A study, believed to be the largest of its kind ever conducted has shown that the longer parents live, the longer their offspring are likely to live.
The research, released on Wednesday by the Medical Research Council (MRC) in London, indicated that children of long-lived parents are more likely to stay healthy in their 60s and 70s.
The eight-year study led by the University of Exeter involved an international team of academics from the University of Cambridge.
Also involved in the research, are UConn Centre on Aging at UConn Health in Connecticut, U.S., the French National Institute of Health and the Indian Institute of Public Health.
The researchers noted that those with longer-lived parents had much lower rates of heart conditions and cancers.
The study, funded by the MRC and involving almost 190,000 participants in the United Kingdom Biobank, is said to be the largest of its kind.
“It found that chances of survival increased by 17 per cent for each decade that at least one parent lives beyond the age of 70,” the researchers said.
“It found evidence showing for the first time that knowing the age at which parents died could help predict risk not only of heart disease, but many aspects of heart and circulatory health”.
The researchers disclosed that they used data on the health of 186,000 middle-aged offspring, aged 55 years to 73 years, followed over a period of up to eight years.
The team found that those with longer lived-parents had lower incidence of multiple circulatory conditions, including heart disease, heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
It found that the risk of death from heart disease was 20 per cent lower for each decade that at least one parent lived beyond the age of 70 years.
In addition, those with longer lived-parents also had reduced risk of cancer; a seven-per cent reduced likelihood of cancer in the follow-up per longer-lived parent.
It, however, noted that although factors such as smoking, high alcohol consumption, low physical activity and obesity were important, the lifespan of parents was still be predictive of disease onset after accounting for these risks.
Janice Atkins, a research fellow in the Epidemiology and Public Health group at the University of Exeter Medical School and lead author on the paper, said the research was intensive.
He said the research showed that “the longer your parents live, the more likely you are to remain healthy in your sixties and seventies”.
Atkins said the study was built on previous findings published by the University of Exeter Medical School researchers earlier this year, which established a genetic link between parents’ longevity and heart disease risk.
David Melzer, leader of the research program, said it had been unclear why some older people developed heart conditions in their 60s while others only developed these conditions much later in life or even avoid them completely.
Malzer said the research showed that, while avoiding the well-known risk factors such as smoking, it is very important that there are also other factors inherited from parents.
“As we understand these parental factors better, we should be able to help more people to age well,” Melzer added.
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