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Our Genes, Lifestyle, and Longevity

The following study looked at genes and longevity. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh analysed genetic information from more than 600,000 people along with records of their parents' lifespan.

They found that the following factors were correlated with longevity: not smoking or giving up smoking, a higher educational attainment, openness to new experiences, and good cholesterol levels. On the other hand, the following factors were correlated with reduced longevity ("were negatively correlated"): genetic susceptibility to coronary artery disease (CAD), smoking, lung cancer, diabetes, and higher body fat. For example, 1 year of education adds 11 months to expected lifespan, and gaining weight reduces life-span (lose 2 months for every 2.2 lbs extra weight), while losing extra weight increases it. From Science Daily:

Learning and staying in shape key to longer lifespan, study finds

People who are overweight cut their life expectancy by two months for every extra kilogramme [2.2 lbs.] of weight they carry, research suggests. A major study of the genes that underpin longevity has also found that education leads to a longer life, with almost a year added for each year spent studying beyond schoolOther key findings are that people who give up smoking, study for longer and are open to new experiences might expect to live longer.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh analysed genetic information from more than 600,000 people alongside records of their parents' lifespan. Because people share half of their genetic information with each of their parents, the team were able to calculate the impact of various genes on life expectancy. Lifestyle choices are influenced to a certain extent by our DNA -- genes, for example, have been linked to increased alcohol consumption and addiction. The researchers were therefore able to work out which have the greatest influence on lifespan.

They found that cigarette smoking and traits associated with lung cancer had the greatest impact on shortening lifespan. For example, smoking a packet of cigarettes per day over a lifetime knocks an average of seven years off life expectancy, they calculated. But smokers who give up can eventually expect to live as long as somebody who has never smoked. Body fat and other factors linked to diabetes also have a negative influence on life expectancy.

The study also identified two new DNA differences that affect lifespan. The first -- in a gene that affects blood cholesterol levels -- reduces lifespan by around eight months. The second -- in a gene linked to the immune system -- adds around half a year to life expectancy. Data was drawn from 25 separate population studies from Europe, Australia and North America, including the UK Biobank -- a major study into the role of genetics and lifestyle in health and disease.  [Original study.]

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