Genes and Longevity: How Long Is Your 'Healthspan' Destined to Be?

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As the global population continues to age, an international team of researchers from several companies and institutions conducted a study to get a better understanding of the biology behind aging and healthspan, or healthy life expectancy — the period of life before any chronic diseases develop.

This study was published in Communications Biology. It involved medical histories and genetic information from the UK Biobank on more than 300,000 people aged 37 to 73. (Biobank is a long-term study conducted in the United Kingdom from 2006 to 2010 to examine the effects of genetic predisposition and environmental exposure on disease development.)

The researchers identified 12 genetic markers associated with healthy life expectancy, three of which were already known to affect overall life expectancy. At least three other markers were associated with an increased risk for multiple diseases, and five genetic markers for physical traits like skin, eye, and hair color were also found to affect healthspan. "Overall, the strongest genetic correlate of the healthspan is parental longevity," the researchers wrote.

Importantly, results of this study suggest that aging itself contributes to the development of most common chronic conditions, including:

  • Cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Stroke
  • Dementia
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease

Sourced from: Communications Biology