If your parents live well into their seventies, then there’s a very high chance that you will too.
It found that a person’s chances of survival increased by 17% for each decade that at least one parent lived beyond the age of 70.
Lead researcher Dr Janice Atkins said that the study’s findings can help experts predict a person’s longevity, as well as the likelihood of them developing conditions like heart disease in later life.
This, she said, will enable doctors to get to potential patients in time with appropriate treatment.
The study, funded by the Medical Research Council and published in the journal of the American College of Cardiology, looked at data from almost 190,000 participants in the UK Biobank.
It found evidence showing that, for the first time, knowing the age at which your parents died could help predict your risk not only of heart disease, but many aspects of heart and circulatory health.
Researchers from the University of Exeter, University of Cambridge, the French National Institute of Health and the Indian Institute of Public Health, analysed health data from 186,000 middle-aged people, aged 55-73, who were followed over a period of up to eight years.
The team found that those with parents who lived past their seventies had lower incidence of health conditions including heart disease, heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heart rhythm).
The risk of death from heart disease was 20% lower for each decade that at least one parent lived beyond the age of 70 years.
“To our knowledge, this is the largest study to show that the longer your parents live, the more likely you are to remain healthy in your sixties and seventies,” said Dr Janice Atkins from the University of Exeter Medical School and lead author of the study.
“Asking about parents’ longevity could help us predict our likelihood of ageing well and developing conditions such as heart disease, in order to identify patients at higher or lower risk in time to treat them appropriately.”
They added that a good diet and exercise is still the best way to ensure you live a long, healthy life.
Professor George Kuchel, study co-author and director of the UConn Center on Ageing, said: “This study provides additional fuel to really bolster research efforts by us and others in Geroscience, a field that seeks to understand relationships between the biology of ageing and age-related diseases.
“Ageing is the most important risk factor for common chronic conditions such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer, which are likely to share pathways with ageing and therefore interventions designed to slow biological ageing processes may also delay the onset of disease and disability, thus expanding years of healthy and independent lives for our seniors.”