Despite the myriad trials and tribulations of life in 2020, it’s probably safe to say that most people want to extend their time here on Earth (or Mars, fingers crossed) as long as possible. A newly-designed longevity calculator promises to approximate just how long that will be based on a number of health-related metrics, and the results may serve as either reassurance that you’re on a good path or a wake-up call to pay closer attention to your well-being.
The longevity calculator, created by the Economic and Social Research Council-funded Business and Local Government Data Research Centre in the United Kingdom (an organization that uses data to help other organizations make decisions) bases its lifespan estimate on a number of self-reported data. These include age, height, weight, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, whether or not you’re a smoker, and your systolic blood pressure measurement. It also reporting on whether or not you have any of the following conditions: diabetes; hypertension (high blood pressure); atrial fibrillation (irregular/rapid heart rate); cardiovascular disease; chronic kidney disease; high cholesterol; or rheumatoid arthritis.
Some of these measurements are fairly obvious in terms of how they’d relate to longevity. We know, for example, that smoking reduces your projected lifespan by about 10 years (though you can reduce this risk by 90 percent if you quit before age 40).
Other measures are more complex, as they tend to interact with one another. For example, if you are a smoker with high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes, your lifespan expectancy would be shorter than that of someone who just has Type 2 diabetes. Still, all of these measurements are important to monitor if you hope to live as long as possible, since research shows all may be associated with shorter life expectancy individually. (Many are also considered risk factors for severe COVID-19 reaction and death, though the virus was not taken into account when this longevity calculator was designed.)
While board-certified internist Ehsan Ali, MD, says he can’t comment on how accurate the results of this longevity calculator might be, he says it does take into account known high-risk factors for mortality. “These are all the same metrics used by life insurance companies when determining to qualify one for life insurance,” says Dr. Ali. “I believe the metrics used in this calculator are appropriate in determining life expectancy.”
There are some important caveats to keep in mind, however. This specific longevity calculator was designed based on intel gathered from 60-year-olds, and anyone younger must maintain their current health status by age 60 in order to also maintain their projected life expectancy. It was also gathered based on information gathered specifically from populations in England and Wales, rather than from a broader and more diverse swath of the population.
While this absolutely is not the final say on how many more years of Netflix watching—I mean, exciting life-living—you have ahead of you, it’s a fun exercise nonetheless. Mine says I’ve got 50+ years of life left to get through, which is certainly motivation to pick up meditation at long last. You may also want to more specifically take measures to lower your blood pressure, eat to treat your diabetes, and take steps to reduce your risk of developing heart disease—especially if you consider the advances in longevity that are almost certain to be made in coming decades, which will further extend these projections for those lucky enough to afford them.
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