Arch Intern Med 12 Mar 2007 Vol 167

Longevity is a subject which has interested people from the dawn of history. All early literature – from Sumer, the Bible, classical legend etc – puts forward the idea that men used to live much longer, and that the modern lifespan is a product of spiritual and physical degeneration; and Doris Lessing, who believes we are all a bad lot, has revived this idea in her fiction. In fact we live a lot longer than any properly attested ancestors – except for a few individuals who belong to families which are very long-lived. The longer they live, the more heritable this seems – so that if you have parents who lived to 95, you are more likely to follow suit than if they lived to 90, and so on. Closely observed cohorts like the Framingham population will eventually, perhaps, give us more clues about why: for the present, we have this study showing a link to reduced cardiovascular risk factors in early middle life.

“Behind closed doors