Date With Destiny - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/10/04

Date With Destiny

When asked if people would want to find how long they will live, some say it would set them over the edge or they would live in terror. Face it, who wants to know when they're going to die? Some experts say we all should; that giving life span thought now may actually help make it longer.

"We need to come up with albeit a gimmicky way to really attune people to this notion that there was a lot they could do to improve their health and life expectancies," say Dr. Thomas Perls. The renowned longevity expert developed an online quiz called the Healthspan Calculator, designed to show how your life helps determine your death. How does it work? Dr. Perls says most healthy people are genetically engineered to live to about 88. That's the starting point. "Depending on your answers, you're either going to add some years to that or you're going to subtract some years. That's pretty much how I think people should onduct their lives in terms of thinking about their health."

The first question is about gender. Women overall live 10 years longer than men. There are also questions about lifestyle. Dr. Perls says, "If you do smoke and you mark it here on the calculator, it takes 15 years right off the bat". The quiz puts a big emphasis on weight. "One of the things that accompanies aging is just production of fat and so much of how we age relates to whether how much we have fat."

In all, there are about 40 questions. To get some perspective, we asked two people with different health status and lifestyles to get a read on their mortality. Let's start with 63 year old diabetic Thomas Troiano. "How do you usually cope with your stress? Not very good," says Thomas as he answers each question in the online quiz. "How many servings of processed meats or fast foods do you eat each week? None."

And then there's 21 year old fitness buff Robin Verse. "Do you wear sunscreen? Always," she says. "How many days per week do you usually consume alcohol? 1-2 days."

The quiz then tallies your answers and reveals your magic number! It says Robin will live to a ripe 94.5. And thanks to healthy changes since his diabetes diagnosis: Thomas' number: 84.5. Although the quiz's personalized tips tell him how he can improve on that. "I need to exercise more and lose weight," Thomas admits.

How accurate can the calculator be? Dr. Kent Davis with the Center for Healthy Aging at U.T. Health Center says the quiz is medically sound. And urges people to see it as a first step. "The activity, the diet, keeping blood pressure under control, they're really common sense things we all know, a lot of times we don't want to hear it," say Dr. Davis. Dr. Perls says the quiz is not meant to be exact, but to be a wake-up call for everyone. "The world can be their oyster if they take good care of themselves."

For a link to the Healthspan Calculator, go back to the home page and click on the Know More On 7 icon on the home page. There, you'll find a link to the online quiz.

Christine Nelson, reporting. cnelson@kltv.com

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