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Women who give Birth Later tend to Live Longer, Study Finds

Update Date: Jun 25, 2014 09:22 AM EDT

According to a new study, how fertile a woman is can indicate her lifespan. The researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) discovered that women who can get pregnant naturally and give birth successfully tend to live longer than women who are not as capable of having children. The team reasoned that these women could carry genetic variants that would explain their fertility and longevity.

In this study, the researchers analyzed data gathered from the Long Life Family Study (LLFS), which collected information on 551 families who had members that lived long lives. The team looked at 462 female participants. They focused on when the women had their last baby and how long they lived.

The researchers discovered that women who had their last baby after they turned 33-years-old were two times more likely to reach 95-years-old in comparison to women who had their last child at the age of 29. In general, the researchers calculated that women who had a child after the age of 33 had a greater chance of living longer than women who had their last child before turning 30.

"Of course this does not mean women should wait to have children at older ages in order to improve their own chances of living longer," explained corresponding author Thomas Perls, MD, MPH according to the press release. "The age at last childbirth can be a rate of aging indicator. The natural ability to have a child at an older age likely indicates that a woman's reproductive system is aging slowly, and therefore so is the rest of her body."

Although the researchers did not determine why this particular group of women lives longer, they reasoned that these women could have genetic variants that slow down their aging and prolong their lives by reducing the risk of age-related genes. The researchers stated that if women did carry these variants, it would explain why women live a lot longer than men.

"If a woman has those variants, she is able to reproduce and bear children for a longer period of time, increasing her chances of passing down those genes to the next generation," said Perls, the director of the New England Centenarian Study (NECS), a principal investigator of the LLFS and a professor of medicine at BUSM. "This possibility may be a clue as to why 85 percent of women live to 100 or more years while only 15 percent of men do."

The study was published in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society.

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