We analysed relationship between the risk of onset of "unhealthy life" (defined as the onset of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, or diabetes) and longitudinal changes in body mass index, diastolic blood pressure, hematocrit, pulse pressure, pulse rate, and serum cholesterol in the Framingham Heart Study (Original Cohort) using the stochastic process model of human mortality and aging. The analyses demonstrate how decline in resistance to stresses and adaptive capacity accompanying human aging can be evaluated from longitudinal data. We showed how these components of the aging process, as well as deviation of the trajectories of physiological indices from those minimising the risk at respective ages, can lead to an increase in the risk of onset of unhealthy life with age. The results indicate the presence of substantial gender difference in aging related decline in stress resistance and adaptive capacity, which can contribute to differences in the shape of the sex-specific patterns of incidence rates of aging related diseases.
Small sample size of genetic data is often a limiting factor for desirable accuracy of estimated genetic effects on age-specific risks and survival. Longitudinal non-genetic data containing information on survival or disease onsets of study participants for whom the genetic data were not collected may provide an additional "reserve" for increasing the accuracy of respective estimates. We present a novel method for joint analyses of "genetic" (covering individuals for whom both genetic information and mortality/morbidity data are available) and "non-genetic" (covering individuals for whom only mortality/morbidity data were collected) subsamples of longitudinal data. Our simulation studies show substantial increase in the accuracy of estimates in such joint analyses compared to analyses based on genetic subsample alone. Application of this method to analysis of the effect of common apolipoprotein E (APOE) polymorphism on survival using combined genetic and non-genetic subsamples of the Framingham Heart Study original cohort data showed that female, but not male, carriers of the APOE e4 allele have significantly worse survival than non-carriers, whereas empirical analyses did not produce any significant results for either sex.
The results of genome-wide association studies of complex traits, such as life span or age at onset of chronic disease, suggest that such traits are typically affected by a large number of small-effect alleles. Individually such alleles have little predictive values, therefore they were usually excluded from further analyses. The results of our study strongly suggest that the alleles with small individual effects on longevity may jointly influence life span so that the resulting influence can be both substantial and significant. We show that this joint influence can be described by a relatively simple "genetic dose - phenotypic response" relationship.