Genetic Health Aging Cognitive Longevity

American researchers have recently found that genetic makeup plays a significant role in cognitive function as we age. In the last several decades, the medical community has been monitoring the aging patterns of the American population. The focus has mainly been on individuals residing in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida, where a majority of residents are 65 or older. While longevity is an important part of aging, successful aging also relies on well-maintained cognition, or the process of thought.

Genetic Effects on Aging

Studies have determined that both genetics and evolution affect the lifespan of a human being. Reaching extremely old age (generally considered 85 years or greater) appears to be a trait contained in one’s family genes. Recent surveys of the human genome have focused on the genes that cause various anomalies of old age. The results show that at least three different genes directly affect the clinical, neuropathological or brain neurochemical features of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This disease causes the deterioration of brain cells, making memory retention and cognition difficult.

Scientific Research Regarding Cognitive Longevity

Experts are continually researching the genetic markers that affect the likelihood of reaching age 90 with normal cognition. One such study was done by comparing the genomes of 100 elderly testing subjects, half male and half female. Results of this study showed that an allele (a genetic strand) at the location of chromosome DYS389 improved chances of both men and women reaching the age of 90 with their cognition maintained. The presence of this allele on chromosome DYS390 reduced the likelihood of this outcome.

Medical experts have always thought that reaching old age may be a secondary effect of longevity. They believed that these alleles are significant factors that improve the process of aging by increasing the time in which women can have children. A similar effect on the genome may be seen in men.

Other studies confirm that maintenance of cognitive and physical function is significant to the quality of life of the aging, and probably an inherited trait. Cognitive impairment has been strongly associated with the lifespan of both healthy and unhealthy elders. The relevant studies have taken into consideration a variety of health conditions, lifestyle factors and geographic characteristics that did not have an effect on the risk of mortality associated with poor cognitive function.

The Study of Longevity and Cognition Continues

Longevity and cognition are complex biological processes, and several aspects of these directly contribute to the process of aging. Research will probably reveal many different components, including the influence of genetic and environmental factors on the health of a senior citizen. These studies will also take into consideration the preservation of memory and visuospatial-cognitive skills (the ability to understand the physical relationships of objects) in the lifespan of siblings as well.

Individuals who are affected by age related problems or illness, or health issues associated with a genetic disorder should visit a health care provider immediately for a comprehensive medical examination. The probability of a positive outcome is dependent on a doctor’s recommendations regarding surgical, dietary, pharmaceutical and medical remedies.

Staying Actively and Mentally Healthy

There are many daily habits that can help an aging person to stay actively and mentally healthy while he or she ages. It is recommended that elders follow the following suggestions:

  • avoid cigarette smoke and alcohol consumption
  • exercise at least once a week
  • interact with others on a daily basis
  • maintain an active social life
  • read regularly
  • volunteer.

Studies have shown that elders who fit in these guidelines tend to better maintain their cognitive skills with the passing of each year. Aging is a part of life, and just because this process begins, it does not mean that one should give up a healthy, happy lifestyle.

Resources

Alzheimer’s Disease staff. (2009). What is alzheimer’s. Retrieved July 1, 2009, from the Alzheimer’s Association Web site: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp.

Nauert, R. (2009). How to maintain cognitive skills in old age. Retrieved July 1, 2009, from the Psych Central Web Site: http://psychcentral.com/news/2009/06/09/how-to-maintain-cognitive-skills-in-old-age/6386.html.

Schupf, N., et al. Preservation of cognitive and functional ability as markers of longevity. (Oct. 2004); Neurobiol Aging. 25 (9): 1231-40.

Seroka, R. (2009). Maintaining cognitive function in old age. Retrieved July 1, 2009 from the Medical News Today Web site: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/153101.php.

Zubenko G.S., Stiffler J.S., Hughes H.B., Fatigati M.J., Zubendo W.N. Genome survey for loci that influence successful aging: Sample characterization, method validation, and initial results for the Y chromosome. (Sept. 2002); Am J Geriatr Psychiatry 10 (5): 619-30.