The Longevity Quiz

Are you on your way to becoming a modern-day Methuselah?

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When you think about it, 77.9 years (the average American lifespan) is just not enough—especially when you consider how much time is wasted watching YouTube videos and getting stuck in Ardsley traffic (well, for me at least). Are you doing everything in your power to make sure your life is as long as possible? While you may not have any control over the most important factor in determining life expectancy—genetics—your lifestyle choices can add on some much-needed years. Or subtract them, if you’ve picked up some horrible habits. Take this quiz to see if you’re on-track to become the next Yone Minagawa, the world’s oldest living person at 114 years.

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1. Which do you most closely resemble: a gym rat or a couch potato?

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If your lifestyle doesn’t include much physical activity, subtract one point.

If you get moderate exercise (you go to the gym but not as often as you should), add one point.

If you’re buff and get a good workout on a daily basis, add two points.

FACT: A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says that moderate and high physical activity could add up to 3.7 years in total life expectancy and up to 3.3 years of living free of cardiovascular disease.



2. How is your Body Mass Index? (Don’t know? For a quick calculation, visit the Department of Health and Human Services’ website at

If your BMI is in the “obese” range, subtract two points.

If your BMI is in the “underweight” or the “overweight” range, subtract one point.

If your BMI is in the “normal weight” range, add two points.

FACT: Get back to that New Year’s resolution. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that obesity could account for a 22-percent reduction in life expectancy for white men between the ages of 20 and 30.



3. Be honest: Do you remember to floss?

If no, subtract one point.

If yes, add one point.

FACT: Oral health has been linked to healthy hearts and a better respiratory system by ridding the body of harmful bacteria. In fact, internist and anesthesiologist Michael Roizen of the University of Chicago estimates that keeping teeth and gums healthy could add up to six and a half years to your life.



4. Would you care for a cigarette?

If your answer is “Yes, please,” subtract two points.

If you used to smoke but had the good sense to quit, add one point.

If you’ve never tasted a nice, tobacco-flavored cough, add two points.

FACT: The American Cancer Society reports that smokers who quit by age 35 could expect to live up to eight and a half years (!) longer than continuing smokers.



5. Check your balance: How does the bank account look?

If you have a below-average income ($66,560 for Westchester), subtract one point.

If you have an average income, skip to the next question.

If you have an above-average income, add two points.

FACT: In a study that surprises no one, Dartmouth College has found that the wealthiest areas also have the lowest rates of mortality.


6. Are you a social butterfly, or do you consider yourself one of those brooding loner types?

If you keep mostly to yourself, subtract a point.

If you have a circle of reliable friends, add two points.

FACT: Researchers in Australia have found that a close group of comrades—more so than a tight-knit family—could account for a 22-percent reduction in mortality. Now’s a good time to catch up on your lapsing correspondence.



7. After dinner, what do you reach for: a cup o’ joe or a spot of tea?

If coffee, skip to the next question.

If neither, skip to the next question.

If tea, add one point.

FACT: Tea—especially green tea, says the Journal of the American Medical Association—has longevity-boosting polyphenols that protect cells with their robust antioxidant properties. Conflicting research means the jury is still out on coffee, so your Starbucks habit is safe (for now).



8. How do you file your tax returns:
singly or jointly?

If you’ve never been married, subtract a point.

If you are divorced or widowed, skip to the next question.

If you are married, add one point.

FACT: Go on, throw a couple elbows to catch the next bouquet. Married people live longer than those who are single, divorced, or widowed—especially those who have never been married—according to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.


9. At night, do you get your 40 winks, or is it more like a wink-and-a-half?

If you sleep less than six hours per night, subtract one point.

If you sleep more than eight hours per night, subtract one point.

If you sleep between six and eight hours per night, add two points.

FACT: Researchers in Nagoya, Japan, have discovered that those who sleep seven hours a night—not eight—have the lowest rates of mortality, so you might want to set that alarm for a bit earlier.


10. The age-old question: is the glass half-full or half-empty?

If you consider yourself a pessimist, subtract one point.

If you’re somewhere in-between, skip to the next question.

If you consider yourself an optimist, add one point.

FACT: It seems there is power in positive thinking. The Mayo Clinic reports that optimistic people have a 50 percent decreased risk of early death.


11. At work, are you a high-powered wheeler-dealer or a thoughtless drone?

If you have a mindless job, subtract one point.

If you have decision-making responsibilities, add one point.

FACT: Polish up that résumé. Researchers from the University of Texas School of Public Health at Houston have found that workers with no control over their jobs were up to 50 percent more likely to die than workers who had decision-making responsibilities, even if the latter came with a higher stress level.


12. Speaking of stress, how’s yours?

If you feel that you have chronic stress, subtract two points.

If you have mild or occasional stress, skip to the next question.

If you have no stress, add two points.

FACT: Don’t skip that yoga class. A study from the University of California, San Francisco, reports that chronic stress damages chromosomes and leads to premature cell aging.


13. How much of a scholar are you?

If you dropped out of school, subtract one point.

If you completed high school, skip to the next question.

If you finished college or grad school, add two points.

FACT: The New York Times recently reported that education trumps race, income, and other factors when it comes to longevity. It cited a study that found life expectancy could be extended by up to a year and half for each extra year spent in school.



14. Is there a Fido or a Fluffy for you to go home to?

If you are not a pet owner, subtract one point.

If you are a pet owner, add one point.

FACT: The Delta Society, an organization that works on improving human health through therapy animals, reports that pets have a whole slew of healthy effects on humans, from lowering stress levels and blood pressure in heart patients to enhancing cognitive development in children. All that shedding seems forgivable now, doesn’t it?


Results: If your total number of points equals -16 to -6: Yikes! You better hope that some good genes can buffer some of your bad habits. Why don’t you put this magazine down and take a nice walk? -5 to 5: There’s definitely room for improvement. Cut out some of those sweets and make sure you get a good night’s sleep tonight. 4 to 14: Looking good. You must be doing something right—but still have enough vices to keep your friends from hating you. 15 to 22: Congratulations! You’re on your way to living a long, healthy life.


The (Low-Calorie) Fountain of Youth?


At laboratories throughout the country, scientists have found that animals given a rigid calorie-restricted diet—meaning a 30 to 40 percent decrease in average caloric intake without sacrificing any essential nutrients—lived longer and healthier lives than their satiated counterparts. Such diets have also been credited with the prevention of diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer in these creatures.


That’s fine for the worms, spiders, mice, dogs, cows, and monkeys that have been tested, but does it mean that we humans should be skipping out on second—and, in most cases, first—helpings of delicious meals?

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