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Principles of Longevity

by Ron Kurtus (1 November 2001)

Major factors in determining how long you will live are genetics, circumstances and lifestyle.

There is nothing you can do about your genetic makeup, there are some things you can do about chance occurrences, but there are considerable things you can do about your lifestyle to increase your longevity.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions. Health Disclaimer


The genetic makeup of people determines many things about the person, including the approximate length of life of the person. People that seem to live longer than others usually have a family history of longevity. Often, propensity to certain diseases is often prevalent in some families.

Can overshadow lifestyle

It is interesting that some people may even abuse their bodies and still outlive others. We hear of the 100 year old lady who smokes and drinks a pint of whiskey each day, but yet is still active and alert.

Example of family history

Others have a family history of early deaths, such as former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. After he retired from politics he had an analysis made to predict how long he would live. Johnson's father died at age 64, and the prediction was that LBJ would also pass away at about that age. Although former-President Johnson had excellent medical care, he also died at the age of 64.

Still can extend life

Although you can't change your genetics, you can be aware of your family history and try to extend your life as long as possible. This is especially true if your family history shows a tendency toward certain diseases than may be prevented by prudent living.


Events such as war, famine, plagues, and accident can shorten the lives of many people. One major reason that the average length of life has increased is because infant mortality has decreased so much. Also, people aren't passing away at younger ages due to widespread disease.

In some cases, you may not be able to avoid unfortunately circumstances. But there are many situations--such as driving a car while drunk--that can be avoided, thus reducing the chances of an untimely death.


Your body is a magnificent machine. If you take care of it, it will last longer. If you abuse it, parts will start to break down prematurely. Good lifestyle practices can increase the length of your life, as well as the quality of your old age.

What you ingest

The type of food and other substances you put into your body affect how long your body parts will last, as well as how good they will operate.

Good foods

Eating good foods in moderation is a key to better health and a longer life. The definition of "good foods" is a subject of debate. Perhaps, saying not ingesting bad foods is a way of thinking about this.

Mild poisons

Putting mild poisons into your body, such as cigarette smoke and alcohol can provide short periods of euphoria, but they can also slowly cause long-term damage to your body. Smoking can result in lung and heart diseases. Alcohol ultimately damages the brain, liver and nerve endings.

Harmful fats

Many of the modern foods people eat have harmful fats that can cause heart disease or encourage cancer. This is especially true of many of the newer processed fats, like trans fats.


Overeating to the point of obesity can put a strain on your heart, as well as your joints.


The saying goes: "If you don't use it, you lose it." Thus, it is important to be physically active.

Keep muscle tone

A person's muscles lose strength over the years, such that a typical person at 70 has the same strength he or she did at age 10. Using the muscles will keep them from atrophy. Mild weight exercises may even be appropriate for some people.

Keep joints lubricated

Movement helps to keep the joints lubricated and flexible. This is not easy for people who have developed arthritis. Mild movement and stretching is useful unless there is a serious condition that prevents this.

Heart and lungs

Using your heart and lungs will keep them healthy and help to extend your life. All the people in communities where members live the longest in the world must walk several miles each day up the mountainside. This type of exercise strengthened their hearts, lungs, joints and muscles such that they live much longer that other people--into the range of 110 years.


You must also keep your mind active. Reading and stretching your brain muscles keeps them strong and flexible.

Mental health and attitudes

How you think about your life and aging has much to do with how long you will live. A major reason is that if you are thinking positively about longevity, you will do the things needed to maintain your health. Also, it is acknowledged that a positive attitude subtly affects the way the body and mind functions.

Plan to live 100 years

If you plan to live long, you have a better chance of attaining your goal. Of course, the goal must be reasonable. Someone who says he plans to live forever is unrealistic and probably will be foolish enough to actually shorten his life.

Part of the plan to live at least 100 years is to keep up with longevity research.

Don't consider yourself a senior citizen

Choose not to become a marginal person. Stay connected to active living. Love the age you are. Instead, age positively. Cultivate optimism, self-esteem, future vision and a willingness to adapt.

Maintain a sense of purpose

Purpose creates passion and meaning. This includes doing meaningful work after retirement. Wake up each day with a deliberate and fulfilling agenda.

Keep up with your fields of expertise and seek out new knowledge and skills. Read.

Manage stress

Meditate, pray, use yoga, walk, relax, minimize television. Cultivate healthy relationships, stewardship, caring. Live up to your "calling". Be ready to shift gears.


Genetics, circumstances and lifestyle determine how long you will live. By improving what you eat, keeping active and having a longevity attitude, you can extend your years on Earth.

Live a long and useful life

Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials


General Health Resources


(Notice: The School for Champions may earn commissions from book purchases)

The Joy of Old by Frederic M. Hudson; Geode Press (1995)

The Longevity Strategies by David Mahoney and Rishard Restak; John Wiley & Sons, (1999)

Successful Aging by John W. Rowe and Robert L. Kahn; Delacorte Press (1999)

Top-rated books on Longevity

Students and researchers

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