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Neurosci Lett. 2006 Oct 9;406(3):260-4. Epub 2006 Aug 21.

The association between telomere length, physical health, cognitive ageing, and mortality in non-demented older people.

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Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, UK.


Telomeres are nucleo-protein complexes that protect the ends of chromosomes. The telomeric DNA component shortens each time a somatic cell replicates, eventually leading to cell senescence. Telomere length has been associated with morbidity and mortality rates from age-related diseases. We tested the hypotheses that mean peripheral blood leukocyte telomere length, at age 79 years, is associated with physical health at age 79, cognitive ability at age 79, lifetime cognitive change, smoking, alcohol consumption, social class in adulthood, and mortality in a cohort of people without dementia (the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921: LBC1921). There was a small, significant association between telomere length and verbal fluency (a test of executive function) before (r=-0.16, p=0.027) and after (r=-0.17, p=0.022) adjustment for mental ability at age 11. This might be a type 1 error. Otherwise, we find that telomere length in old age does not have a significant association with age-related physical and cognitive decline or mortality.

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