Parental life span may foretell a daughter’s healthy aging

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo: theunquietlibrarian via Flickr

Like mother, like daughter? Maybe so when it comes to healthy aging, according to a recent study.

Daughters whose birth mothers lived to age 90 or beyond were 25 percent more likely to also live to at least 90. They also had fewer, if any, age-related diseases when compared with women whose mothers died before age 80, researchers at the University of San Diego found in the study published in the Aug. 15 edition of the journal Age and Ageing.

Researchers also found that if only the birth father lived to 90, there was no correlation to increased health in daughters, but the odds of longevity did increase by 21 percent, compared with women whose fathers died younger than 80. However, if both the mother and father lived to 90, the likelihood of the daughter achieving longevity and healthy aging jumped to 38 percent. Healthy aging was defined as survival to more than 90 years without a history of major age-related diseases or injury, such as heart disease, stroke or hip fractures, and with no significant limitations in physical function.

“Achieving healthy aging has become a critical public health priority in light of the rapidly growing aging population in the United States. Our results show that not only did these women live to age 90, but they also aged well by avoiding major diseases and disabilities,” first author Aladdin Shadyab, Ph.D., at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine said in a statement. “It’s not just about the number of candles on the cake. These women were independent and could do daily activities like bathing, walking, climbing a flight of stairs or participating in hobbies without limitations.”

Researchers analyzed data from 22,735 participants in the Women’s Health Initiative, a long-term national study of post-menopausal women. Participants were recruited from 1993 to 1998 and were followed up with through 2017. The average age of the women at the start of the study was 73. They were assessed at baseline for several factors, including age and health of both parents at their time of death. Those whose mothers lived to at least 90 were more likely to be college graduates, married with high incomes and incorporated physical activity and a healthy diet into their lives. The study did not address parental life span effects on sons.

“Approximately 34 percent of all American women 65 years old will live to 90, The increase in life expectancy is calculated compared to this base. (Just 22 percent of men of that age will reach 90),” ,s the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Certain genetic traits seem common in the oldest-old, other studies have found.

Shadyab and colleagues believe a combination of genetics, environment, and behaviors passed to subsequent generations may influence aging outcomes among offspring. How long our parents live may predict our long-term outcomes, including whether we will age well. He said further studies are needed to explore how factors such as behaviors interact with genetics to influence healthy aging outcomes.

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