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Strong Genes, Sound Choices Lead to Longer Lives

Senior woman doing yoga in her home.
Researchers revealed that only about a fourth of the variations that determine how long we live can be attributed to genetics. The other 75 percent appear to be associated with risk factors we can control.

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December 28, 2011

A study reveals that only about a fourth of the variations that determine how long we live can be attributed to genetics. The other three-fourths appear to be associated with risk factors that can be controlled with personal choices. That’s a good incentive to start thinking of the support a senior could need to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

Q. My 83-year-old father is always joking about the fact that he’s “on his way out,” but he actually comes from a very long-lived family. Our dad is in quite good health for his age and does seem to take care of himself. When he makes comments like that, though, sometimes I think he’s just depressed since my mom died.

Research confirms that longevity does seem to run in families. Studies also indicate that not only are children of centenarians more likely to reach 100 years of age themselves, they are far less likely to suffer from various life-threatening illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, according to The Centenarian.

Family genes tell only part of the story, though. In a study, researchers at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston revealed that only about a fourth of the variations that determine how long we live can be attributed to genetics. The other 75 percent appear to be associated with risk factors we can control.

For example, the study found that lifestyle choices by men in the early elderly years — including weight control, regular exercise and not smoking — go a long way in determining those that will live to reach age 90.

So even if genetics are not in your dad’s favor, there is much that he and other seniors can do to protect themselves. But it sounds as if you father already understands that. If you think he may be depressed or needs medical advice, suggest to him that he see his doctor.

And if loneliness is the issue, why not help your dad connect with others who could share his life. Help him reconnect with friends and hobbies from earlier days.

The local Home Instead Senior Care® office also could help. The organization’s CAREGiversSM serve as companions to older adults and can assist around the home. CAREGivers also could provide him the encouragement he needs to eat right and keep exercising. Many are seniors themselves and could provide the support your dad may need to continue making the kinds of healthy choices that will help him live longer.

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