Recent research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that middle aged people who have parents of which at least one lives to be 85 or more, have a lower risk of heart disease.
The research used data from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), which contains risk factor data on cardiovascular and other chronic diseases from several generations of residents of Framingham, Massachusetts from 1948 to the present day. Dr Dellara F. Terry and his research team at the University school of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts looked at over 1500 individuals in the FHS. Participants were examined between 1971 and 1975, and data collected for a variety of factors such as age, sex, educational level, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, smoking habits and Body Mass Index. Each participant's progression was evaluated once more between the years of 1983 and 1987 and then assigned a Framingham risk score, which measures their cardiovascular disease risk. 705 of the participants had no parents who lived to be 85 or more, 804 of them had one parent, and 188 of them had both parents reaching 85 or more.
'The percentage of those individuals with optimal or normal blood pressure, total/high density lipoprotein ['good'] cholesterol ratio, and low Framingham risk scores was highest in those with both parents surviving to 85 years or older', said the research team. They suggested that 'individuals with long lived parents have more advantageous cardiovascular risk profiles in middle age compared with those whose parents died younger and that the risk factor advantage persists over time'. To explain the finding they proposed that 'there are well established genetic contributions to each of the risk factors that we have examined that may partially explain the reduced risk factors for those with long-lived parents.'
However, while there is clearly a strong genetic component to longevity, Dr Daniel Levy, director of FHS and member of the National Heart Lung and Blood institute pointed out that there are many things people can do to lower their risk of getting heart disease, no matter what their genetic make-up. Factors such as diet, exercise, sleep and stress also affects our risk of developing heart disease. 'We know that if we eliminate high blood pressure, eliminate high cholesterol and then cigarette smoking, we would eradicate the overwhelming majority of cardiovascular disease in the United States'.