According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and recently read by El Dorado County senior care professionals, having grandchildren may be one reason humans tend to live long lives, thanks in part of gene variants in humans that protects against age-related diseases.
Researchers believe the gene variants help keep dementia and other age-related diseases at bay to make grandparents more useful to the family by providing knowledge and nurturing another generation.
The gene variants guard against dementia and a host of diseases like late-life diabetes and heart disease. These variants are only found in humans, not other primates, although the variants may be the result of mutation rather than natural selection. While other primates have the same genes, they do not have the protective versions.
To discover which genes are responsible for the longer life of humans, researchers compared human genes with those of chimpanzees, our nearest genetic relative. The scientists found that humans had levels of a CD33 gene variant that were four times higher than in chimpanzees. This gene is responsible for keeping the immune system working properly and suppressing protein build-up in the brain that leads to dementia.
The concept that grandparents can be beneficial to the extended family gained traction following a study on hunter-gatherers in the 1990s. The study found that children who had foraging grandparents were better fed and their parents shouldered fewer burdens. If grandparents developed dementia or poor health, however, the benefits of having grandparents disappeared and the grandparents became a liability to the family.
According to Dr. Ajit Varki, the lead researcher of the study, the “grandparent genes” most likely evolved to preserve valuable elders and delay the emergence of dependent people who could draw resources away from the family.
Interested in learning more about promoting health and longevity? Home Care Assistance can help. We incorporate our proprietary Balanced Care Method, based on studies of the elderly in Okinawa, Japan, in all of our care services. This method helps seniors live balanced lifestyles focused on mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. To learn more about BCM or any care services, including El Dorado County Alzheimer’s care or dementia care for seniors, give us a call at (916) 358-3801 and request a complimentary in-home consultation.