Aging and Longevity 

Aging and Longevity. These words represent different ideas. Aging is something you have been doing ever since you were born.  Longevity tracks how many long you have been alive. When someone asks how old I am and I reply, 84. I am reporting the length of my longevity; how long I have been alive.   If I keep living, I will keep aging. As long as we are alive Aging is inevitable.  If we ever stop aging, we will be dead. That is why I find some commercials that offer ways to Stop Aging Now, rather silly. (They may want to stop us from showing some of the appearances of aging. But surely they do not really want to stop our aging. We would be dead if we stopped aging!)

When we are young, we really want to age. Seven year olds want to 'grow up' and be older.  Turning 18 or 21 is celebrated by many. Why? Because those ages open the doors to many of the privileges of the adult word.  

The concept of longevity is different- it tracks how long we have been alive.  Most of us  track our longevity on  an annual basis- we count  birthdays.  Birthdays are the measure of our longevity.                                                                                                                                                                         But there are other questions and concerns. What determines how long we live?  Do we have any control over our longevity? Is great longevity a good thing or would we be better off dying while we are young?  Most people desire great longevity and that desire inspires many of the things they do to sustain their health and well being.

As we grow older one of two things happen. If we live in a culture where longevity is treasured and elders are respected,  we really look forward to growing past adulthood and becoming an 'elder' in our society. (You can click on this link if you want to to read more about Elderhood)

When if we live in a culture which values youth more than it values elderhood, we can get caught up in in a search for ways to appear younger and act younger than we really are. We spend time and money on anti-aging products and procedures. But anti-aging is not the same as longevity. Longevity is  the living of a long life and most people, even those who are considered 'old' want to continue living as long as they can. Longevity is looked up as a 'gift' that some of us enjoy. 

Most people desire longevity.  We want to see our children grow up and Yes, our grand children too. Some of even home to see our great grand children. Wouldn't that be nice?   

Many of us wonder if there  is some special key to living a long life.  Is our lifespan determined by the genes we were born with?  Or will our lifestyle affect the length of our lives?

There are ads that promise us great longevity if we, "Do this.", "Eat that", "Take this supplement" or 'Buy some a program and follow it." You probably wonder if these things really work. What really matters for increasing your longevity?

Nations known for their long lived populations 

You probably know that Japan has the longest lived people on earth. Japanese men have a life expectancy of 83 years and Japanese women 90 years.  The country with the next longest lived population is Andora, which is a  small country in the Pyrenees mountains between Spain and France.

Japan is an Island nation. Andora is land locked in the mountains. These are two very different places. And yet both have long lived populations. How can this be? ( If you want to know the average life expectancy for women or for men in your own country  click on the  International Aging Longevity chart. 

National life expectancy is one thing. But what of your personal life expectancy?

Just because most people in a nation live a specific number of years, that does not say that everyone in the nation will live that long. There are always issues of personal variation.

So what determines your own aging and longevity?

Some researchers have said that our life span comes with our genes. If you come from long lived genetic stock, you are likely to have a long life. If not, you are likely to die at a younger age.  According this theory, you can get a good sense of your own life span by looking how long your parents and grandparents lived. Life span is part your genetic code.

Although there seems to be some truth to this theory, we all can think of examples where it did not apply. A young person born into a long lived family suddenly dies at an early age from an infection or in an accident.  Or another person outlives every one in his or her family. No one understand why? Clearly it is not  'just our genes' that determines our longevity.

Still as the study of personal genetic makeup has become more common, there are many scientists who search for what has been named 'the longevity gene'.  (If you want to read about those studies, click: Finding the Longevity Gene  )  

Although most scientists recognize that genes play some part in how long you will live,  most now say that genetics is only about 20% of the cause of your individual life span.  Other things are far more important - for aging and longevity. Things that are under our personal control.  Here is the list of things they emphasize as influencing how long you will live.                      

  1. Diet, exercise.  Some scientists claim that your diet and how much exercise you get are more important than your genes. 
  2. Stress. Other scientists claim that the level of stress you experience through life is the key to understanding how long you will live. (You've heard it many times: STRESS KILLS).
  3. Supplement companies point to studies of one or another supplement that has been associated with longevity.  (Of course they just happen to sell those supplements but that does not change the science behind their claims.)
  4. Attitude.  Yes, it is true. Attitude seems to be one factor that favors aging and longevity for many people.                                                         Attitude?  Yes, attitude. In study after study, among the sick or the well, the one thing that seems to predict a long life is something called Dispositional Optimism.                                                                     Having a positive disposition, a positive attitude,  seems to be the MOST common factor among those who live the longest. And this is true even when comparing persons with serious, life threatening illnesses. In study after study of persons with severe illness, those with what researchers call an 'optimistic outlook' outlast others . It also holds true among those who are not sick ....persons in good health. 
  5. So, attitude is everything! You might have heard a sports coach preach attitude to their players.  And you probably know that those working in health care think the same. What is interesting is that attitude,  has also been shown to be important is your goal is a long life. So maybe you want to know more about this dispositional optimism?

Read more about Dispositional Optimism and how it affects Aging and longevity. What this special form of Optimism is and how you can acquire it. All you need to do is click: Dispositional Optimisim and Longevity.

End of section: Aging and longevity.   You can find additional articles on this topic at: Science of longevity

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