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Determinants of Successful Aging: Developing an Integrated Research Agenda for the 21st Century |

Understanding the Determinants of Exceptional Longevity

Thomas Perls, MD, MPH; and Dellara Terry, MD, MPH
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From Boston University Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.

Acknowledgments: The authors thank the American Association of Retired Persons for assistance with participant recruitment and dissemination of findings, and the centenarians and their family members who participate in the New England Centenarian Study.

Grant Support: By the American Federation of Aging Research's and Alliance for Aging Research's Paul Beeson Faculty Scholar in Aging Research Award, the Ellison Medical Foundation, the Institute for the Study of Aging, the Alzheimer's Association, and the National Institute on Aging (grant RO1 AG18721).

Potential Financial Conflicts of Interest: None disclosed.

Requests for Single Reprints: Thomas Perls, MD, MPH, Geriatrics Section, Boston University Medical Center, 88 East Newton Street, Boston, MA 02118; e-mail, thperls@bu.edu.

Current Author Addresses: Drs. Perls and Terry: Geriatrics Section, Boston University Medical Center, 88 East Newton Street, Boston, MA 02118.

Ann Intern Med. 2003;139(5_Part_2):445-449. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-139-5_Part_2-200309021-00013
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Researchers and the lay public often ask how much of aging, or of age-related disease, is due to genetic factors, which we generally cannot influence, and how much is due to health-related behaviors and interventions, which we can influence. This question has been addressed from many points of view, ranging from evolutionary biology to genetic epidemiology. Clearly, the more that successful aging is due to environmental factors, the more likely it is that we have the power to determine our health and vitality in old age. On the other hand, if environmental influences explain much of the variability in healthy aging, it seems a daunting task to sort out the many environmental, genetic, and stochastic factors and interactions that affect how we age (1).

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