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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Children of Centenarians Cognitively Age Better

Previous research has shown that children of centenarians have markedly reduced rates of heart attack, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and hypertension compared to people born around the same time who do not have a centenarian parent. Now, a new study co-authored by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers has found that children of centenarians also cognitively age better compared to older adults without familial longevity.

The study, published online in the Journal of Gerontology, Medical Sciences, used data from the New England Centenarian Study at Boston Medical Center, which has enrolled almost 4,000 centenarians, their siblings, and their children since the study began in 1994. The researchers compared centenarian offspring to a comparison group of their spouses and of people with a parent born in the same birth cohort as the centenarians but who lived to average life expectancy. The researchers administered a brief and validated cognitive function assessment every two years by telephone.

The researchers found that, at a mean age of 75 years, centenarian offspring were 46 percent less likely to be cognitively impaired after adjusting for age, sex, education, and a history of stroke or diabetes. Additionally, centenarian offspring were 27 percent less likely to become cognitively impaired over the next eight years.

“This finding suggests that there are familial factors that may be associated with slower cognitive aging,” says study co-author Dr. Paola Sebastiani, professor of biostatistics at BUSPH. “The next step will be to search for these factors that could help people maintain good cognitive function as they age.”

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