Sunday, 15 May 2011


My paternal grandfather turns 85 this Tuesday. Maybe it's not yet a grand old age (although far longer than average lifespan), but there's a chance that he makes it to the next round, 90th, anniversary. He'd been in a very good health until the age of 80, then he had several attacks of epilepsy and some other problems with general health. This year, after passing out unexpectedly he spent a few days in a hospital. He still cleans up the house and does the shopping, mentally he's fit enough to do the household chores unaided.

His birthday made me think a bit of the determinants of length of a human life. I've even drawn up a short list of factors.

1. Genes - probably the most meaningful factor. Length of our life, no accidents permitting is written in the genes at the moment of birth. Some are predestined to live 90 years, some have to die 25 years earlier. Genes of longevity may be passed on to next generations. In my family the fateful age was 87. Three out of seven of my great-grandparents, whose dates of deaths are known, died aged 87, my maternal grandfather also passed away aged 87 (he had predicted it seven years earlier...).

2. Resilience - stronger people, who don't give up, bear up what fate brings should live longer.

3. Temper - patient, kind-hearted, joyful people are more likely to live longer than aggressive and hot-tempered ones.

4. Social activities - the more friends you have, the better your relationships with your family are, the more time you spend with other people (nad enjoy it), the longer you should stay on this earth.

5. Sport - people who do some sports and have a daily, or at least weekly dose of physical exercise, should stay fit longer and hence the probability that they die from heart attack should decrease...

6. Train your brain - I'm not sure if it can extend life, but for sure if brainteasers, crosswords and books keep you company, risk of senility in the old age should go down.

7. Stress - here the correlation is negative. The more stressful life you lead, the shorter might it be...

8. Happiness - works just as in the case of social activities.

9. Place of residence - generally refers to factors other than listed above. On where you live depends how well-equipped hospitals are, how well-trained doctors are and how easy access to medicines is.

10. Wealth - sadly. Well-off people can afford to undergo costly therapies that can save their or their relatives' lives. Not everyone can.

11. Awareness of health - look at the example of breast cancer prevention. Those women who suffer from it usually were oblivious of the possibility to have their breast examined each three years or were afraid of the very examination. Results are dire.

12. Smoking, drinking, other addictions - it is said that each smoked cigarette shortens your life by 18 minutes. I've never had a cigarette in my mouth in my life but I still wonder how long would live those people who died aged over 100 and smoked several cigarettes a day over decades. In small doses alcohol also should not hamper one's health.

Anything to add to that list?

Actually if the factors above were that very crucial, my paternal grandparents, both aged 85, married to each other for over 62 years, would not be predestined to live that long. So is everything written in the genes? Or somewhere else?

At the very end of this short (again, but easier to digest) post a small reflection. It is said, in the context of imminent collapse of pension systems, that people will live longer and longer. Is it so certain. "Live fast, die young" - look at young yuppies who break their backs to make roaring careers and make lots money and ask yourself, if they'll be able to carry on like this for 40 years. Imagine a man working 60 hours a week for four decades when he retires in his sixties. What will be left? Who will be left?

Provocative paragraph, but if it's a bit controversial, it suits the blog very well :)

1 comment:

PolishMeKnob said...

Luck of the draw. Pure random chance.