To quote Benjamin Franklin, “‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Recently I’ve been running more than usual, as part of my preparation for the London Marathon in April. Combined with my new-found healthy lifestyle – alcohol-free, smoke-free and largely low-GI – this has left me feeling as healthy as I have in a decade. In many ways I think I am probably fitter now, at 43, that I was when I got married at 30. As a result of this I have been spending some time this week looking at the subject of longevity.
There are a number of online resources which make a prediction of longevity based on a number of lifestyle factors. The projections are based on calculation similar to those made by an actuary in assessing the degree of risk implicit in offering life insurance. As a starting point I measured my projected longevity using a number of these longevity calculators, with encouraging and to be honest quite surprising results: the longevity calculator at livingto100.com gives me a projected lifespan of 94 years, while the one at nwmf.com projects 91 years. Having given up smoking and drinking and taken up regular exercise the only major lifestyle changes I can make which will influence my longevity seem to be to reduce my weight to within the normal BMI range, and to reduce my exposure to stress. I’m already watching my weight quite carefully and as a result of the level of exercise I’m currently doing I seem to be moving slowly but steadily toward my current target weight of 192 lbs, which would give me a BMI just within the normal range. As far as stress is concerned I’m a fairly chilled kind of guy – and improving my time management skills will probably eliminate a lot of the stress that I currently bring on myself.
So, it would seem that I’m doing quite a lot of things right in terms of trying to live a long and healthy life. Can I do better, and is the trade-off between possible benefits against quality of life worth it?
The consensus of scientific opinion seems to favour the opinion that as a species the maximum lifespan of a human is about 120 years. In other words, however well you look after yourself, or however lucky you are, 120 is the absolute maximum age you can hope to attain.
The only proven way to extend this maximum lifespan (and even then only conclusively proven through studies of other species) is through calorie restriction. Quite how calorie restriction lengthens lifespan remains the subject of some conjecture, but in the case of rodents and primates at least it does seem to work. The downside to calorie restriction, for me in any case, is that it is not particularly compatible with high levels of exercise. For the time being I intend to maintain my current healthy lifestyle and re-evaluate my approach to calorie restriction once I am within the normal BMI range.
Death and taxes? I’m favouring an approach that includes biogerentology and compound interest.
More to come…