A US study looked at 500 Ashkenazi Jews living in New York with an -average age of 100. They were chosen after previous studies found the group to have a very specific genetic footprint because their bloodline had been kept very pure.
Although a third were obese or had smoked two packets of cigarettes a day for more than 40 years, they shared three "super-genes" that extended life expectancy.
Two genes produced "good" cholesterol, which reduced the risk of heart disease and strokes, while a third gene protected against diabetes. Those with the longevity genes had a one in 500 chance of reaching 100, compared with a one in 10,000 chance in the rest of the population.
Dr Barzilai, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said: "Because our centenarians have -longevity genes, they are protected against many effects of the environment. "That's why they do whatever they want to do and they get through anyhow."
He said two of the genes "increase good cholesterol in a -significant way". He added: "There's no drug that does it so effectively."
The specific genotype that seemed to protect against diabetes also appeared to radically cut that person's chances of developing Alzheimer's.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "I think it's optimistic to say we're going to have pills in three years but it would certainly add -significantly to the ways in which we can help -prolong life. "It's perfectly logical that if you have heart disease, you're likely to live less long so if you stop that happening, you might live longer."
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