Having babies later in life? You might have a longer life, too. The Long Life Family study found that compared to mums who have their last kid at 29, women who have their last child past the age of 33 have twice the chance of living up to the top fifth percentile.
However, scientists have been questioning why this is. Researchers have discovered it could be down to the length of your telomeres.
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So what are telomeres? And why do we care about their length? Essentially they’re like caps on the end of a strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes. If these ‘caps’ wear down, the DNA gets damaged. Shorter telomeres are linked to premature cellular aging. If you have a longer telomere length, then you’re usually healthier and primed for a longer life.
A study in the journal Menopause reports that women who have their last child at 33 or older tend to have longer telomeres than those who have their last child in their 20s. This link explains the longevity of older mums.
"With longevity and the ability to bear children at an older age associated with longer telomere length, this study suggests that a higher maternal age of successful child bearing may be a marker of healthy aging," says Dr JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of the North American Menopause Society.
However, if you’re a younger mum – don’t fret. "It's important to remember that personal and social factors often influence childbearing age, and these factors may not have any relation to either a woman's ability to bear children at later ages, longevity or telomere length,” says Pinkerton.