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Is Longevity Inherited?
Old 03-16-2015, 02:25 PM   #1
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Is Longevity Inherited?

A couple of weeks ago, I read Being Mortal (2014) by Atul Gawande. In this book, I saw a paragraph about longevity that caught me by surprise.
“It turns out that inheritance has surprisingly little influence on longevity. James Vaupel, of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, in Rostock, Germany, notes that only 3 percent of how long you’ll live, compared with the average, is explained by your parents’ longevity; by contrast, up to 90 percent of how tall you are is explained by your parents’ height. Even genetically identical twins vary widely in life span; the typical gap is more than fifteen years.”
This is in conflict with what we commonly accept, that is genetics is a large factor in human life. Now, we are told that our lifespan does not correlate well with that of our parents.

I went and searched further on this subject on the Web using the phrase "inherited longevity". I found a few research articles on this subject, but the scholarly papers I found were not written for laymen, and required professional membership or purchases of the papers. I did read the abstract of a couple of papers, and they reported that the correlation of parent/offspring longevity of a bit less than 0.3. This is still fairly weak. And there was a paper comparing lifespan of identical twins, and the conclusion was also that their longevity did not match well.

So, if lifespan depends mostly on nurture, why do doctors ask about our family medical history, and why we keep reading bout genes causing predisposal to certain diseases? Is it that inherited disease cases are not that common in population? Or a shared disease still does not mean a shared shortened lifespan?
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Old 03-16-2015, 02:38 PM   #2
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I really, really hope that's true. Average age of death for my male ancestors going back 3 generations is 67.
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Old 03-16-2015, 03:09 PM   #3
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. I did read the abstract of a couple of papers, and they reported that the correlation of parent/offspring longevity of a bit less than 0.3. This is still fairly weak. And there was a paper comparing lifespan of identical twins, and the conclusion was also that their longevity did not match well.
What did they die from? I can't inherit my father's fall down the elevator shaft. Getting hit by a bus doesn't run in my mother's family

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So, if lifespan depends mostly on nurture, why do doctors ask about our family medical history, and why we keep reading bout genes causing predisposal to certain diseases?
I would imagine mostly to scare you if you are otherwise healthy and doing all the right things (until they move the goalposts on those things). They can always say "Oh well that doesn't count because your grandmother was diabetic/had a heart attack before age 90/whatever is selling these days... ergo you need to change something needlessly or here take this drug, don't worry it's safe."
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Old 03-16-2015, 03:25 PM   #4
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One reason I want to read one of these papers is to see the methodology. I would think that they would consider only deaths from illness or old age and throw away unnatural demises involving buses and the likes.

But even if they consider death from all reasons, the result could still tell you something. That is, even if you inherit good genes from your parents who outlive you, the risk involving buses, elevator shafts, fast cars, lightning strikes, tsunamis, asteroids, etc..., may be so high that good genes account for naught.
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Old 03-16-2015, 03:35 PM   #5
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I wonder if they are only looking at death from natural causes

Like someone pointed out... if someone got hit by a bus.... who knows how long they might have lived...


Why do they ask about health issues of family members Because there is a correlation to what disease you might have to prior family members...
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Old 03-16-2015, 03:47 PM   #6
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I enjoyed the book "Being Mortal" - very thought provoking.

I would think some items ARE inheritable - genetic predisposition to some types of cancer.... short (or long) telemeres... propensity towards heart disease and/or stroke.

But other COD aren't inherited... I had a grandfather who died of lung cancer.... after smoking 2 packs (or more) a day. I don't think anyone downstream of him who didn't smoke considered themselves at risk for lung cancer.

From a financial point of view - plan for a long life, even if your family history suggests otherwise. Which is why I plan for my husband to reach at least 100 (his dad died at 90, his mom is 88 and physically healthy but dementia is an issue.) I plan for myself to age 90 - my mom died at 67 of cancer, my dad at 76 of cancer... 3 of my 4 grandparents died before age 70, but my maternal grandmother made it to 91... so I have that in my family history.
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Old 03-16-2015, 04:06 PM   #7
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I'm a little surprised too, would have thought family history would be more significant, but I found other references that suggested family history accounted for no more than 6%.

The perceived correlation may stem from the fact that offspring may tend to lifestyles much like their parents, and have similar longevity as a result. Looking at life expectancy calculators, none seem to ask much about family history. The questions seem to be related to income, education, access to health care/pharma, alcohol/smoking/drugs, AIDS, BMI, heart rate/pressure, water/sanitation.

No matter what your family history, evidently (where possible) good habits re: the above will help more often than not barring accidental death. Maybe more than most of us realize?
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Old 03-16-2015, 04:11 PM   #8
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There is some correlation between your longevity and the age of your father (not mother!) at your birth. Children of older fathers tend to live longer.
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Old 03-16-2015, 05:22 PM   #9
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I think you get more from your genes then you get from your behaviour. That is yes it is inherited.

Now if you smoke 5 packs a day good genes may not help you.
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Old 03-16-2015, 05:48 PM   #10
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There is some correlation between your longevity and the age of your father (not mother!) at your birth. Children of older fathers tend to live longer.
Yes, and if your father had no children then the chances are that you won't either.
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Old 03-16-2015, 06:21 PM   #11
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Yes, and if your father had no children then the chances are that you won't either.
Yes, and while I'm not sure about longevity, I know that insanity has a strong genetic component. You get it from your kids.
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Old 03-16-2015, 06:31 PM   #12
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There is some correlation between your longevity and the age of your father (not mother!) at your birth. Children of older fathers tend to live longer.
Then my kids are destined for VERY long lives. (DH was in his late 40's when older son was born, and 50 when younger son joined our family).

It means they'll be young and fit enough to deal with eldercare issues we'll toss at them when we get really old. LOL.
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Old 03-16-2015, 09:08 PM   #13
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I believe this finding.

If your parents smoked or drank too much or didn't exercise, your lifestyle impact on longevity will easily outweigh the genetic inheritance. Look around - how many people live exactly like their parents?

Siblings could live very different lifestyles - if one leads a healthy lifestyle and the other is a couch potato, there goes the correlation to genes!
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Old 03-16-2015, 09:34 PM   #14
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Mom died at 89, dad (41 when I was born) at 90 or 91. I HOPE I inherit a longevity gene. I’m so angry at earlier employers, I want to collect a pension for as long as I can…





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Old 03-16-2015, 09:40 PM   #15
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My dad was 4 months shy of his 95th birthday when he died. His father was also 4 months shy of his 95th birthday when he died. My grandfather's lifespan was 8 days longer than my dad's lifespan.
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Old 03-16-2015, 10:45 PM   #16
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I have read different ideas on genetics and longevity -

"German researchers at the Christian Albrechts University in Kiel recently confirmed that variants of the FOXO3A gene are a common characteristic for many people who live past 100. The CAU team studied 380+ centenarians, more than 600 people in their 90s, and more than 700 60-75 year olds to determine how prevalent these gene variations were. They found that not only were certain FOXO3A variants very common in 90 year olds, they were even more common in 100 year olds, emphasizing the importance of genetics for aging well."

Want To Live Forever? Better Hope You Have the Right FOXO3A Gene | Singularity HUB
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Old 03-16-2015, 11:31 PM   #17
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My mother was in terrible health at 75, but she lived to 91 years old due to incredible health care and superior doctors. She'd been a heavy smoker.
My clean living aunt lived to 99 years and 8 months. She never took vacations, and enjoyment was not in her vocabulary. She wouldn't even drink a Coke or ever eat dessert.
Yes, I believe longevity is in one's genes. Clean living and proper healthcare also has a lot do do with life expectancy. But all in all, one has to enjoy living.
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Old 03-17-2015, 06:55 AM   #18
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It will be interesting to see how my family goes. My grandmother and parents died in their mid 80s. The other grandparents dies younger. I have three siblings in their early 80s. Two have pretty good lifestyles. One is sedentary. The next decade will tell the story on them.
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Old 03-17-2015, 07:35 AM   #19
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This is in conflict with what we commonly accept, that is genetics is a large factor in human life. Now, we are told that our lifespan does not correlate well with that of our parents.
Does this mean that the health factors that lead to the premature death of a parent do not play a significant role in the health of their children, or does it mean these factors are still inherited but modern medicine is able to treat these conditions and minimize the impact?
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Old 03-17-2015, 07:36 AM   #20
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I would imagine mostly to scare you if you are otherwise healthy and doing all the right things (until they move the goalposts on those things). They can always say "Oh well that doesn't count because your grandmother was diabetic/had a heart attack before age 90/whatever is selling these days... ergo you need to change something needlessly or here take this drug, don't worry it's safe."
Yes, doctors just want to scare people and move the goalposts and push needless medicine on people...they are horrible people
---and if they didn't ask about it and you had some disease with a genetic factor you would sue them.

Gee, why did I retire early from medicine?


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