(BPT) - Did you know that only about 1 in 1,000 people in the U.S. live past age 95? For 100-year-old Madeline Paldo, becoming a centenarian was a milestone not only for herself, but for her family, too. That's because research has increasingly revealed that exceptional aging — living to age 95 or longer — could be the gift of rare genetic variants passed down within families.
"I am thankful for having such a productive life; not too many people live to 100 and are this healthy," said Paldo.
What are the secrets to longevity?
Are people like Madeline Paldo able to live longer due to "nature" (genetics) or "nurture" (environment, behavior and diet)? Scientists are hoping to learn the answers to this question in a groundbreaking new study called the SuperAgers Family Study. Led by the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in partnership with Boston University, the study is recruiting 10,000 people who are 95 and older, along with their adult children and their spouses (who may be on course to becoming SuperAgers themselves), to help researchers evaluate the impact of genetics as compared to lifestyle.
Data collected from the study's participants will help researchers understand the genetic drivers that may be responsible for slower aging. Ultimately, lessons learned from these participants could impact generations, helping more people live healthier, longer.
"We want to untangle the genetic contributions to exceptional longevity, while creating a trove of information that will be available for decades to assist scientists working to prevent and treat diseases related to aging," said principal investigator of the study Sofiya Milman, M.D., director of Human Longevity Studies Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
How people can join the study
Completing a brief survey and providing an at-home saliva sample are all that is needed to join the study. By providing 1-3 hours of their time, study participants can help researchers identify inherited as well as natural factors that slow aging and protect against its related diseases.
The research study will allow participants to contribute to the scientific community alongside their family members. In addition, those who are interested will also be provided with some information about their ancestry and family origins, if they choose to receive it. The results will also inform current and future research teams working to prevent or treat age-related afflictions.
According to Madeline's son John Paldo, participating is easy and a great way to impact others. "I was excited to participate in the SuperAgers Family Study because I knew my mom would be excited to share her story and how she made it this far," said John. "If we can help other people, it's definitely worth it."
As for Madeline, she attributes her long life to hard work — and balance. "I worked from when I was a young girl until I was 98. I was raised on a farm, so I always ate fresh fruits and vegetables — but I never skip dessert!"
If you or someone you know is a SuperAger, learn more about the study and how to join at SuperAgersStudy.org.