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Living to 100 and beyond: the right genes plus a healthy lifestyle

Article / Review by on January 11, 2012 – 8:04 pmNo Comments

Living to 100 and beyond: the right genes plus a healthy lifestyle

What is it that lets some people live to age 100 and beyond? A new study from the ongoing New England Centenarian Study suggests that protective genes may make a big contribution.

Living to 100 and beyond: the right genes plus a healthy lifestyle

In what the researchers describe as the first study of its kind, they analyzed and deciphered the entire genetic codes of a man and a woman who lived past the age of 114. The two so-called supercentenarians had:

  • DNA that appeared to be very similar to people who did not have long lives
  • about the same number of gene variants linked toincreased disease risk as seen in people from the general population whose genomes have been sequenced
  • more than 50 possible longevity-associated variants in genes, some of which were unexpected and had not been seen before.

The researchers hypothesize that the genes linked with long life may somehow offset the disease-linked genes. This might then allow an extended lifespan. The results were reported in the journal Frontiers in Genetics.

Taking control

At the beginning of the 20th century, the average life expectancy at birth in the United States was just under 50 years. Today, the average newborn can expect to reach 80 years. This great leap forward has little or nothing to do with genes, and everything to do with advances in public health and healthy lifestyles.

During the first 75 years of life, genes have a relatively small influence on longevity, accounting for only 20% to 25% of the reasons that you make it to that age. Not smoking, eating healthfully, getting plenty of exercise, and limiting alcohol matter the most.

Once you hit your mid-80s, genes matter more and more. And once your reach your 90s, how much longer you are likely to live was largely determined the day your father’s sperm fertilized your mother’s egg.

There’s no need to have your DNA sequenced yet to determine what genes you carry. It won’t change what you need to do now. You have the power to change many things that influence your health and how long you live. Here are 10 steps that will help you have the longest, healthiest life possible:

  1. Don’t smoke.
  2. Be physically active every day.
  3. Eat a healthy diet rich in whole grains, lean protein, vegetables, and fruits. Reduce or avoid unhealthy saturated fats and trans fats. Instead, use healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
  4. Be sure to get enough vitamin D and calcium.
  5. Maintain a healthy weight and body shape.
  6. Challenge your mind.
  7. Build a strong social network.
  8. Protect your sight, hearing and general health by following preventive care guidelines.
  9. Floss, brush, and see a dentist regularly. Poor oral health may have many effects. It can lead to poor nutrition, pain and possibly even a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
  10. Discuss with your doctor whether you need any medicine to help you stay healthy. These might include medicines to control high blood pressure, treat osteoporosis or lower cholesterol, for example.

By Howard LeWine, M.D. Chief Medical Editor
Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications

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About Harvard Medical School (HMS)

Driving Change. Building Momentum. Making History. 

“Since 1872, Harvard Medical School has been the incubator of bold ideas—a place where extraordinary people advance education, science and health care with unrelenting passion.

Whether training tomorrow’s doctors and scientists, decoding the fundamental nature of life, advancing patient care or improving health delivery systems around the world, we are never at rest. Allied with some of the world’s best hospitals, research institutes and a University synonymous with excellence, the School’s mission remains as ambitious as it is honorable: to alleviate human suffering caused by disease.”

More at Harvard Medical School & Harvard Medical School. Generations of Leaders. Harvard Medical School. Medicinezine.com Harvard Medical School (HMS) logo

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### About Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH)

Harvard School of Public Health is dedicated to advancing the public’s health through learning, discovery and communication. More than 400 faculty members are engaged in teaching and training the 1,000-plus student body in a broad spectrum of disciplines crucial to the health and well being of individuals and populations around the world. Programs and projects range from the molecular biology of AIDS vaccines to the epidemiology of cancer; from risk analysis to violence prevention; from maternal and children’s health to quality of care measurement; from health care management to international health and human rights.

More at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) & Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). History.

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### About Harvard University.

Established in 1636, Harvard is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States. The University, which is based in Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts, has an enrollment of over 20,000 degree candidates, including undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Harvard has more than 360,000 alumni around the world.

Harvard University is devoted to excellence in teaching, learning, and research, and to developing leaders in many disciplines who make a difference globally. Harvard faculty are engaged with teaching and research to push the boundaries of human knowledge. For students who are excited to investigate the biggest issues of the 21st century, Harvard offers an unparalleled student experience and a generous financial aid program, with over $160 million awarded to more than 60% of our undergraduate students. The University has twelve degree-granting Schools in addition to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, offering a truly global education.

‘Universities nurture the hopes of the world: in solving challenges that cross borders; in unlocking and harnessing new knowledge; in building cultural and political understanding; and in modeling environments that promote dialogue and debate… The ideal and breadth of liberal education that embraces the humanities and arts as well as the social and natural sciences is at the core of Harvard’s philosophy. ’/ Drew Gilpin Faust

More About Harvard University & About Harvard University. Information.

### *  The above story is adapted from materials provided by Harvard University

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