What Effects Life Expectancy: Factors to Consider

Morbid curiosity aside, there’s a strong case for wanting to know your life expectancy. Estimating how long you’ll live can help you make better financial decisions, especially when it comes to life insurance, social security, annuities, and pensions. Factors affecting life expectancy range from health and lifestyle choices to family medical history and genetics. Answering these five questions will give you a sense of how long you’re likely to live.

Do You Have a Family History of Heart Disease, Cancer or Diabetes? 

Not only are these medical conditions hereditary, they can shave years off your life expectancy. If your answer to this question is yes, be as proactive as possible. Get screened regularly for the types of cancer that run in your family. To lower your chances of developing heart disease, keep an eye on your cholesterol level, avoid fatty foods, and don’t smoke. To fend off diabetes, avoid eating excessive amounts of sugar and carbs, exercise regularly, and keep your stress level in check.

How Many Days a Week Do You Exercise? 

The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends 30-60 minutes of aerobic, strength and flexibility training at least four days a week. Combine that with a healthy diet that’s low in fat, high in lean protein, and replete with green vegetables, and you’ll significantly improve your chances of living a long, healthy life. Exercise doesn’t just mean going to a gym, however. At a brisk pace, a half hour of walking and stretching can do wonders for your body.

How Many Hours a Week Do You Spend Working and Relaxing? 

It’s no secret that overworking can have a negative effect on your health and happiness. But working more than 50 hours a week has also been proven to seriously shorten your lifespan, especially when you consider that most workaholics eat poorly, don’t get enough sleep or exercise, and suffer from inordinate amounts of stress – all of which can lead to depression and an increased risk of heart attack and diabetes. Meanwhile, people who prioritize relaxation – e.g., by getting eight hours of sleep a night, meditating, and scheduling downtime with family and friends – tend to live longer. Maintaining a work-life balance can sometimes be a challenge, but it’s certainly worth the effort.

What Is Your Marital Status? 

Turns out there’s some truth to the cliché about married couples living longer. A 2012 study by Harvard Medical School revealed that living alone between the ages of 45 and 65 could increase your risk of an early death by as much as 24 percent. Among its many benefits, marriage has been proven to stave off isolation, depression, dementia, and cardiovascular disease – all of which contribute to a shorter life expectancy.

How Active Is Your Social Life? 

Experts say a lack of social relationships can be as damaging to your lifespan as smoking or drinking. A 2013 University of North Carolina review of 148 studies found that participants with stronger social relationships increased their likelihood of survival by as much as 50 percent. Not only were the social benefits of support, influence, interpersonal contact, and access to financial and healthcare resources significant, they tended to last a long time. So if you’re introverted or shy, make an effort to get out more. You might just add years to your life.

While no exact number can be calculated by answering these questions, your responses can provide a pretty good idea of how long you’re likely to live. Barring a fatal accident, most people who eat well, get plenty of exercise and sleep, have an active social life, and maintain a healthy work-life balance can expect to live a long life. Meanwhile, those who smoke and drink excessively, eat poorly, and are prone to depression and inactivity are less likely to make it into their 80s or 90s. To get a better sense of your life expectancy, share your answers with your general practitioner or another medical professional.

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