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Louisiana Healthy Aging Study

The Louisiana Healthy Aging Study (LHAS)

Aging is a matter of concern to us as individuals. When we’re young, we’re in too much of a hurry to notice those signs of change that come with time. One day though, we wake up to discover that we no longer have the same bounce in our step. Aging also affects our families. Almost every family has a senior living close by or far away, whose welfare is on everyone’s mind. Aging is also a political and societal issue. Social Security and Medicare are again a matter of debate on Capitol Hill.

We often hear people say about someone that they’ve gone downhill. A person can go downhill for various reasons, but this trend as it develops gradually over many years is a hallmark of the aging process. Aging is a process that occurs within us. It is not a disease, but it can make us more susceptible to many diseases and disorders. Aging really is like coasting downhill, which requires little if any active participation on our part. Slowing down this runaway train or maybe even halting it takes a lot of work. This effort must be yours, but it is also what we are dedicated to in the Louisiana Healthy Aging Study (LHAS). Our goal is the improvement of the quality of life for seniors throughout Louisiana.

The Louisiana Healthy Aging Study has brought together researchers from several institutions: Tulane University in New Orleans; Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans; Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge; Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College in Baton Rouge; and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. We have been funded by the Louisiana Board of Regents through the Millennium Trust Health Excellence Fund [HEF(2001-06)-02] since 2002 to undertake a Multidisciplinary Study of Longevity and Healthy Aging in the Louisiana Population and by a grant from the National Institute on Aging [P01 AG022064] to study the Determinants of Human Longevity and Healthy Aging.

The Louisiana Healthy Aging Study recognizes that genes, the environment, and chance events affect aging, and we want to delineate the ways in which these three factors influence the aging process, so that we can begin to find well-founded interventions to slow the progress of aging. Our point of departure is the knowledge derived from the genetic analysis of aging in animals, which indicates that metabolism and stress play a central role in the aging process. This has led us to postulate that the characteristics of an individual’s energy metabolism determine long life with the retention of physical and cognitive function, which predisposes to the sense of well being associated with healthy aging. Our goal is to test and refine this hypothesis. This has been pursued by studying: genes; the ability of white blood cells to respond to immune stimuli; resting metabolism and activity level as well as the effects of oxygen on DNA, protein, and fats; physical function ability; and cognitive function abilities. Valuable clinical information has been collected, including family history, medical history, blood chemistry, body composition, and lung and heart function, to name some.

We are now in the process of summarizing and analyzing the vast storehouse of information in our hands in an effort not only to test our hypothesis but also to formulate new ones. We are also planning the next stage of our study, which we refer to as LHAS II. A few of our major findings are listed below:

We have identified an interaction of three genes that promotes longevity and healthy aging. [S.M. Jazwinski, S. Kim, J. Dai, L. Li, X. Bi, J.C. Jiang, J. Arnold, M.A. Batzer, J.A. Walker, D.A. Welsh, C.M. Lefante, J. Volaufova, L. Myers, L.J. Su, D.B. Hausman, M.V. Miceli, E. Ravussin, L.W. Poon, K.E. Cherry, M.A. Welsch, Georgia Centenarian Study, Louisiana Healthy Aging Study. HRAS1 and LASS1 with APOE are associated with human longevity and healthy aging. Aging Cell 9, 698- 708 (2010).]
The ability of our immune system to respond is dependent upon the maintenance of a pool of naïve T cells. We have determined that certain endocrine factors are important for this. [J. Chen, J. Li, F.C. Lim, Q. Wu, D.C. Douek, D.K. Scott, E. Ravussin, H.C. Hsu, S.M. Jazwinski, J.D. Mountz; Louisiana Healthy Aging Study. Maintenance of naïve CD8 T cells in nonagenarians by leptin, IGFBP3 and T3. Mech. Ageing Dev. 131, 29-37 (2010).]
We have found that a decline in metabolic rate in the oldest-old is not associated with reduced oxidative damage. [M.I. Frisard, A. Broussard, S.S. Davies, L.J. Roberts, J. Rood, L. de Jonge, X. Fang, W.A. Deutsch, S.M. Jazwinski, E. Ravussin for The Louisiana Healthy Aging Study. Aging, Resting Metabolic Rate and Oxidative Damage: Results from the Louisiana Healthy Aging Study. J. Geront. Med. Sci. 62, 752-759 (2007).]
We have demonstrated that handgrip training can improve vascular function in old and oldest-old males. [D.A. Dobrosielski, F.L. Greenway, D.A. Welsh, S.M. Jazwinski, M.A. Welsch for the Louisiana Healthy Aging Study. Modification of Vascular Function after Handgrip Exercise Training in 73- to 90-Year-Old Men. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 41, 1429-1435 (2009).]
Memory for events in the recent past declines with age. We have determined that pictorial cues are superior to non-pictorial cues in retrieval of memories especially in the oldest-old. [K.E. Cherry, K.S. Hawley, E.M. Jackson, J. Volaufova, L.J. Su, S.M. Jazwinski. Pictorial Superiority Effects in Oldest-Old People. Memory 16, 728-741 (2008).]