Healthy Aging – Our Health Histories: Deja-vu?

Yesterday I ruminated on healthy aging in my post, Thoughts on Aging: Boomers and Aging Parents, and today one of my Google alerts — one way I discover interesting information to post on this blog — pulled up a fascinating article from the New York Times. On first glance I thought it was recently published. What a surprise, then, when I reread the article, So Big and Healthy Grandpa Wouldn’t Even Know You, and discovered that it was published in the New Age Blog in July 2006! How interesting that it popped up the day after I spent considerable time thinking about what makes and keeps us, and our aging parents, healthy.

So Big and Healthy Grandpa Wouldn’t Even Know You, by Gina Kolata, describes research that compares the physical condition and health of people living today in their 40’s, 50’s  and 60’s with their ancestors. The basic question seems to be, “Why is each generation healthier than the generation that preceded it?” Initially the article describes how researchers reviewed Civil War pensioners’ health records and then tracked down ancestors of the soldiers (great, great, great-grandchildren). The researchers compared health, weight, size, and much more, looking at diseases that are presently diagnosed just as they were during the late 1800’s such as arthritis, back pain, and heart problems that can be heard with a stethoscope. Researchers compared age of onset of the medical conditions in the past with the same factor in the present. Their discoveries led them to speculate on the reasons why certain people develop chronic conditions in middle age and others do not.

The article — it’s long — continues with reports from several other researchers, all examining huge numbers of health records and all supporting the initial results. The conclusions for most of the research found strong associations between the health conditions during a mother’s pregnancy and/or the first two years of life and the onset of medical conditions in middle age..

This is an amazing article. Somehow I missed it four years ago, but it is still current and presents compelling ideas about why we age as we do.

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