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Having a baby later in life may increase longevity, study suggests

Women who have kids later on in life may live longer, according to the findings of a recent study.

Following the birth of a woman’s last child, certain measurements may be linked with her projected lifespan, according to a study published Wednesday in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

More specifically, leukocyte telomere length – telomeres “are repeating DNA-protein complexes that protect the ends of chromosomes and have proven to be critical for maintaining genomic stability,” per a news release on the findings – may play a role in a woman’s longevity. A woman’s age at the birth of her last child may affect telomere length, ultimately impacting long-term health, the researchers said.

Longer telomeres are thought to be beneficial for long-term health, while shorter ones can signify “various chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some neurologic conditions, and various cancers,” past studies have suggested, according to the news release.

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At least one previous study has suggested that a woman’s age at the birth of her last child affected telomere length, said researchers. The study published Wednesday was larger, including more than 1,200 perimenopausal and postmenopausal women of “various ethnicities and backgrounds.”

“In addition, unlike previous studies, this study took into consideration sociodemographic factors related to childbearing patterns and health decisions,” per the release.

The researchers who conducted the new study found that a woman’s age at the birth of her final child “is positively associated with telomere length, meaning that women who delivered their last child later in life were likely to have longer telomeres, a biomarker of long-term health and longevity.”

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However, “more research is needed to determine whether older maternal age at last birth causes telomeres to lengthen or whether telomere length serves as a proxy for general health and corresponds with a woman’s ability to have a child at a later age,” said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director, in a statement.

The findings were also limited to women who had one or two live births or those who had used birth control orally, they said.

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Women In Longevity Medicine And The Rise Of The Longevity Physician

Over the past decade, we witnessed unprecedented advances in the field of biogerontology, and the massive convergence of biotechnology, information technology, AI, and medicine. And now we are witnessing the birth of a new field of longevity medicine, which integrates the latest advances in many of these fields of science and technology. My definition longevity medicine is advanced personalized preventative medicine powered by deep biomarkers of aging and longevity.

And, like in the field of AI for drug discovery, women are at the forefront of this revolution and there were precedents when we had to look for a male physician to make a conference panel more diverse. 

One of the physician-scientists who stands out in this area is Dr. Evelyne Yehudit Bischof. I first got a note with a request for more information on one of our research papers from Dr. Bischof on December 30th, 2019 while in Shanghai. A request I almost ignored due to the heavy workload but accidentally I looked at her profile which was highly unusual. In brief, Evelyne is a German medical doctor with an MD from Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biology and Genetics, who interned at Columbia University, and Harvard MGH and Beth Israel Medical Deaconess, attending physician at University Hospital Basel in Switzerland, and associate professor at Shanghai University of Medicine and Health Sciences.  She fluently spoke six languages including German, Russian, and Mandarin Chinese, which was quite impressive. The second time we met was at Human Longevity Inc, in San Diego when she was interviewing with one of the most influential entrepreneurs and investors in longevity biotechnology, Dr. Wei-Wu He to join HLI as a longevity physician.

The longevity industry is rapidly emerging and longevity clinics are being set up in various parts of the world. So I decided to ask Eva a few questions to elucidate this new and emerging industry. 

Alex: Eva, we know each other for almost a year and you do not fail to impress with your academic publications, public lectures, and clinical work. You are as close to the “longevity physician” as it can possibly get. Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and about the work that you are doing on the clinical side and on the research side? 

Dr. Evelyne Bischof: Thank you, Alex – it is an honor to be so generously introduced by a true innovator, scientist and entrepreneur, as well as a longevity KOL and allow me to revert the compliment. I am a rather globally oriented internal medicine specialist, with training and work experience in Germany, USA, Switzerland and China. For almost a decade now, I have been splitting my time between Shanghai and Basel, creating a path that allowed me to conclude my residency and fellowship, develop translational and clinical research niches and collaborators, as well as to engage actively in academic medical education. While