Harvard Heart Letter

Healthier golden years for people with long-lived parents?

Research we're watching

If one or both of your parents lived to age 70 or beyond, you're less likely to have cardiovascular problems in late middle age and be less likely to die at an early age, a new study suggests.

Researchers recruited 186,000 non-adopted people between ages 55 to 73 who had at least one deceased parent. After a follow-up of at least eight years, they found that the older a participant's mother and father were at their death, the longer the participant lived. Earlier, smaller studies have found similar trends.

But this study is the first to show a link between parental longevity and a lower risk of heart failure, atrial fibrillation (a common heart rhythm disorder), and peripheral vascular disease (clogged arteries outside of the heart, especially in the legs). The findings held even when researchers accounted for other confounding factors, such as ethnicity, education, income, and smoking and exercise habits. Their findings appeared Aug. 23, 2016, in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.