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Predicting Human Longevity

Updated on August 3, 2019
Pamela99 profile image

I spent 22 years in the nursing profession. I enjoy writing, reading historical novels, gardening, and helping people live a healthier life.

Senior Man


Factors That Determine Human Longevity

One sure thing is we will all die someday, but almost none of us know when that will happen unless we are at the end stage of a deadly disease. Scientists try to predict how long individuals will live by evaluating various human characteristics. Obviously, we all have a genetic influence on the quality and length of our lives. The other considerations may be the way we live. This includes, among other things, what we eat, body weight, exercise and the way we handle stress.

The goal of longevity is the striving for our maximum potential age. Women have greater longevity than men.

Appendicular Muscle Mass

The appendicular lean muscle mass (ALM) is being used as a strategy for predicting longevity in people over the age of 65 years. There is a growing concern about age-related muscle loss in an aging society. Age-related loss of muscle mass and strength is termed ‘sarcopenia’, which is the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass (0.5–1% loss per year after the age of 50), quality, and strength associated with aging.

The study by the National Institute for Longevity Sciences - Longitudinal Study of Aging, Japan evaluated 1026 men and 952 women between 40 and 79 years old. The researchers estimated hazard ratios for mortality or disability for men and women. To adjust indices, they did measurements for:

  • ALM/leg length
  • ALM/height
  • ALM/weight
  • ALM/body mass index (BMI)

They concluded that an unadjusted baseline was more appropriate to predict longevity and disability, particularly in women.

The University of Sao Paulo’s Medical School in Brazil evaluated 839 men and women over the age of 65 for four years. The appendicular muscles in the arms and legs are very important in stabilizing the shoulders and hips. Individuals with a muscle mass below average by 20% were classified as having sarcopenia.

The body composition was evaluated by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, which determines the bone density. It was determined loss of ALM increased morbidity and mortality, but they did not have exact percentages that could predict longevity.

Muscle Loss and Aging

Calorie Intake

Calorie intake has generated numerous recent studies. Typically, sarcopenia associated with osteoporosis increases the vulnerability of senior citizens. They become prone to fractures, falls and other physical injuries. Low bone density, particularly in the femur (bone in the lower leg), is correlated with mortality in the elderly.

Human beings that are known for longevity were studied to compare calorie intake with an extended lifespan and the lower likelihood of disease. The restriction of calories reduced excess body weight and belly fat, which are both associated with a shortened lifespan. It is not understood at this point as long-term calorie restriction may be unsustainable due to lower body temperature, increased hunger, and a diminished sex drive.

The Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Science and Center for Human Nutrition states calorie restriction (CR) does play an important role in many of the age-related chronic illnesses associated with aging. Human studies indicate that adequate nutrients in the diet resulted in many metabolic adaptations, which reduce the development of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and cancer. Additionally, CR inhibits the typical age-related alterations in autonomic function, myocardial stiffness and gene expression in the skeletal muscles. This could be due to a high-quality diet rather than calorie reduction.

One-third of people over 65 are obese, so a healthy diet will obviously help prevent disease, and you will probably feel better overall. For obese people, calorie restriction is a healthy choice, and it may just be that healthy food choices will help lose those extra pounds. A heart-healthy diet of 1,800 calories with enough calcium for bones and proteins for the muscles is considered important for senior adults.

Senior Hands


Environmental Factors

Numerous significant improvements in water, availability of food, improved housing and living conditions, and limited exposure to infectious diseases began in the 1900s. In addition, advances in public health have reduced infant mortality and increased the chance of survival in childhood. Communicable and infectious diseases are less common as well.

The study of people in their nineties, centenarians and semi-centenarians (ages 105-109) have been studied for commonalities. As for education, profession or lifestyle, they have little in common. Their shared similarities include being non-smokers, having a normal body weight, and they cope with problems without much stress. Most of them were women. Their children and their siblings are more likely to remain healthy and live to old age as well. They are less likely to have typical age-related, chronic diseases that are common among their peers.

A long life is a life well spent.

--Leonardo da Vinci

Genetic Factors

Currently, scientists have determined that approximately 25% of the human lifespan is determined by genetics. They do not fully understand which genes affect longevity. Whole-genome sequencing has identified increased disease risk and some genes that possibility promote longevity. There is still much to learn about genetics

What is the Okinawa Diet

Psychological Factors Affecting Longevity

Biomedical research on the hypothalamus indicates this area of the brain exerts fundamental control over aging. An individual’s resilience can be measured by their education, hobbies involving mental and physical exercise, spoken foreign languages, extended family and social networking.

The purpose in life and reason for getting up each day is relevant. Lessons have been learned from geriatric psychology, which has been under-represented as a health discipline in the past for mortality modeling.

Elderly Woman


Lifestyle to Improve Longevity

There are several things you can do to improve longevity in your life, such as:

  1. Do not smoke
  2. Moderate exercise on a regular basis
  3. Adequate sleep includes 7-9 hours nightly
  4. Eat plenty of vegetables and healthy proteins
  5. Maintain a healthy weight
  6. Do not drink alcohol, or at least on a very limited basis
  7. Enjoy mental activities daily by challenging yourself
  8. Manage stress carefully by developing healthy coping skills
  9. Cultivate personal relationships with family and friends
  10. See a dentist regularly, floss and brush
  11. Be sure to get adequate calcium and vitamin D
  12. Follow preventive care guidelines

In Conclusion

Most people want to live a long healthy life. Ideally, begin healthy habits early in life, but if you did not do that, the choice can be made anytime. Changing your habits later in life can still be beneficial and extend your longevity. It is clear that the oldest people in the world have almost always lived a life with healthy food, exercise, and they keep a normal weight.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Pamela Oglesby


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    12 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Audrey, I appreciate your kind comments on the article. I imagine you will stick around a long time with your positive article, and as I read recently, singing is great for the lungs. Have a good week.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    3 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Maria, Taking your nursing students to a senior living center sounds like an important experience for your students. Even with some frustrations I would think your work is so rewarding. I always loved the little bit of teaching I did.

    You know your comments are always much appreciated. Have a good Labor day weekend. Love and hugs to you Maria.

  • marcoujor profile image

    Maria Jordan 

    3 weeks ago from Jeffersonville PA

    Dear Pamela,

    I take my community nursing students to a senior living center that is so inspirational. Many residents are well over 80 - the oldest is 105. There is so much activity, engagement and passion in all kinds of physical and mental avenues.

    There are so many factors in our control to age in a healthy manner. Thank you for reminding us in this informative post.

    Glad you will be safe in your neck of the woods from the latest expression by Mother Nature. Love and hugs, Maria

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Alyssa, You have chosen a healthy lifestyle. I think many are focused on longevity as you said. I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Tim, I am glad you liked the information, and your comments are appreciated.

  • Alyssa Nichol profile image


    4 weeks ago from Ohio

    My husband and I were just watching a program about mummies and they discussed cryogenics. It's fascinating to me that throughout history, humans have consistently tried to find ways not only to prolong life, but also have this interest in immortality, as well as life after death. I'm very passionate about health in terms of exercise, and as I get older, I've found the benefits of eating healthy and portioning out food. Your tips are helpful, practical and easy to implement. Excellent article! Happy weekend my friend!

  • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

    Tim Truzy 

    4 weeks ago from U.S.A.

    Thanks, Pamela. Great information about longevity.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Eric, You seem to be very active, which makes you healthier. Losing 50 pounds is a difficult achievement, so I applaud you for that. I appreciate your comments my friend

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 

    6 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Very helpful. I have some work to do. But maybe if I make it "work", not so healthy. I am above my BMI place. But my doc seems unconcerned after I lost 50 lbs.

    I was checking out my older friends -90 plus and not one is rich, or at least they do not act like it.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda, I am glad you found this article to be informative. I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Robert, I haven't read anything that says that exactly. When you retire it is important to develop other interestts or just keep your mind busy with some type of activity. It could be taking a long walk or reading a book. I think if people retire and just sit in front of the TV, that is not healthy. Thanks for your question.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    6 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

    Thanks for sharing such an informative article, Pamela. It contains a lot of important information related to longevity.

  • Robert Sacchi profile image

    Robert Sacchi 

    6 weeks ago

    This seems to support the notion of not retiring to live longer. Does the research give any indication of that?

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Vivian, I agree that a sense of purpose is very important, an is staying active. I think having friends and family help with both of these points. I appreciate your comments. Have a good week.

  • Noelle7 profile image

    Vivian Coblentz 

    6 weeks ago

    Interesting article, Pamela. When I've watched interviews with people over 100, one thing they've mentioned in common is staying active, like gardening and volunteerism. You always hear about people dying as soon as they retire, and I personally think it's because they lose their purpose. A sense of purpose gives people a drive that keeps them going!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Ms Dora, Many of us need to work on that one. Thanks you for your comments. Enjoy your Sunday!

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    6 weeks ago from The Caribbean

    Pam, thank you for all the scientific data as well as the important reminders you shared. The Okinawa principle of not eating past 80% full is what I need to work on.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Ruby, I think 93 years is pretty good. I am glad you have made healthy choices as well. I am glad you liked the article, and I appreciate your comments.

  • always exploring profile image

    Ruby Jean Richert 

    6 weeks ago from Southern Illinois

    This article is interesting and helpful. I had a sister, Mary who passed away a few months age at the age of ninety three. She followed all the suggestions you mentioned, never was overweight, ate healthy and exercised. I am doing the same. I really liked your article. Thanks again for sharing.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Peggy, You are absolutely right about the numerous things that go into having a long life. Those areas of the world that have people living a longer than average life seem to have all those things, and the people are making good choices about food, etc. Thanks so much for your comments.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    6 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

    So many things go into living a long life and you mentioned many of them. Inheriting good genes certainly does help. Other things such as the quality of water we drink and the nutritional factor of the food we eat and the air we breathe also play a factor.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda, Well, I think you should remember your vitamin D unless you drink a lot of milk. I know you don't have sun all the time. I am glad you found this to be an interesting article, and I appreciate your comments as always. Have a nice weekend.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Chuck, Your aunt and uncle fit into the statistics of losing a husband and wife. I have read more than once that many husbands or wives die within 3 months of losing their mate. I don't remember the exact statistics. It is interesting that your aunt had pretty severe dementia, yet she didn't survive long after her husband passed away. I appreciate you sharing that experience and for all of your comments.

  • Carb Diva profile image

    Linda Lum 

    6 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

    Pam what a helpful article. Like Flourish, I'm glad that you provided that list. I'm doing all of those except I tend, more often than not, to forget my vitamin D. And, where I live it's really important. In my head I still feel like a youth (a much smarter youth).

  • Chuck profile image

    Chuck Nugent 

    6 weeks ago from Tucson, Arizona

    Interesting and informative Hub. Maintaining connections with others is an important point as I saw with my great aunt and uncle. They were both in their 90s but she had started showing signs of dementia over a decade earlier (it may have been Alzheimer but that condition had yet to be identified so her condition was still referred to "hardening of the arteries"). As her condition continued to get worse my great uncle had to put her in a nursing home where in addition to her worsening mental state she suffered a couple of strokes which left her bed ridden and unable to speak coherently. For five years or more my great uncle visited her every day from the time the home opened until closing chatting with her all day. Then my great uncle had a heart attack and died in his sleep. We were told that my great aunt was physically healthy and, despite her other conditions, could still live for some more years. Instead, without my great uncle's daily contact with her, she died within a few weeks.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Flourish, A switch like that would be nice. My mother had such a tough time in her last few months as the quality of her life was horrible. I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Bill, Some of the different researchers looked at areas around the world that at locations that had people with the longest lifespans. The Blue Zones were not mentioned, but I will definitely check them out. Thank you for the information and your comments.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    6 weeks ago from USA

    I especially like how you provide the list for people at the end. My grandmother is pushing 90 and her body is outlasting her mind. Her heart surgeon all but guaranteed that it wouldn’t give out first. I wish we had a voluntary “I’m done — turn my lights out” switch inside that would activate when someone is ready to go.

  • bdegiulio profile image

    Bill De Giulio 

    6 weeks ago from Massachusetts

    Hi Pam. Fascinating. I'm do try to live a healthy life and certainly many factors affect ones longevity. Have you read about the Blue Zones? They are the 5 communities around the world with the longest lifespans. There is much written about this and I think you will find it interesting.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lorna, I imagine your grandfather's positive attitude along with good genes allowed him to live to such a ripe old age. Hopefully, you inherited his good genes. Thank you for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Pop, I do not think anyone likes to think about how long they have left on this earth. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Bill, I think you probably live each day to the fullest as well as anyone I know and attitude is really important. I appreciate our comments.

  • Lorna Lamon profile image

    Lorna Lamon 

    6 weeks ago

    Really interesting article Pamela and I agree a healthy lifestyle incorporating diet and exercise will certainly help. Perhaps it is getting that right combination and having good genes. I know my Grandad was the exception to the rule, as he smoked a pipe most of his life, had a glass of whiskey every evening - really bad diet and yet lived to the ripe old age of 98. He did have a very positive outlook on life so maybe the mind also plays a part.

  • breakfastpop profile image


    6 weeks ago

    I love your articles, but this topic scares me!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

    Always a fascinating read. I may not live past tomorrow, but I have lived a very healthy life so far, so no complaints. Every single day is a bonus as far as I'm concerned.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Liz, I don't think a little wine hurts. It is probably more about excessive hard liquor drinking that is a problem. One thing I found after looking at all the sources is they really cannot predict longevity except to see healthy living will help you and maybe the rest of your family live longer.

    Thank you for your comments Liz.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    6 weeks ago from UK

    I have read your article with great interest. I had heard that genes have a significant part to play in lifespan. The other points you make suggest that our lifestyles play a big role as well. Maybe I should put the bottle of wine, which I am cooling to go with our meal later, back in the cupboard for another time!


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