When people who are surveyed about aging are asked how long they want to live, the majority choose an age between 80 and 100. But when asked if they would want to live to be 120 – if they had the health and mental sharpness of a 60 year old – they almost unanimously say yes.
The average life span of Americans has almost doubled in the last 100 years. Additionally, science is increasing lifespan by 1.5 years for every 5, and that number is accelerating. However, people are still making decisions on their lifespan based on the number of years their parents or grandparents lived. It is human nature to calibrate our lifespan by comparison to our longest living relatives, but imagine if you used your grandparents as benchmarks for other areas of your life? Not very practical, is it?
To truly embrace longevity, we have to first change our mindset, or how we think about age. No one wants to live to be 120 if they’ll spend 40 of those years in a nursing home. We must focus not only on lifespan but on health span.
In 1961, biologist Leonard Hayflick discovered the small caps at the end of human DNA called telomeres. These telomeres combine to make new cells in our body. After an average duplication of 40 to 60 times, the DNA is programmed to die off, a phenomenon called senescence. Once you run of telomeres, you are out of time.
Based on this science, the average person’s DNA is programmed to live to about 120 years. Even the oldest recorded person, Jeanne Clamet, capped out at 122.
Some people argue that living to 120 is unnatural, however in the Bible, Genesis 6:3, we see that God numbered man’s days to one hundred and twenty years.
How do you live to be 120? This is much too broad a question to be answered in a single article. But the first step is to understand that you can, and so you need to live like this is your goal. If you were trying to make your car run like new for the next 75 years, how would you maintain it? You probably wouldn’t fill the gas tank with alcohol and sugar and leave it running all night long.
The second lesson we need to grasp is that we do not have a health care system, we have a sick care system. Doctors are generally good, caring people, but they are in the business of fixing you when you are broken, not optimizing your health.
The average doctor visit in the U.S. is 6 minutes. That is hardly enough time to get to know everything about a patient. Their job is to guess what’s wrong and decide on the most likely treatment to prescribe. Ask your doctor how to feel better and live longer, and they will stare at you like a deer in headlights.
To add to this challenge, the average doctor only has one semester of nutrition in school, where they merely learn basic letter vitamins such as A, B, C, D and E.
It’s up to you to learn what it takes to live longer and stronger. Read books, listen to podcasts like the soon to be released Living Beyond 120, and don’t fall prey to fad diets and health crazes.