[Paleopsych] WebMd: Genes May Help Some People Stay Mentally Sharp Into Their 90s and Beyond

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Genes May Help Some People Stay Mentally Sharp Into Their 90s and Beyond

[Joel Garreau's new book, _Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of 
Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies--and What It Means to be Human_ (NY: 
Doubleday, 2005) has just arrived. I am signed up to review it for _The 
Journal of Evolution and Technology_ and commenced reading it at once. 
Accordingly, I have stopped grabbing articles to forward until I have 
written my review *and* have caught up on my reading, this last going on 
for how many ever weeks it takes. I have a backlog of articles to send and 
will exhaust them by the end of the year. After that, I have a big batch 
of journal articles I downloaded on my annual visit to the University of 
Virginia and will dole our conversions from PDF to TXT at the rate of one 
a day. I'll also participate in discussions and do up and occasional 
meme. But you'll be on your own in analyzing the news. I hope I have given 
you some of the tools to do so.]

By Miranda Hitti

WebMD Medical News 	Reviewed By Ann Edmundson, MD
on Thursday, December 15, 2005

Dec. 15, 2005 --- Some people seem wired to stay mentally sharp for 90
years or more.

Just ask George Zubenko, MD, PhD. He's not one of those quick-witted
seniors (not yet, anyway), but he studied their genes.

Zubenko is a University of Pittsburgh professor of psychiatry and
biological sciences. He compared the genes of two groups of healthy
people who differed in age by more than half a century.

The results hint that genes affect the aging brain and that healthy
lifestyles also count.

In a news release, Zubenko calls the findings "exciting." He says,
"Identifying such genetic and behavioral factors may hold promise for
better understanding the aging process and perhaps one day enriching or
extending the lives of other individuals."

Aging America

Aging is a timely topic, as the U.S. population ages.

The CDC estimates that a baby born in 2003 has a life expectancy of 77.6
years. That's a record highThat's a record high.

The CDC also predicts that people aged 55-64 will be America's
fastest-growing age group for the next decade.

Those people are practically youngsters next to the oldest people
aliveoldest people alive. About 450 people worldwide are reportedly
older than 110.

Sharp as Ever After 90

Zubenko's study included 200 people split into two age groups.

One group included 100 elders whose minds hadn't lost much ground to
aging. They were 94 people in their 90s and six centenarians.

Most of the elders were living independently and could handle activities
of their daily lives. Half were men.

The second group consisted of 100 young adults aged 18-25 years. Zubenko
matched them to the elders regarding sex, race, ethnic background, and
geographic location.

Gene Advantage

Zubenko compared the groups' genes. He noticed that compared to the
young adults, the elders had more of one genetic marker (the APOE E2
allele) and less of another (the APOE E4 allele).

This genetic profile may offer some protection from Alzheimer's disease,
though no one knows exactly what causes Alzheimer'sAlzheimer's.

The study also shows some different gene patterns among the male and
female elders. Zubenko notes that women often live longer than men, in a
news release.

"It would not be surprising if the collection of genes that influences
the capacity to reach old age with normal mental capacity differs
somewhat for men and women," he says.

Lifestyle Counts, Too

Genes are only part of the picture in healthy aging. Our circumstances
and the way we treat ourselves can also make a difference.

The elders in Zubenko's study had a few things in common including
lifestyle factors. Only one was a current smoker.

     * 80% drank alcohol less than once a month
     * None had a history of mental disorders in early or middle

Lifestyle factorsLifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, optimism, and
social support weren't reported in Zubenko's study.

SOURCES: Annual meeting of American College of Neuropsychopharmacology,
Waikoloa, Hawaii, Dec. 11-15, 2005. News release, GYMR.

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