November 18, 2002
IL (AHA) – Adult children whose
parents lived to be 100 years old or more have a strikingly
lower incidence of heart disease and fewer major heart risk
factors when they reach old age than those whose parents died in
their 70s, according to a study reported at the American Heart
Association’s Scientific Sessions 2002.
longevity runs in families, but at this point it's difficult to
predict how much of this effect is genetic and how much is
related to environment and lifestyle," says Dellara F. Terry,
M.D., of Boston University Medical Center.
suggests that children of centenarians have some cardiovascular
health advantages over the rest of us, but Americans can still
improve their health and age more successfully by not smoking,
maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly."
compared 176 “c-children” (children of centenarians) with 166
controls, whose parents were born in the same years as the
centenarians but who had at least one parent die at age 73, the
average life expectancy for someone who survives past age 20.
Average age of the centenarian offspring in the study was 71.1
years, and average age of controls was 69.7 years.
One of the
c-children had two parents who lived to age 100, but that is too
small a sample to draw any conclusions about possible enhanced
benefits of being a two-parent c-child, she says. The other
c-children’s centenarian parent had an average age of 102.4
years. Average age at death of the second parent, for both
c-children and controls, was 77 years.
controls, c-children had a lower prevalence of high blood
pressure (26 percent vs. 52 percent), heart disease (13 percent
vs. 27 percent) and diabetes (5 percent vs. 11 percent).
physical exams showed that c-children weighed less than
controls. Female c-children weighed an average of 66.3 kg (146
lbs.), while female controls weighed an average 71.9 kg (158
lbs.). Male c-children weighed 83.7 kg (184 lbs.) on average,
while male controls weighed 91.7 kg (202 lbs.) on average.
Accordingly, c-children had lower body mass indexes (25.5 vs.
28.6 for females and 27.3 vs. 29 for males).
however, there were no significant differences (between
c-children and controls) in the prevalence of a number of other
age-related diseases, including cancer, stroke, dementia,
osteoporosis, cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration,
depression, Parkinson's disease and thyroid disease," Terry
The study also
found that c-children, on average, had significantly more years
of education and a significantly higher daily function-activity
assessed functional status by measuring a person's performance
of routine activities such as using the telephone, grocery
shopping, preparing meals and taking medications.
levels, meanwhile, may reflect socioeconomic differences, which
can impact health," she says. "Our analyses controlled for
differences in education and still demonstrated major
differences in cardiovascular disease that favor c-children."
The study showed
a variety of health benefits for both male and female
c-children, Terry says. But it’s still unclear how much these
factors are influenced by genetics and lifestyle/environment.
"One of the major
goals of our ongoing study is to sort out the extent that each
of these influences contributes to longevity," she says.
Thomas T. Perls, M.D.; Elizabeth V. Lawler; and Maegan A.