile are likely to die first. But there are still those among the fragile who somehow live on and on. And there are seemingly healthy people who die suddenly.

Some diseases, like early onset Alzheimerís and early onset heart disease, are more linked to family histories than others, like most cancers and Parkinsonís disease. But predisposition is not a guarantee that an individual will develop the disease. Most, in fact, do not get the disease they are predisposed to. And even getting the disease does not mean a person will die of it.
Unquote

If this article is to be believed,* nutrition, lifestyle, and chance events have more bearing on longevity than genes.* Large families may have some, but not all members who live past 90.** Comparing twins should illustrate the genes vs lifestyle arguments, if the study is done long enough.
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Re: Live Long? Die Young? Answer Isnít Just in Genes
Old 08-31-2006, 09:20 AM   #2
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Re: Live Long? Die Young? Answer Isnít Just in Genes

Genes are definately important but they can be overridden by an unhealthy lifestyle. I think that things difficult to quantify like attitude/perception of events play a large part in longivity.
You see those people having a mental meltdown because they have to wait 6 min. in the grocery store check-out? They are wearing themselves out - a lifetime of negative emotions can get you.
I have a SIL that has aged dramatically....she is always angry and judgemental. I don't know how my brother can take it - after all these years I kind of get a kick out of watching her reaction to things.
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Re: Live Long? Die Young? Answer Isnít Just in Genes
Old 08-31-2006, 09:43 AM   #3
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Re: Live Long? Die Young? Answer Isnít Just in Genes

It's like tires. You can have good tires with good treads, and crash tomorrow. You can have bald tires and never have an accident.

You can have good genes and get hit by a car with bald tires when you're 30.
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Re: Live Long? Die Young? Answer Isnít Just in Genes
Old 08-31-2006, 09:58 AM   #4
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Re: Live Long? Die Young? Answer Isnít Just in Genes

I know 2 sisters who have experienced some reversals in life such as husbands spottily employed or underemployed (financial and emotional stress). The sister with childhood diabetes, tendency to overweight, urban lifestyle, and a stressful job herself looks younger than her age and seems chipper. But the sister who's fit and healthy and thin, and was able to be a SAHM for several years, has aged enormously--not handling the stress as well. Maybe an inborn personality thing.
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Re: Live Long? Die Young? Answer Isnít Just in Genes
Old 08-31-2006, 12:00 PM   #5
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Re: Live Long? Die Young? Answer Isnít Just in Genes

I wonder what ratio of people die primarily due to external/accidental factors (the classic getting hit by a bus) vs. those dying of disease/old age?

As TromboneAl points out, if you have good genes it only matters if you don't get hit by a bus.

On a personal level, what I do is look at the top three things that kill people in my age group (I think you can get some good statistics from the US Govt) and figure out what the top three things are that contribute to those top three things, and then try to put some effort into those things. I think the big three for me right now are eating right, exercising some, and not stressing.

I did a similar thing with my kids. After a kid makes it to about 1 year old and doesn't die of congenital issues, the two big things I remember are car accidents and drowning. So I made sure my kids took swimming lessons, stay away from dangerous water, and know about car safety (seatbelts, sitting in the safest place in the car, looking both ways, etc.).

This isn't rocket science, but it does at least let me know where to put my energy. I don't waste much time trying to prevent myself from getting struck by lightning or my kids getting killed by terrorists, because I can spend that time much more profitably signing them up for swimming lessons or going for a walk.

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Re: Live Long? Die Young? Answer Isnít Just in Genes
Old 08-31-2006, 12:08 PM   #6
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Re: Live Long? Die Young? Answer Isnít Just in Genes

I just looked and the statistics I was referring to can be found here at the CDC:

http://209.217.72.34/HDAA/TableViewer/tableView.aspx

Find your age group at the top, click on the downward pointing arrow underneath, and then look at the top few. Note that you can also limit the table by your location, gender, race, and do some other cool things. In my case the top three causes of death represent over half of the risk of dying in my age group.

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Re: Live Long? Die Young? Answer Isnít Just in Genes
Old 08-31-2006, 12:12 PM   #7
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Re: Live Long? Die Young? Answer Isnít Just in Genes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eagle43
Comparing twins should illustrate the genes vs lifestyle arguments, if the study is done long enough.
It's been done. * The Swedish Twin Study was started in the 1960's. * Currently there are over 60,000 twin pairs in the study.

Results? * Health and mortality are 30% genetic and 70% lifestyle.
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