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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.]

A big question for many adults is: how can one age well and live to a ripe old age? The author of the book The Blue Zones has dedicated a lot of time to studying communities throughout the world where there are a lot of centanarians and they age well (healthy). What are their secrets to aging well? The answer seems to be: while the diets vary, overall they have a lot of plant based whole foods, they have a lot of physical activity, are committed to their families, take time to de-stress, and they have social networks with healthy behaviors. From NPR:

Eating To Break 100: Longevity Diet Tips From The Blue Zones

Want to live to be 100? It's tempting to think that with enough omega-3s, kale and blueberries, you could eat your way there. But one of the key takeaways from a new book on how to eat and live like "the world's healthiest people" is that longevity is not just about food.

The people who live in the Blue Zones — five regions in Europe, Latin America, Asia and the U.S. researchers have identified as having the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world — move their bodies a lot. They have social circles that reinforce healthy behaviors. They take time to de-stress. They're part of communities, often religious ones. And they're committed to their families.

But what they put in their mouths, how much and when is worth a close look, too. And that's why Dan Buettner, a National Geographic explorer and author who struck out on a quest in 2000 to find the lifestyle secrets to longevity, has written a follow up to his original book on the subject. The new book, called The Blue Zones Solution, is aimed at Americans, and is mostly about eating.

Why should we pay attention to what the people in the relatively isolated Blue Zone communities eat? Because, as Buettner writes, their more traditional diets harken back to an era before we Americans were inundated with greasy fast food and sugar. And to qualify as a Blue Zone, these communities also have to be largely free of afflictions like heart disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes. So clearly they're doing something right.

But in a nutshell, Buettner in 2004 rounded up a bunch of anthropologists, demographers, epidemiologists and other researchers to travel around the world to study communities with surprisingly high percentages of centenarians. He and the scientists interviewed hundreds of people who'd made it to age 100 about how they lived, then did a lot of number crunching to figure out what they had in common.A year after that book was published, the team announced they'd narrowed it down to five places that met all their criteria. They gave them official Blue Zone status: Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra Region, Sardinia; Loma Linda, Calif.; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

In the new book, which was released April 7, Buettner distills the researchers' findings on what all the Blue Zones share when it comes to their diet. Here's a taste: - Stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full to avoid weight gain. Eat the smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening. Eat mostly plants, especially beans. And eat meat rarely, in small portions of 3 to 4 ounces. Blue Zoners eat portions this size just five times a month, on average. - Drink alcohol moderately and regularly, i.e. 1-2 glasses a day.

Ikaria, Greece You may remember this Blue Zone from Buettner's wonderful 2012 New York Times Magazine article entitled "The Island Where People Forget To Die." As we've reported, health researchers have long praised the Mediterranean diet for promoting brain and physical health and keeping chronic diseases at bay. 

"Their tradition of preparing the right foods, in the right way, I believe, has a lot to do with the island's longevity," writes Buettner. And "what set it apart from other places in the region was its emphasis on potatoes, goat's milk, honey, legumes (especially garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, and lentils), wild greens, some fruit and relatively small amounts of fish."Ikaria has a few more "top longevity foods:" feta cheese, lemons and herbs like sage and marjoram that Ikarians use in their daily tea...The Ikarians do eat some goat meat, but not often.

Sardinia, Italy ...Buettner writes that the Sardinians explain their exceptional longevity with their assets such as "clean air," "locally produced wine," or because they "make love every Sunday." But when Buettner brought along a researcher to dig deeper, they found that pastoralism, or shepherding livestock from the mountains to the plains, was most highly correlated with reaching 100.

So what are those ancient Sardinian shepherds eating? You guessed it: goat's milk and sheep's cheese — some 15 pounds of cheese per year, on average. Also, a moderate amount of carbs to go with it, like flat bread, sourdough bread and barley. And to balance those two food groups out, Sardinian centenarians also eat plenty of fennel, fava beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, almonds, milk thistle tea and wine from Grenache grapes.

Loma Linda, CalifThere's a Blue Zone community in the U.S.? We were as shocked to learn this as you may be. Its members are Seventh-day Adventists who shun smoking, drinking and dancing and avoid TV, movies and other media distractions. They also follow a "biblical" diet focused on grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables, and drink only water. ...Another key insight? Pesco-vegetarians in the community, who ate a plant-based diet with up to one serving of fish a day, lived longer than vegan Adventists.Their top foods include avocados, salmon, nuts, beans, oatmeal, whole wheat bread and soy milk.

A distinct version of the Mediterranean diet is followed on the Blue Zone island of Ikaria, Greece. It emphasizes olive oil, vegetables, beans, fruit, moderate amounts of alcohol and low quantities of meat and dairy products.A distinct version of the Mediterranean diet is followed on the Blue Zone island of Ikaria, Greece. It emphasizes olive oil, vegetables, beans, fruit, moderate amounts of alcohol and low quantities of meat and dairy products.

The following two articles discuss exercise and healthy aging. The first discusses Olga Kotelko and Bruce Grierson (author of the book "What Makes Olga Run").  From the Feb. 10, 2014 New York Times:

Seeking the Keys to Longevity in ‘What Makes Olga Run?’

No one would mistake Olga Kotelko for one of the Olympians competing in Sochi, Russia, but at age 94, she holds more world records than most: 26, to be exact, including age-group bests in the high jump, the hammer throw and the 200-meter run. Not bad for someone who took up track and field at age 77.

The result is this jolly book, which follows the pair as they consult researchers in fields like gerontology, exercise physiology and genetics for insights into Ms. Kotelko’s remarkable youthfulness.

What they find are countless opinions, but little definitive proof. Genes, diet, temperament, the theories abound. (Mr. Grierson rules out performance-enhancing drugs.) Or maybe it’s the exercise itself.

Research on twins suggests that heredity accounts for only about 25 percent to 30 percent of longevity, so it is not enough simply to label Ms. Kotelko a “genetic freak.” Besides, tests show she lacks at least one gene associated with longevity, and it turns out that her telomeres, chromosome caps that shorten with age, are merely average in length.

As for her diet, it is abundant and promiscuous. Her staples include red meat, sauerkraut, cottage cheese and sour milk, and she eats “immoderate amounts” of tapioca pudding. A centenarian friend of hers, the Australian shot-putter Ruth Frith, eschews vegetables altogether.

Among the potential anti-aging elixirs Mr. Grierson explores, exercise appears most potent. This old standby doesn’t just keep hearts pumping and muscles strong; studies suggest it may protect the mind too, by promoting the formation of neurons in the hippocampus — a part of the brain associated with memory.

Since she began her track and field career, Ms. Kotelko has rarely remained still, and that active lifestyle may be more important than her workouts at the track.

From the Feb. 7, 2014 Science Daily:

Exercise may slow progression of retinal degeneration

Moderate aerobic exercise helps to preserve the structure and function of nerve cells in the retina after damage, according to an animal study appearing February 12 in The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings suggest exercise may be able to slow the progression of retinal degenerative diseases.

Age-related macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness in the elderly, is caused by the death of light-sensing nerve cells in the retina called photoreceptors. Although several studies in animals and humans point to the protective effects of exercise in neurodegenerative diseases or injury, less is known about how exercise affects vision.

Machelle Pardue, PhD, together with her colleagues Eric Lawson and Jeffrey H. Boatright, PhD, at the Atlanta VA Center for Visual and Neurocognitive Rehabilitation and Emory University, ran mice on a treadmill for two weeks before and after exposing the animals to bright light that causes retinal degeneration. The researchers found that treadmill training preserved photoreceptors and retinal cell function in the mice.