#Longevity lesson 1: How to add 14 years to your life?

longevity population ageingSo you stay fit and healthy longer at a lower cost to society – and stop complaining about that 65+ retirement age. There, we’ve said it.

Usually when people think of Sustainability they think of garbage and how to recycle bits of it. Some may think of rainforests, Arctic ice and dwindling oil reserves. Indeed they should. But usually that’s about it. Here we add 4 very different ingredients to your list – and hope to offer a new perspective on one of the most important demographic trends, so you can reconsider whether ageing is a problem, or whether it could be a benefit.

Population milestone may mask deeper demographic trends

Twenty days from now the UN counts 7 billion people on this planet. That’s one billion more since 1999 – and (according to medium projections) we’ll have another extra billion fifteen years from now. And while this growth can almost solely be attributed to rising populations in developing countries, everywhere people grow older – so that even China is reconsidering its ‘one’ child policy.

As our dear elderly readers can tell you, if you are not old today and you watch out in traffic, most likely one day you will join the upper ranges of your country’s pillar-shaped population ‘pyramid.’ So best thing for anyone is simply to try and stay fit. You don’t do that by visiting your doctor once a year, you do that by checking Bitsofscience.org as often as you can – to see if we’ve got something new in our special series on longevity, where demography, human health and general sustainability trends mix to a hopefully worthy read.

Today we kick off with a three-year-old publication in PLoS Medicine, to get our little project started on the macro scale. If you live in the United States, below is how to increase your average life expectancy with 18 percent.

Free! Now! Become A Boring Person through our 4-step programme!

Moderate your alcohol intake, exercise daily, eat five portions of fruit and vegetables and don’t smoke. So next to your mum’s advice there isn’t much new, but it has been researched at the right scale: Epidemiologists at the University of Cambridge came to the conclusion executing these four steps adds 14 years(!) to your life – compared to people who do drink, sit on couches, don’t like their veggies and just lit another cigarette while reading this [congratulations on your disregard for death – if all else falls apart, at least you did show character!].

The researchers gave the subjects points for their lifestyle. The healthier the habit, the more points they got. The researchers only looked at 4 elements: moderate alcohol use, non-smoking, regular physical activity and the concentration of vitamin C in the blood. If the latter exceeded 50 nanomoles per litre, they assumed that the subject ate five portions of fruit or vegetables per day.

The more healthy lifestyle points the Brits had, the greater their chance of surviving the 11 years that the study lasted.

longevity ageing habits

longevity ageing graph

longevity ageing table

The figure above shows the effect of the amount of healthy habits on death from cardiovascular disease, cancer and the category ‘other factors’. The researchers set the chance of mortality in the group with 4 healthy lifestyle factors at 1.

The effect of the habits measured is greatest in the category ‘other’ [Non-CVD non-cancer].

The lifestyle factors that the researchers measured are pretty ordinary ones. That smoking is bad for you and that eating your greens is healthy is hardly headline news. Nevertheless, the researchers are surprised at how big their cumulative effect is. “Though relatively modest and achievable, their combined impact was associated with an estimated 4-fold difference in mortality risk, equivalent to 14 years in chronological age.”

Fourteen years. There you go, thanks a lot. In our upcoming articles we’ll zoom to the micro scale – to see how many extra months and years scientific research can promise us. Try out our next tips and you’re ALMOST [! legal disclaimer !] good to start smoking again – to at least be cool at parties. Because longevity is not the only answer to population ageing – some of us will have to reconsider actual reproduction as well.

© Willem Koert/Rolf Schuttenhelm | www.ergo-log.com

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