Offspring of longer-lived parents may survive longer, have fewer cardiovascular issues

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A study in the U.K. found that adults whose parents lived past 69 years old had a 16 percent decrease in all-cause mortality compared with those whose parents died at an earlier age after adjusting for several factors.

The offspring of longer-lived parents also had lower incidences of peripheral vascular disease, heart failure, hypertension, anemia, hypercholesterolemia and atrial fibrillation.

Lead researcher Janice L. Atkins, PhD, of the University of Exeter Medical School in the United Kingdom, and colleagues published their results online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology on Aug. 15.

The study included 186,151 participants with deceased parents who were recruited between 2006 and 2010 from England, Wales and Scotland. Participants were between 55 and 73 years old. Researchers obtained follow-up data from hospital admission records and death records.

At baseline, the mean age of participants was 62.8 years old, and 53.4 percent were female. The researchers said that increasing parental longevity was associated with more participant education, higher income, more physical activity, lower prevalence of smoking and obesity.

There was an inverse relationship between the age of mother’s and father’s deaths and the offspring’s unadjusted mortality rate. The association remained after the researchers adjusted for age, sex, ethnicity, education, income, smoking, alcohol use, physical activity and body mass index.

For offspring, coronary heart disease mortality decreased 20 percent per decade increase with mother’s survival past 69 years old and declined 21 percent per decade increase with father’s survival past 69 years old.

The researchers previously showed that offspring of longer-lived parents had fewer common genetic risk alleles for coronary artery disease, systolic blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

“The consistency between the incident cardiovascular disease associations and the genetic findings suggest that the disease associations are causal,” they wrote. “Overall, the results suggest that parental longevity may be a useful marker for the combined inheritance of multiple genetic and environmental/behavioral factors for common cardiovascular outcomes.”

The researchers acknowledged the study might have a few limitations, including that the participants might not have been representative of the general population. The oldest age at follow-up was 80, as well, which could have limited the generalizability. In addition, they only had hospital data from England and Scotland, so disease incidence could have been underestimated for Welsh assessment centers. However, only 4 percent of participants were from Wales.

“Further work is needed to establish whether parental longevity is helpful for assessing risks for circulatory outcomes,” the researchers wrote.