DRAPER — Harold Nielsen has a few personal theories about what has kept him energetic and mentally sharp at 92 years old.

For one thing, he says, he and his wife are “very conscious of what we eat,” with a longtime daily diet rich in “fish and vegetables and so forth” and devoid of cigarettes or alcohol. For another, he credits a heart attack he suffered when he was 40 for inspiring him to work “pretty hard at staying healthy” and in shape.

“Even today I work out three or four times a week,” Nielsen said.

The Draper resident also cited the “incentives” he feels to “stay … to take care of my wife.”

“A desire to live is important, too,” Nielsen said.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Harold Nielsen, 92, squeezes fresh lemon juice into a drink at his home in Draper on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019.

But ask him what he knows about whether his family tree may have played a part in his long life, and Nielsen, like many others, is at a loss. He feels there are conflicting examples among relatives — neither of his parents lived nearly as long as he has, though he has a sister who died at 94, and a healthy niece who is 91.

“I don’t know about longevity in my family — it’s really hard to say, all things considered,” he said.

So to what extent is a person’s longevity heritable from their family tree?

The answer to that question is not just an unknown curiosity for laypeople; it has long been coveted by researchers who study aging.

“It may be one of the oldest questions in the history of mankind … what determines if we’re going to live to these really exotic ages,” explained Ken Smith, director of the Utah Population Database, in a recent phone interview.

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Source:: Deseret News – Utah News


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