What's the secret to a long life?

Chris Langley
23 January 2012

Your body is made up cells that reproduce almost endlessly on their own, so why don’t you live forever? Well, the answer to that question is still not fully understood and even what we do know is incredibly complicated and involves many factors such as genetics, nutrition, the environment and stress, among other things.

The average life expectancy for humans has dramatically increased since the dawn of man. In the Stone Age (approximately 9500 BCE) it was 20 years, in Medieval times (5th to 15th centuries) it had increased to 30 years and in the British 16th to 18th centuries, it was around 40 years. Today, human life expectancy world-wide averages about 67 years.

While scientists work towards uncovering the secret behind a fountain of youth, here are some healthy practices that will help keep your body alive and kicking!

Did You Know?
It’s unknown how many cells a human body contains, but many sources believe that there are at least 100,000,000,000,000 (1 trillion) cells, and likely much more! Some cells can reproduce themselves (e.g. skin cells), while others cannot (e.g. red blood cells, which are made by bone marrow stem cells).

Let’s start with your attitude. In 2002, researchers in Minnesota found that pessimistic people have a higher risk of dying early than optimists. Although why this is true has yet to be explained, it may be that optimistic people are better able to handle stress. As a result, they would be less susceptible to health issues such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Ironically, this means that in order to stop worrying about dying early, you need to stop worrying about dying early!

Another strategy for increasing the length of your life is to get a pet. Next time mom and dad deny you that furry friend, remind them that pets create a more relaxing external environment and, as a result, reduce the amount of a stress hormone, called cortisol, in your system. They don’t call dogs man’s best friend for nothing!

Did You Know?
By age 100, there are approximately two women alive for every man.

Finally there’s the obvious: take care of your body. Don’t smoke, eat a balanced diet, strive to obtain a healthy body weight, stay active, get plenty of regular sleep, avoid nuclear waste and do everything in your power to avoid zombies and/or vampires!

In all seriousness though, your physical health is the most important asset in your journey towards achieving a long, fulfilling and happy life. Never forget that you only get one body and one life to spend it on, so make it last by taking good care of yourself! Oh yeah, and it couldn’t hurt to be a positive-thinker who one day marries a dog-owner.


Happy people live longer

Cell division-Wikipedia

Optimismvs Pessimism -CBS News

Womenvs Men life expectancy-Scientific American

Averagelife expectancies-Central Intelligence Agency online factbook

Article first published April 5, 2011.

Chris Langley

Chris is a graduate student at the University of Guelph where he studies molecular and cellular biology - more specifically the bioremediation of environments polluted by harmful pesticides and the detoxification of chemical warfare agents using bacterial proteins.  Chris obtained his undergraduate degree in microbiology and he's worked at Campbell's Soup Canada, in Toronto, developing new soups that are now on grocery store shelves (you might have tried some!).  Chris has also spent time at the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa as an antibody engineer in search of a vaccine against the avian flu.  In his down time Chris likes to watch and read sci-fi movies and books, play piano/guitar, work on graphic design projects and write scientific articles for the general public.

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