Everyone wants to live a long and healthy life, right? Of course. And not just long and healthy, either... you want your time on earth to be vibrant. But, what factors contribute to a vibrant and long life? Genetics is one of the biggest factors. The rest comes from your behaviors, attitudes, environment, and just a bit of luck. This blog will examine these five factors to a long life worth living.
Scientists believe genetics account for a maximum of 30 percent of your life expectancy. Longevity, or having a long life, is thought by the scientific community to run in families. The way genetics plays a part in your lifespan is two-fold, according to Scientific American: You could inherit genetic factors that predispose you to disease -- certain types of cancer, for example, seem to run in families. You could inherit genetic factors that make you resistant to disease; this is known as having the "genetic potential" to survive into old age.
Living a long and healthy life is somewhat of a genetic lottery. Some of us can eat steak, drink liquor and smoke cigarettes and outlive our doctors, while others could do everything "right" and still develop a life-threatening disease. But since genetics only makes up for 30%, what are the factors that make up the majority? Behaviors, attitude, environment, and luck all play a part.
Your behaviors play a significant role in how long and well you live. When you eat right, exercise regularly and don't engage in risky behavior (such as smoking, drug abuse, and unhealthy eating), you will reap the rewards of better health and a longer life in general. You also delay the onset of disease. A Swedish study reported in Science Daily, found that lifestyle affects life expectancy more than genetics does. In fact, people who met the following criteria had the greatest chance of living until 90:
- Consumed moderate amounts of coffee
- Low cholesterol at age 50
- Good socioeconomic status at the age of 50
- Being able to still work at age 54
The self-help gurus are onto something: having a positive attitude really does affect how long and well you live. This Dutch study found that positive people live longer. They discovered that those with a positive outlook had a 77 percent lower risk of heart disease than their pessimistic counterparts. A Yale study found that those who felt good about aging lived 7.5 years longer, on average than those who felt negatively about aging. A positive mental outlook is definitely a vital aspect to a long and happy life.
You need only look at the different life expectancies of various countries to see how big a role environment plays in the length and quality of your life. It all comes down to a matter of access. Do you have access to clean air? Good water? Adequate health care? Is your community safe? Do you have close, loving relationships? Some of these factors you can control with ease, and other factors are more complicated. In fact, many of those factors are out of your control. But there's no doubt that some environments are more conducive to better living than others. So take responsibility for what you can control and be thankful for what you have.
Finally, some of it does come down to just a little bit of luck. Some would argue that luck plays a role in all of the above factors. You know the phrase, "wrong place, wrong time?" Well, injuries, accidents, and simple chance events, whether that's missing a flight that ended up crashing or a random mutating cell that ultimately becomes cancer. Sometimes, it all comes down to fortune and the luck of the draw.
Now that you have the key factors of a long and healthy life, what will you do? Is there a nasty habit you know you need to kick or a healthy habit you've been putting off implementing? Are you waiting for the right time? Stop waiting! The "right time" is never going to come, because it doesn't exist. You will never be less busy, more prepared, or more ready than you are now. You just need to make the decision, get the resources together and make it happen. In the famous words of Rob Schneider's character in The Water Boy, "YOU CAN DO IT!"
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