Your Life Span

Humans have been trying to find ways to calculate exactly how long they’ll live since time immemorial. We’re yet to find a reliable predictive formula, but that’s starting to change.

The science: Certain chemical changes to cytosine – one of the four DNA bases or “letters” of genetic code—can help tell whether someone’s body is aging unusually fast or slowly. Steve Horvath, a biostatistician at UCLA, tested this “epigenetic clock” theory on 13,000 blood samples collected decades ago, from people whose subsequent date of death was known. The results found that the clock can be used to predict how long someone will live and how much of that life will be free of age-related disease.

Inheritance: Your genes dictate about 40% of the “ticking rate” of your mortality clock, while the rest comes down to lifestyle and luck, according to Horvath. There are things we can do to delay aging —including getting enough sleep.

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