"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

What if you knew when you were to die?

By on March 31, 2019 in Columnist with 0 Comments
Jim Brown

By Jim Brown, M.D.

What would you do if you knew the exact date that you would die? 

Would you live your life differently? Take more risks? Spend more time with your family and friends? Try new experiences that you always wanted to try someday? Travel more or less? Would you spend more time in meditation, contemplation or prayer? 

This is the theme of a New York Times best selling novel, The Immortalists, by author Chloe Benjamin that I read recently. I found it captivating, and it really got me thinking. 

It starts out in 1969 in New York City’s East side. The four adolescent Gold children hear there was a mystical woman who had moved into their block. She was a traveling psychic who reportedly could tell the exact date of your death. 

These curious adolescents search her out. She meets with each one individually and tells them the date and to tell no one what she had said. 

Her prophecy affected the rest of their lives in various ways. This book was a story of family bonds. It explores the link between destiny and choice, and I found it to be fascinating and well written. 

I now have ordered the author’s other award winning novel, The Anatomy of Dreams.

As a result of reading The Immortalists, I have thought a lot about what I might have done differently if I knew the answer to the question of when I might die. 

Nearly everyone at some point in their life wonders or asks the question, “How long will I live?” The average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78.8 for males and 81.2 for females.

There are only six countries where the life expectancy is over 80 for both females and males. These countries are Australia, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland. 

Since I already have passed my “pull date,” I think I may know the answer for me give or take a few years. We all know that every living thing will die at some point.

The oldest recorded age for any human is 122 years. In our country we celebrate and marvel whenever someone reaches the century mark.

Various factors contribute to an individual’s longevity. These factors include poverty, gender, access to health care, hygiene, diet and nutrition, exercise, life style, crime rates and genetics.

Surprisingly, studies show only 20 to 30 percent of an individual’s life span is related to genetics. The rest of the factors are related to our individual behaviors and environmental factors we can modify to some degree.

We humans have two different ages. 

One is our chronologic age, which is how old you are or how many years you have lived since you were born. The other is our biologic age or health age which is the difference between one’s average life expectancy at their particular age and their likely predicted life expectancy. 

This is based on several biologic factors, physiologic factors, and healthy or not so healthy behaviors. The key to longevity is your life style habits. 

Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” This certainly is true for our health and longevity. 

Now days we can actually calculate our biologic or health age. How accurate this is I cannot say, but it might give you pause to find out.

A calculator to determine biologic age is available at the following website: www.disabled-world.com/calculators-charts/health-age.php.

There is a lot of information on this site, so if you go to it, scroll down to the biologic age calculator. Our biologic age or true health age can be calculated and predicted to some degree. This calculator comes up with what might be considered your true “health age.”

Obviously it is subject to many factors, but it is interesting to consider. 

You are asked to enter in things like your current age, some of your medical history about cardio issues, weight, cholesterol range, eating, drinking and smoking habits, safety issues like do you use your seat belts. The end calculation gives you your likely life expectancy and your health or biologic age. The information is anonymous and there is no private information needed. 

Once you hit “Calculate” you get your results. If you don’t like the results, it might not be too late to make some changes in your lifestyle.

Jim Brown, M.D., is a retired gastroenterologist who has practiced for 38 years in the Wenatchee area. He is a former CEO of the Wenatchee Valley Medical Center.

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