Live to be 100. Maybe?

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So, as well as checking out my genetic make-up (sample has been received by lab… results still awaited – more info here) I am also trying other ways to ensure my continued good health.

I’m going running. Quite a lot. Well, not this week, because its cold and snowy. But otherwise, quite a lot. I’ve signed up for a half marathon. I’ve got an app that gives me a running program (‘every other day’ I’m supposed to go. Relentlessly. From now until May. I’m managing about 3x a week when its not snowing. Well, I managed 3x in one week for one week before the snow came two weeks ago.)

I use a Nike+ Fuelband (obviously being careful at work not to contravene infection control policy re: bare below the elbow – it has to live in my pocket most of the time…) for a bit of extra motivation.

And now, I’ve found a website to estimate my life expectancy! Are you excited? I am! So lets get started…


Obviously, it has to be taken with a pinch of salt. The website is made by a guy with a lot of letters after his name. But I can play at that game too: Dr Tom Leach MBChB thanks very much. So let’s not take him too seriously. Its all just a bit of fun. And maybe I can live a bit longer too.

The whole thing only takes a couple of minutes. You will be asked about your “lifestyle choices” and a little bit about your family history. Any risky sexual behaviours recently? Yes its all in there. Don’t worry, you can trust him, he’s a doctor. Notably absent is any reference to where you live or where you we born, which I would imagine is quite important. I think it’s presuming you are from the USA (but we can probably still get decent results if you have spent most of your life in any developed nation). Then you get a number – presumably between 1 and 100. Mines 87. I was actually a bit disappointed… and if you’re not bored of my story yet, then read on and I’ll tell you why.

I listen to BBC Radio 4. A lot. I like it. Yes – I am speeding down the highway to middle-age and I just can’t help myself. But they have a lot of really interesting programs and discussions. They should have more science and less arty-farty, but for a national radio station its great! Anyway, I was listening to some old podcasts of one of their programmes recently – More or Less. You should try it. Its all about statistics (no really, you definitely should try it). They take a look at what’s been in the news recently, where the statistics have come from, and how (in)accurate they are. I was listening to an old podcast from September 2010 and they were talking about life expectancy. Its a great listen if you’re into this kind of thing (this particular story is also summarised on the BBC’s website)

The headline figure they were relating to was that ‘Life expectancy for a man in the UK is 77′. And they were a little disappointed about that. And it seems, rightly so. They found another headline (probably from the Daily Mail) that life expectancy was actually 89. That’s more like it! But why the discrepancy?

The ’77’ figure is the ‘official’ one from the office of national statistics. Its an average across all age groups. So the value can be applied to pretty much anyone living today. Someone who’s 76, or some like me, who’s 25. But that’s not very practical is it?! This figure is assuming there will be no improvement in mortality rates or healthcare during the course of the rest of my life. Preposterous! I would like to think we can do better than that.

The 89 figure comes when these figures are adjusted to allow for improvements in life-expectancy over time. So its probably more accurate.

But even this figure is brought down by those who die young – say for example, under the age of 4 – which is actually quite a risky time! So if you’ve made it to 20 or more, your life expectancy will be greater than 89. But over at the Beeb they still weren’t happy with this. They spoke to Professor James Vaupel, director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany. He says that currently, Life expectancy is increasing by 2.5 years every decade – or three months every year! That’s bloody brilliant! Professor Vaupel also points out that exercising regularly can increase your life by 5 years, and that the actual life-expectancy figure is just a Mean value – the Median is much higher at 97 – and 50% of people will live longer than this! How about the mode? That’s 100. We just keep getting older and older…

Now we get off into dream land… They end up speaking to a guy doing research in California. He says that by the time we reach 100, there will be technology to keep us alive for another 30 years.  And by the time we reach 130… technology for another 30 years. He proposes that some of our generation might even live to be 1000! As my Hero, Dr Karl always says…. we will be the first generation to live forever. We can dream…

I don’t quite believe him. But it seems we’re getting closer…

So what about Thomas Peris M.D M.P.H. and his calculator over at ?
Well, after telling me I was only going to live to be a measly 87 (pffft maybe its because he’s assuming I’m American?) he does give me some tips to help prolong my life.

I only exercise 3 time a week. He reckons i can add an extra 5 years by exercising 6-7 times a week. Seems sensible if not a little exaggerated… but he says he’s looked at the evidence and I haven’t…
He also thinks that flossing my teeth everyday will give me an extra year, and popping an aspirin will give me another two!

All in all, if I take all of his advice he thinks I’ll make it to 101… I like the sound of that. But if austerity continues until then, I wont be retiring until 99 anyway…

So, what have we learned? Well, estimating life expectancy is a tricky business. We’ll probably live longer than our parents. Radio 4 is awesome. And having some letters after your name and making a website with your photos on it makes you look like an arsehole.

Bye-bye for now…

Dr Tom Leach

Dr Tom Leach MBChB DCH EMCert(ACEM) FRACGP currently works as a GP and an Emergency Department CMO in Australia. He is also a Clinical Associate Lecturer at the Australian National University, and is studying for a Masters of Sports Medicine at the University of Queensland. After graduating from his medical degree at the University of Manchester in 2011, Tom completed his Foundation Training at Bolton Royal Hospital, before moving to Australia in 2013. He started almostadoctor whilst a third year medical student in 2009. Read full bio

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