Researchers in the United Kingdom (working with colleagues in Connecticut, France and India) examined 186,151 non-adopted participants aged 55‒73 years with deceased parents who participated in UK Biobank, a project that collects data on volunteers for health research. Follow-up data were collected over eight years from hospital admissions records and death records. At the start of the study, increased parental longevity was associated with higher education, higher income, more physical activity, and lower rates of smoking and obesity.
There was an inverse relationship between age of parent’s death and the mortality rate of offspring. When the mother and father survived past age 69, all-cause mortality of offspring declined 16% and 17%, respectively, per additional decade of the parents’ lives, and coronary heart disease mortality declined by 20% and 21% per additional decade of the parents’ lives.
Participants with parents who lived longer also showed lower incidence of peripheral vascular disease, heart failure, stroke, hypertension, anaemia, hypercholesterolemia and atrial fibrillation.
The researchers previously found that offspring of parents who lived longer had lower genetic risk scores for coronary artery disease, systolic blood pressure, body mass index, and cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
“It has been unclear why some older people develop heart conditions in their sixties while others only develop these conditions in their nineties or even older. Avoiding the well-known risk factors such as smoking is very important, but our research shows there are also factors inherited from parents that influence heart health. As we understand these parental factors better, we should be able to help more people to age well,” says David Melzer, professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Exeter Medical School in Exeter, United Kingdom, professor at the University of Connecticut Center on Aging and an author of the study.
The study’s limitation include that the cohort of volunteers may not be representative of the greater population, as well as the limited age-range of the offspring studied.