Risk factors and health outcomes in the offspring of long-lived parents

Previous studies have shown that having relatively long-lived parents is associated with lower risks of coronary heart disease and death, but associations with other common cardiovascular outcomes have been little studied. We studied the health outcomes of 186,151 middle-aged offspring (aged 55 to 73 years) of longer-lived parents in the UK Biobank study, much larger than previous studies. We found that they have markedly lower mortality rates and lower incidence of multiple cardiovascular conditions, including showing for the first time that there is a protective association between parental longevity and incident peripheral vascular disease, heart failure or atrial fibrilation. We found that the risk of death from heart disease was 20% lower for each decade that at least one parent lived beyond the age of 70 years. Although factors such as smoking, high alcohol consumption, low physical activity and obesity were important, parents' lifespan was still predictive of disease onset after adjusting for these covariates.

Family history questioning of parental age at death may be helpful for assessing risk for a wide range of circulatory outcomes but further work is needed on longer-term outcomes and on formal risk modelling.

This work was supported by the Medical Research Council.


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Scientific papers:

Atkins JL, Pilling LC, Ble A, Dutta A, Harries LW, Murray A, Brayne C, Robine JM, Kuchel GA, Ferrucci L, Melzer D. Longer-Lived Parents and Cardiovascular Outcomes: 8-Year Follow-Up In 186,000 U.K. Biobank Participants. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2016 Aug 23;68(8):874-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2016.05.072. PMID: 27539182