It is important to take good care of your health. This means the simple, sensible lifestyle choices: stay fit, stay lean, don't smoke, and so on. If you don't do this, then you'll have a shorter and less pleasant life. You'll spend much more on medical expenses. It is worth the effort to evade those outcomes. But don't believe that you are going to beat the odds on longevity in any exceptional way just because you took good care of your health. You'll likely beat the odds in a minor way, but two thirds to three quarters of the healthiest people in the world die before reaching age 90. That fraction only increases for everyone else, as today's open access paper well illustrates.
The point to take away from this is not to fixate on the world of health and lifestyle. Just do the simple, sensible things, and don't make a big deal of it. Have a reasonable expectation of the outcome. If far greater healthy longevity is the goal, then the only way you, I, or anyone else can achieve it is through the development of rejuvenation therapies that can repair and reverse the causes of aging. Aging is a process of damage accumulation, followed by all of the harmful downstream consequences of that damage. Repairing that damage periodically is the only way that we will be able to reliably live much longer in good health. While the first, crude rejuvenation therapies exist, senolytic drugs that can destroy some of the senescent cells that harm tissue function in later life, they are only a first step on a long road. A lot of work lies ahead. Consider helping.
The 738 oldest men who participated in the first survey of the population-based Tromsø Study (Tromsø 1) in Norway in 1974 have now had the chance to reach the age of 90 years. The men were also invited to subsequent surveys (Tromsø 2-7, 1979-2016) and have been followed up for all-cause deaths. This study sought to investigate what could be learned from how these men have fared. The men were born in 1925-1928 and similar health-related data from questionnaires, physical examination, and blood samples are available for all surveys. Survival curves over various variable strata were applied to evaluate the impact of individual risk factors and combinations of risk factors on all-cause deaths. At the end of 2018, 118 (16.0%) of the men had reached 90 years of age.
Smoking in 1974 was the strongest single risk factor associated with survival, with observed percentages of men reaching 90 years being 26.3, 25.7, and 10.8 for never, former, and current smokers, respectively. Significant effects on survival were also found for physical inactivity, low income, being unmarried, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. For men with 0-4 of these risk factors, the percentages reaching 90 years were 33.3, 24.9, 12.4, 14.4, and 1.5, respectively. Quitting smoking and increasing physical activity before 55 years of age improved survival significantly.
The main finding of this study is the huge reduction in observed life length for men with two or more of the risk factors identified in this study, i.e., current smoking, physical inactivity, low income, being unmarried, high blood pressure, or high total cholesterol. Reported in adult mid-life, these risk factors started to take their toll as early as approximately 55 years of age, and over time, more and more lives were lost. The large effect of lifestyle characteristics at adult middle-age was further underlined by the decreasing survival time and smaller number of men reaching 90 years of age that was observed with increasing number of risk factors. Although each of these risk factors alone was associated with premature death, their massive joint effect emphasizes the benefits of eradicating as many of them as possible.