We’re at an exciting juncture for medical science. Life spans have been expanding for 150 years. We’re living seven years longer than our parents’ generation, and they lived seven years longer than their parents. We’re grateful for this—but we also want more.
In labs, scientists are significantly expanding animals’ natural life spans with cutting-edge genetics. We know how to modify the fertilized egg, snipping out genes that cause aging, providing extra copies of other genes. These tricks are routinely played with mouse embryos but have not yet been applied to humans.
There are technologies just over the horizon that may offer comparable benefits to adults. I’ve told my daughters to plan their lives with the expectation that they might live 200 years.
In the meantime—especially for those of us of a certain age—it's crucially important to maintain tip-top health as long as we can. It’s not just the extra year or two of life that we might squeeze out in this way. It’s also the hope that we can be healthy and eligible for that next breakthrough when it arrives and enjoy lives that are not only longer but better.
So what is the single most important lifestyle factor that determines your prospect for a long, healthy life?
The joke says it’s “choosing the right parents." But studies with twins suggest that the genetic component of life expectancy makes up only 25 percent. That leaves three-quarters of the range of possibilities under your control.