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Live to 90

5 Lifestyle Factors for Longevity


Updated July 13, 2008

You have more control over your longevity and life expectancy than you may think. Sure, your genetics and family history factor into how long you will live; but your lifestyle choices may be more important. In fact, your genes probably make up less than 30% of what determines how long you will live –- the rest is your lifestyle and your environment.

5 Behaviors to Reach 90

Reaching age 90 in good health is a great longevity goal. Women have an easier time reaching 90 than men (see Why Women Live Longer for some details). By studying men and their behaviors, researchers can begin to figure out what really matters for healthy and successful aging. What they have found is that five things make a big difference in living to 90 (for men): not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, good blood pressure control, regular exercise, and no diabetes.

In 1981, researchers began enrolling men into a study on aging. They enrolled total of 2,300 healthy man with an average age of over 70. The men were given yearly surveys about their lifestyle and health. By the end of the study, 970 men (42%) made it to the 90s. Those 42% had different habits and behaviors that helped them live longer.

How to Live Longer

The study found five factors linked to surviving past 90:
  • Non-smokers were twice as likely to see 90 as smokers.
  • Diabetics had an 86% increase in a chance of death before 90.
  • Obese people had a 44% increase in the chance of death before age 90.
  • High blood pressure increased the death threats before 90 by 28%.
  • Men who exercise reduced their death risk before 90 by 20 to 30% (depending on how much and how often they exercise).
These percentages are after the researchers accounted for the health of the participants at the start of the study, education level and other factors known to impact life expectancy.

Get Started

Get started on living longer by taking one of these factors each month. For some of them, like high blood pressure and diabetes, you may need the help of your doctor to get in control. For the other factors you may need information and the support of your friends and family. Here's a list of resources to get you started:

Lose Weight and Eat Right

Exercise for Longevity

Stop Smoking for Good

Control Your Blood Pressure

Prevent/Control Diabetes


Laurel B. Yates, MD, MPH; Luc Djoussé, MD, MPH, DSc; Tobias Kurth, MD, ScD; Julie E. Buring, ScD; J. Michael Gaziano, MD, MPH. Exceptional Longevity in Men: Modifiable Factors Associated With Survival and Function to Age 90 Years. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(3):284-290.

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