Americans Now Living Longer - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

11/24/03

Americans Now Living Longer

It used to be a big deal on the Today Show when Willard Scott would celebrate a 100th birthday.

Now, the Institute for Aging Research estimates there are 25,000 Americans over the age of 100, but that doesn't mean they're living right. The institute says a third of those seniors are overweight and many claim to be smokers. So, what is their secret?

Researchers at the institute have found that seniors who make it past 90 are three times more likely to have a specific gene mutation, which they've dubbed the longevity gene, and it's a gene that is tied to the size of the particles of HDL and LDL, the good and bad cholesterol in the blood.

"So, if the particle sizes are very large, it seems that they're not involved in creating the disease on the artery wall. While, if they're smaller, they could sneak into the artery wall and actually cause lesions that could cause eventually heart attacks," says Dr. Nir Barzilai, Einstein College of Medicine.

Researchers believe this gene mutation may be passed down generations, meaning the children of centenarians are apparently twice as likely to have the gene as the general population. Researchers are now looking into whether medications like Niacin can make your cholesterol particle size larger, hopefully mimicking the longevity effect without the mutation.

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