Genetics mean next to nothing: it’s your lifestyle that counts: Journal of Internal Medicine

How long your parents lived does not affect how long you will live. Instead it is how you live your life that determines how old you will get, reveals research from the University of Gothenburg recently published in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

It is often assumed that people with parents who lived to be very old are more likely to live to a grand old age themselves.

“But that’s just not true – our study shows that hereditary factors don’t play a major role and that lifestyle has the biggest impact,” says professor emeritus Lars Wilhelmsen, referring to the 1913 Men study that formed the basis of the current research.

Those who did not smoke, consumed moderate amounts of coffee and had a good socio-economic status at the age of 50 (measured in terms of housing costs), as well as good physical working capacity at the age of 54 and low cholesterol at 50 had the greatest chance of celebrating their 90th birthday.

“We’re breaking new ground here,” says Wilhelmsen. “Many of these factors have previously been identified as playing a role in cardiovascular disease, but here we are showing for the first time that they are important for survival in general.”

He believes that it is significant that the research illustrates so clearly that we do not “inherit” mortality to any great extent, but instead that it is the sum of our own habits that has the biggest impact.

“The study clearly shows that we can influence several of the factors that decide how old we get,” says Wilhelmsen. “This is positive not only for the individual, but also for society as it doesn’t entail any major drug costs.”

The study has been published in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

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