- Dr. Thomas Perls has been studying centenarians — people who live to 100 — for decades.
- He developed a life expectancy calculator that can tell you how long you might live.
- It also gives you tips on extending your lifespan through factors like exercise and diet.
For almost 30 years, Dr. Thomas Perls has been investigating how people live beyond 100.
Perls, founder of the New England Centenarian Study, has discovered a few important similarities among people who live the longest lives on Earth. He says perhaps one of the most important things going for people who make it a full century, or more, is their genetics.
“It’s getting the right combination,” of hundreds and hundreds of different genes, Perls told Insider. “Which is a little bit like winning the lottery.”
But for those of us mortals who may not have won the genetic lottery, there is the “Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator,” an insightful tool Perls created for understanding some of the most important factors that contribute to healthy aging.
“This thing that we observe in the centenarians: The older you get, the healthier you’ve been — really does apply to the general population as well,” Perls said, encouraging folks to adopt a can-do attitude towards healthy aging.
Most people who use his calculator tend to score somewhere in their late-80s, according to Perls. Here’s how to check out your own current lifespan projection — and learn some simple, science-backed tips that may help extend your life.
A personalized estimate of how long you could live
First, grab hold of your latest cholesterol and blood pressure readings, if you have them handy. Then, head to LivingTo100.com.
Perls’s quiz will take about 10 minutes, and it will ask you 40 questions related to:
- Personal life — questions include your marital status, and how often you see loved ones.
- Lifestyle — do you smoke? Drink? Wear sunscreen?
- Nutrition — are you subsisting on lots of white bread? What about sugar intake? How’s your processed meat and cheese consumption?
- Medical history — including the frequency of your bowel movements, and your latest cholesterol and blood pressure readings.
- Family history — including whether cancer runs in your family, and if anyone in your family has made it past the age of 98.
The calculator then spits out an estimated age of death for you, and encouragingly, offers some practical tips for how to improve your lifespan estimate.
Science-backed tips for living into your 90s
Unlike pricey supplements or $8,000 youngblood transfusions promising to lengthen your lifespan, none of Perls’ interventions are very high-tech or fancy, and they don’t require spending any money. “I really get upset with the anti-aging industry,” Perls said. “All they are is about marketing, they’re just quacks.”
Personalized tips from the calculator might include flossing more often, cutting down on white bread, or exercising a few more days each week.
Perls says that by taking “good care” of yourself — not smoking, eating a healthy diet, indulging in alcohol and sugar only in moderation, getting enough movement, keeping stress in check, sleeping well, and sharing time with the people you love, most of us should be able to “get to about 90.”
“That’s just a matter of taking advantage of your genes, instead of fighting them,” he said.