Estimate Your Life Span

Longevity Quiz
|Adapted from Living to 100: Lessons in Living to Your Maximum Potential at Any Age (Basic Books, 1999) by Thomas Perls, MD, and Margery Hutter Silver, EdD, with John F. Lauerman.

  1. Do you smoke or chew tobacco, or are you around a lot of secondhand smoke? Yes (-20) No (0)
  2. Do you cook your fish, poultry, or meat until it is charred? Yes (-2) No (0)
  3. Do you avoid butter, cream, pastries, and other saturated fats as well as fried foods (e.g. French fries)? Yes (+3) No (-7)
  4. Do you minimize meat in your diet, preferably making a point to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and bran instead? Yes (+5) No (-4)
  5. Do you consume more than two drinks of beer, wine, and/or liquor a day? (A standard drink is one 12 ounce bottle of beer, one wine cooler, one five ounce glass of wine, or one and a half ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.) Yes (-10) No (0)
  6. Do you drink beer, wine, and/or liquor in moderate amounts (one or two drinks/day)? Yes (+3) No (0)
  7. Do air pollution warnings occur where you live? Yes (-4) No (+1)
  8. Do you drink more than 16 ounces of coffee a day? Yes (-3) No (0)
    a. Do you drink tea daily? Yes (+3) No (0)
  9. Do you take an aspirin a day? Yes (+4) No (0)
  10. Do you floss your teeth every day? Yes (+2) No (-4)
  11. Do you have a bowel movement less frequently than once every two days? Yes (-4) No (0)
  12. Have you had a stroke or heart attack? Yes (-10) No (0)
  13. Do you try to get a suntan? Yes (-4) No (+3)
  14. Are you more than 20 pounds overweight? Yes (-10) No (0)
  15. Do you live near enough other family members (other than your spouse and dependent children) that you can and want to drop by spontaneously? Yes (+5) No (-4)
  16. Which statement applies to you: a. "Stress eats away at me. I can’t seem to shake it off." Yes (-7) b. "I can shed stress." This might be by praying, exercising, meditating, finding humor in everyday life, or other means. Yes (+7)
  17. Did both of you parents die before age 75 of nonaccidental causes or require daily assistance by the tie they reached age 75? Yes (-10) No (0) Don’t Know (0)
  18. Did more than one of the following relatives live to at least age 90 in excellent health: parents, aunts/uncles, grandparents? Yes (+24) No (0) Don’t Know (0)
  19. Are you a couch potato (do no regular aerobic resistance exercise? Yes (-7)  a. Do you exercise at least three times a week? Yes (+7)
  20. Do you take vitamin E (400-800 IU) and selenium (100-200 mcg) every day? Yes (+5) No (-3)


Step 1: Add the negative and positive scores together. Example: -45 plus +30 = -15. Divide that score by 5 (-15 divided by 5 = -3)

Step 2: Add the negative or positive numbers to age 84 if you are a man or age 88 if you are a woman (example: -3 + 88 = 85) to get your estimated life span.

The Science Behind the Quiz

  • Question 1 Cigarette smoke contains toxins that directly damage DNA, causing cancer and other diseases and accelerating aging.
  • Question 2 Charring food changes its proteins and amino acids into heterocyclic amines, which are potent mutagens that can alter your DNA.
  • Question 3,4 A high-fat diet, and especially a high-fat, high-protein diet, may increase your risk of cancer of the breast, uterus, prostate, colon, pancreas, and kidney. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of heart disease and cancer.
  • Question 5,6 Excessive alcohol consumption can damage the liver and other organs, leading to accelerated aging and increased susceptibility to disease. Moderate consumption may lower the risk of heart disease.
  • Question 7 Certain air pollutants may cause cancer; many also contain oxidants that accelerate aging.
  • Question 8 Too much coffee predisposes the stomach to ulcers and chronic inflammation, which in turn raise the risk of heart disease. High coffee consumption may also indicate and exacerbate stress. Tea, on the other hand, is noted for its significant antioxidant content.
  • Question 9 Taking 81 milligrams of aspirin a day (the amount in one baby aspirin) has been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease, possibly because of its anti clotting effects.
  • Question 10 Research now shows that chronic gum disease can lead to the release of bacteria into the bloodstream, contributing to heart disease.
  • Question 11 Scientists believe that having at least one bowel movement every 20 hours decreased the incidence of colon cancer.
  • Question 12 A previous history of stroke and heart attack makes you more susceptible to future attacks.
  • Question 13 The ultraviolet rays in sunlight directly damage DNA, causing wrinkles and increasing the risk of skin cancer.
  • Question 14 Being obese increases the risk of various cancers, heart disease, and diabetes. The more overweight you are, the higher your risk of disease and death.
  • Question 15,16 People who do not belong to cohesive families have fewer coping resources and therefore have increased levels of social and psychological stress. Stress is associated with heart disease and some cancers.
  • Question 17,18 Studies show that genetics plays a significant role in the ability to reach extreme old age.
  • Question 19 Exercise leads to more efficient energy production in the cells and overall, less oxygen radical formation. Oxygen (or free) radicals are highly reactive molecules or atoms that damage cells and DNA, ultimately leading to aging.
  • Question 20 Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and has been shown to retard the progression of Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and stroke. Selenium may prevent some types of cancer.