Genetic risk for cardiovascular health is not necessarily linked to exceptional longevity

Studies of exceptionally long-lived individuals have shown that one of the key factors to exceptional longevity is better cardiovascular health. 

In order to investigate this finding within Australia, researchers at the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) have compared the genetic risk profiles for cardiovascular traits and disease in exceptionally long-lived adults (aged 95 years and over) with younger controls.  Participants were drawn from CHeBA’s Sydney Centenarian Study and the Sydney Memory and Ageing Study and also from the Hunter Community Study.

“Exceptional longevity, defined as exceeding the average life expectancy, is affected by a combination of genetic and environmental factors,” said Leader of CHeBA’s Genetics & Epigenomics Group, Dr Karen Mather.

“Many individuals who have lived to an exceptional age, have delayed or escaped age-related disease, and represent a unique human model for studying the determinants of successful ageing,” said Dr Mather.

The study, conducted in conjunction with researchers from Hunter Medical Research Institute, the University of Newcastle, Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), and Murdoch University, analysed the genetic risk for eight cardiovascular-related measures and disease, including blood lipids, myocardial infarction, coronary artery disease and stroke of more than 1,300 individuals.

The findings, published in the journal Genes, highlighted only two genetic risk profiles, for HDL cholesterol and triglycerides, were nominally significant with exceptional longevity.

Lead author and CHeBA PhD student Mary Revelas said contrary to expectations, the exceptionally long-lived individuals did not have significantly lower genetic risk for the majority of investigated cardiovascular health traits.

“As our sample size was quite small, these results need replication in larger independent cohorts,” said Ms Revelas.


NeuRA co-authors:

Professor Peter Schofield AO