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Monday, October 31, 2011

What Factors Affect Longevity: Lifestyle or Genetics?

Have you ever wondered why we age? There are many theories about biological aging and scientists continue to try and answer this complex question. One thing we do know is that changes we see in the normal aging process - decreased muscle strength, changes in our sense of sight, smell, taste and hearing to name a few – are not the same as disease or sickness.

While looking into this topic, I found it interesting to see the wide range of scientific opinion about whether genes or lifestyle play more of a role in our longevity. In our CSA coursework, we learned genetics may become less important as we age and lifestyle choices become more important for successful and healthy aging.

Interestingly, one article about a study on whether genes are key to longevity stated, *"We're making progress in understanding how really long-lived people differ and don't differ from the general population. But it is extremely complex. We don't understand what it is that is contributing to longevity. It could be something genetic interacting with something else genetic. It could be genetic and lifestyle factors interacting. It probably is a little bit of all of that."

The MacArthur Research Program on Successful Aging studied identical and fraternal twins who were raised apart. This study found that **“…only about 30 percent of physiological aging was attributable to genetics.“ And when they “studied Swedish twins who were older than 80, they found that only about half the changes in mental functioning were related to genetics.”

So, what is your vote: lifestyle or genetics as the key to your longevity? Maybe it’s a bit of both? Before you decide, I invite you to read about the world’s oldest twins who turned 101 earlier this month! Maybe they know the secret formula to a long, healthy life?

*Genes Key To Longevity, Not Behavior: Study

**Working With Seniors: Health, Financial, And Social Issues, Society of Certified Senior Advisors Textbook®(2009)

Christie Munson, Certified Senior Advisor (CSA), lives and works in Phoenix, AZ and is the Communications Manager for Beatitudes Campus (a Continuing Care Retirement Community) and a Professional Organizer, specializing in senior services. She can be contacted via email at