The March 12, 2007 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine published the conclusion that having one or more parents who live to at least 85 years of age confers fewer risk factors of cardiovascular disease in middle age. The study analyzed offspring members of the Framingham Heart Study, a large study of risk factors for cardiovascular and other chronic diseases begun in 1948, conducted by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.
“To our knowledge, our study is the first to examine cardiovascular risk factors in the offspring of longer-lived individuals using independent and validated measurements of cardiovascular risk factors,” the authors announced.
Dellara F. Terry, MD, MPH, of the Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues analyzed 1,697 members of the Framingham Heart Study who had parents who were also participants. Subjects in the current study had parents who survived to the age of 85 or older, or died before January 1, 2005. Examinations were conducted between 1971 and 1975 when the current subjects were at least 30 years of age, and information on smoking status, education, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, body mass index, Framingham Risk Score (a combined measure of cardiovascular disease risk), and other factors was obtained. The majority of participants were re-examined between 1983 and 1987.
Eleven percent of the participants had two parents and 47 percent had one parent who lived to at least the age of 85. Framingham Risk Scores were the least favorable among the 42 percent of participants for whom neither parent had survived to age 85, and best among those for whom both parents were long-lived. Among individuals with two long-lived parents, the percentage with optimal or normal blood pressure and normal total to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol was the highest, and obesity the lowest compared with those with the other groups.
The reduction in risk factors persisted in subjects who participated in the second examination. Over time, having long-lived parents was associated with lower blood pressure and a slower progression of Framingham Risk Score.
"Our findings suggest 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,” the authors conclude. “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. Better understanding of genetic variation in cardiovascular risk factors and longevity eventually may be helpful for disease prevention and treatment strategies in the community."
According to data gathered as part of the Framingham Heart Study, people who have high blood pressure are at significantly increased risk of developing dangerous conditions related to high blood pressure. In this study, for every 10 mm Hg increase in systolic pressure, there was a doubling of the risk of having a heart attack or stroke or of having kidney failure (Kannel WB 2003; Klag MJ et al 2003; Wolf PA 2003).
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