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Westminster At Lake Ridge Blog

WLR Blog
Posted: Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Is longevity in your future? Take a look at both your genetics and lifestyle

Most of us have wondered about our own life expectancy. We often refer to our families as having long or short life lines. This is usually backed up by anecdotal evidence of an aunt that lived to be nearly 100 or those who seemed susceptible to having fewer years.

You may feel blessed or burdened by your family’s genetics. But in reality, how long we live is influenced by both our heredity and lifestyle. So instead of believing that your fate is sealed, you actually may control much of the outcome.

Life expectancy is growing

In the last century, life expectancy increased in western societies due to safer water, food, and improved medical assistance, including reductions in infectious diseases and infant mortality. But mortality has also decreased in adults over the years, illustrated by these percentages:

  • In 1872, 74% of deaths occurred in those under 60 years of age
  • In 1901, 56% of deaths occurred in those under 60 years of age
  • In 1951, 25% of deaths occurred in those under 60 years of age
  • In 2011, less than 10% of deaths occurred for those under 60 years of age

In the last decades, this improvement was mainly due to the advances made when treating age-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Determining our longevity

While research continues, what we do know is that a person’s longevity is influenced by both lifestyle choices and genetics. Some people will indeed be the lucky recipients of the right genes. But most everyone else can address a negative luck of the genetic draw or even attain similar results as those with good genes if they choose the right lifestyle and interventions.

Here’s a summary of how each contributes to your longevity:

Lifestyle’s role

When studying those in their 90s and 100s, research has shown that education, income or profession didn’t present a common factor. But the similarities that were shared were reflected in lifestyle choices, such as being a nonsmoker, maintaining a healthy weight and developing effective coping skills for stress.

Studies have also found that longer life spans tend to run in families, as the siblings and children of those who lived long lives were also more likely to be healthy longer and live longer than their peers.

Taking an active part in your health can also add years to your life. By adopting beneficial lifestyle factors, a person’s expectancy at 50 years of age could be prolonged 14 years longer for females and 12.2 years for males, when compared to those who didn’t make these changes. The good news is that all of these actions are possible for almost all of us to take:

  • Not smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Consuming only a moderate amount of alcohol

Genetics’ role

The role genetics play in our longevity continues to be studied. It’s estimated that 25% of the variation in human lifespan is determined by genetics, although it’s still not yet understood which genes are responsible or exactly how they contribute.

One thought is that during the first seven or eight decades, lifestyle may be the stronger determinate of life span with genetics playing an increased role as individuals age into their 80s, 90s and beyond.

Can you overcome your genes?

Here are a few examples of how you can influence your genetics:

1. Heart disease

Although there are over 100 types of genes that may play a small role in determining your cardiovascular risk, the medical field says the biggest factor by far is lifestyle. In one study, those who ate more raw fruits and vegetables had a reduced risk of heart disease even if they carried copies of the gene that increased their risk. Your daily choices typically have much more influence than your heredity, including whether you smoke, what you eat and how active you are.

2. Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes can involve both genetics and lifestyle. But studies have shown those who exercised, lost weight and had a healthy diet lowered their risk, while also improving their blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

3. Cognitive and emotional health

It’s believed that exercise can lower the risk of cognitive disease and also improve our emotional health. Research has found that enough physical activity may help determine the direction cells take in their early development. When mice ran on a treadmill, their stem cells became blood-producing cells of the bone marrow, rather than fat cells.

4. Coping with stress

Stress can greatly impact our genes by suppressing or activating their ability to help with coping mechanisms. But even the simple actions of listening to music, doing breathing exercises or participating in other activities that calm the mind can override a biological response to stress.

Looking to the future

As science continues to discover more about the contributing factors to longevity, it’s important that we also do our part. Making the right choices on a daily basis can go far to not only increase our lifespan but make that life more meaningful to enjoy.

Ingleside’s Westminster at Lake Ridge Independent Living community

At Westminster, we believe how well we live is what’s important, not just how long. But if you’re living a healthy and fulfilled life, length is a great bonus.

Our community is designed to provide you with the support and services you need so you can live your best life possible. From our beautiful living spaces, top-of-the-line amenities and an engaging social calendar, we can help you do just that.

Call (703)794-4631 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a personalized tour today.

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