What Are The Secrets Of A Long And Healthy Life?

February 2, 2009

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center Seek Long-Lived Families to help Find Answers

NEW YORK (February 2, 2009) — More and more people are living longer, but living to extreme old age is unusual and tends to run in some families. A new study at Columbia University Medical Center, sponsored by the National Institutes on Aging, aims to learn more about the secrets to a long healthy life. Investigators are seeking long-lived families to help investigate this important question.

The study is looking for families with two or more healthy brothers and sisters who are at least 79-years-old and in good health and can be interviewed in person (interviews can take place either at Columbia or at the participant's home).

Richard Mayeux, M.D., M.S.

"The goal of our study is to identify individuals that not only have long lives, but have lived long, healthy lives," said Richard Mayeux, M.D., M.S., Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry and Epidemiology, Columbia University Medical Center and co-director of the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain. "We're trying to determine whether it's something genetic, or is it something they were able to achieve as the result of living a healthy lifestyle?"

"We're interested in finding out why some families age so well," said Winifred K. Rossi, deputy director of NIA's Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology and the NIA program official for the study. "By sharing information about their lives and families with us, participants may help improve the health of future generations—including their own children and grandchildren—by giving us clues to the secrets of healthy longevity."

Trained clinical staff will ask study participants about their family and health history and conduct some physical assessments and health screening tests. Participants also will be asked for a small blood sample to obtain genetic information. Genetic and health information will be kept strictly confidential. The research team will construct a family tree to see how many relatives lived long lives. Researchers will visit the home of relatives living elsewhere. Investigators plan to stay in touch with the families to determine if other family members and their children live longer than usual.

The current study recruitment builds on efforts during an earlier phase of the research, in which several hundred families took part. It is critical to include a large number of additional families so that the most thorough analyses can be done. "The families who have so generously given of their time so far have told us that they are proud of their long-lived families and are happy to be part of this effort," Rossi said. "We are most appreciative of their time and of their interest—and that of future participants."

Participants will be compensated for their complete participation. Individuals interested in finding out if they qualify for the Long Life Family Study at Columbia University Medical Center should call 1-800-304-4317 or visit longlifefamilystudy.org.

The Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University Medical Center is a multidisciplinary group that has forged links between researchers and clinicians to uncover the causes of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other age-related brain diseases and discover ways to prevent and cure these diseases. It has partnered with the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center at Columbia University Medical Center which was established by an endowment in 1977 to focus on diseases of the nervous system. The Center integrates traditional epidemiology with genetic analysis and clinical investigation to explore all phases of diseases of the nervous system. For more information about these centers, visit the Taub Institute at http://www.cumc.columbia.edu/dept/taub/ and the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center at http://www.cumc.columbia.edu/dept/sergievsky/.

Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Established in 1767, Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons was the first institution in the country to grant the M.D. degree and is among the most selective medical schools in the country. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and state and one of the largest in the United States. For more information, please visit www.cumc.columbia.edu.

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