The present consensus on the inheritance of longevity is that genetic influences over aging only rise to importance in later life. Even then it is perhaps more a matter of resistance to accumulated molecular damage and its consequences than a slower pace of aging per se. Environment and choice throughout life are the overwhelming determinants of the course of aging leading into middle age, meaning exposure to pathogens, amount of visceral fat tissue, smoking, and similar line items. That of course raises the question as to the degree to which inherited longevity is a cultural rather than genetic phenomenon. Only a tiny minority of individuals can legitimately blame their genes for the sort of shape they are in at 65. Health and survival status at 95 are a different story, however, and genetics plays a larger role - at least in the context of a world lacking rejuvenation therapies, but that will cease to be the case soon enough.
Researchers report that women whose mothers lived to at least age 90 were more likely to also live to 90, free of serious diseases and disabilities. The study found women whose mothers lived into their ninth decade enjoyed 25 percent increased likelihood of also doing so without suffering from serious or chronic illness, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, hip fractures or other debilitating disabilities.
Interestingly, the study also found that if only the father lived to 90, it did not correlate to increased longevity and health in daughters. However, if both the mother and father lived to 90, the likelihood of the daughter achieving longevity and healthy aging jumped to 38 percent. The study did not address parental life span effects on sons. Rather, it analyzed data from approximately 22,000 postmenopausal women participating in the Women's Health Initiative, a large, national study investigating major risk factors for chronic diseases among women. Limitations included no knowledge of the health or cause of death of the participants' parents.
Researchers believe a combination of genetics, environment, and behaviors passed to subsequent generations may influence aging outcomes among offspring. At baseline, the women in the study whose mothers lived to at least 90 were more likely to be college graduates, married with high incomes and incorporated physical activity and a healthy diet into their lives. "We now have evidence that how long our parents live may predict our long-term outcomes, including whether we will age well, but we need further studies to explore why. Although we cannot determine our genes, our study shows the importance of passing on healthy behaviors to our children. Certain lifestyle choices can determine healthy aging from generation to generation."