Health Span and Longevity

Longevity Genes:  The Genetic Contribution to Aging

elderly couple

Over the last couple of decades, it has become common knowledge that diet and exercise effect life-shortening conditions like cardiovascular disease. We’ve also known that health span and longevity are influenced by genetic factors as well.

Historically, epidemiologists have attributed ~15–30% of the variation in lifespan to heritable factors. What we now know it that the genetic contribution of health span plays a larger role as we age, reaching estimates of 33% in women and 48% in men living to at least 100. This points to the existence of “protective genes” being carried by long‐lived individuals who experience health during advanced age. For example, studies have consistently revealed APOE and FOXOs (FOXO1 and FOXO3) as “longevity genes”. Perhaps more important are research findings indicating the potential to optimize gene activity that reduces age-related diseases.

For Centenarians, HealthSpan Approximates Lifespan

Analyses from the New England Centenarian Study, the Long Life Family Study, and the Longevity Genes Program have provided strong evidence that individuals with exceptional longevity spend a smaller percentage of their life being ill, and as a result their health span more closely approximates their lifespan. (2)

Genetic Variants That Are Protective

Centenarians have a later age of onset and lower prevalence of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. The most prevalent diseases in centenarians are osteoarthritis (72%) and hypertension (63%). However, many remain free of any diagnosed disease.  Centenarians appear to possess genetic variants that are protective and allow them to be more resilient even in the face of illness. That is, people with exceptional health span appear to possess genomic factors that protect them from the environmental influences that may be detrimental to health. (3)

Heritable Is Not Inevitable

chart: rate of death by disease vs. ageAdvances in modern medicine that include preventive measures and treatments are extending the lifespans of newer generations beyond what would have been predicted based on their inheritance. (1) Understanding of our individual susceptibilities allows physicians to go far beyond common-sense recommendations like “eat your vegetables.”

One characteristic shared by all centenarians is that none of them are overweight. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and physical activity is the cornerstone in the prevention of chronic diseases and the promotion of healthy aging.

Our Analysis of Your Protective Genes and Your Genetic Potential

Our analysis of your genetic potential for extended longevity begins with a focus on optimizing the function of these genes that reduce age-related diseases — “protective genes.”.  A partial list of the polymorphisms that meet the stringent threshold for genome-wide significance is shown below, queried by our proprietary artificial intelligence software.

genetic risk: lipids and glucose

Resistance to Cancer

Our longevity analysis examines the most highly validated genetic variations associated with the following (partial list):

  • hereditary cancer predisposition
  • DNA repair capacity
  • tumor suppression and cell cycle control
  • telomere length
  • atherosclerosis

genetic risk: cancer

In short, we’ve identified the genetic variants associated with a long and healthy life. Your evaluation of the genes that may offer protection from common age-related diseases like cancer, dementia, and cardiovascular disease may come as a pleasant surprise.  We’ll also recommend specific dietary and lifestyle changes designed to help you achieve your health-span potential.

  1. Westendorp RG, van Heemst D, Rozing MP, Frölich M, Mooijaart SP, Blauw GJ, Beekman M, Heijmans BT, de Craen AJ, Slagboom PE, Leiden Longevity Study Group. Nonagenarian siblings and their offspring display lower risk of mortality and morbidity than sporadic nonagenarians: The Leiden Longevity Study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2009 Sep; 57(9):1634-7.
  2. Milman S, Barzilai N. Dissecting the Mechanisms Underlying Unusually Successful Human Health Span and Life Span. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2015 Dec 4;6(1):a025098.
  3. Ailshire JA, Beltrán-Sánchez H, Crimmins EM. Becoming centenarians: disease and functioning trajectories of older US Adults as they survive to 100. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2015 Feb;70(2):193-201.
  4. Martins R, Lithgow GJ, Link W. Long live FOXO: unraveling the role of FOXO proteins in aging and longevity. Aging Cell. 2016 Apr; 15(2): 196–207.
  5. Willcox BJ, Donlon TA, He Q, Chen R, Grove JS, Yano K, Masaki KH, Willcox DC, Rodriguez B, Curb JD (2008) FOXO3A genotype is strongly associated with human longevity. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 105, 13987–13992.