Many of the factors that determine longevity and your odds of living to be 90 are hard-wired into your system from birth.
Gender, height and weight are three of the most critical indicators of who lives longest, according to a British study that followed participants from 1986 who were between the ages of 55 to 69 through today. The results were published this week in Epidemiology and Community Health.
Women have a definite advantage in the race to old age. Of the 7,807 study participants, 994 women and 433 men lived to 90.
But height mattered.
Women who were over 5’9 and of fairly slight build when they were 20 fared better than shorter women with stockier body types.
“I did a little calculation and I took a 5’9” woman and compared her to a 5’3 woman who had the same body mass index,” says Dr. Carmel Dyer, a national leader in the field of gerontology and Executive Director of the UTHealth Consortium on Aging. The taller woman was able to consume 200 more calories daily than the shorter woman to both maintain their original weight. It’s because of the relationship between height and weight reflected in a Body Mass Index, called BMI. Eating the same diet, the 5’3 woman would have packed on significantly more pounds by the time the women reach their sixties.
Exercise factors in, most especially when gender is accounted for. Men who exercised more during their lifetimes fared better than men who did not. Women who exercised regularly did not have a big advantage over women who did not.
Lifestyle choices, of course, influence longevity. A history of smoking, obesity and related complications are life-shortening.
The three biggest-killers are cancer, heart disease and stroke, all of which are influenced by weight and a lack of exercise.