How To Live to 90 (Or Even Longer)

What Are Five Lifestyle Factors Associated with Longer Life?

Happy 97-year-old lady putting tulips in vase
Happy 97-year-old lady putting tulips in vase. Getty Images/Lucia Lambriex/Taxi

Want to live to be 90 (or even longer)? Guess what: You have far 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 (if your parents lived long, healthy lives, that increases your odds).

But your lifestyle choices may be more important than your genes. In fact, your genes probably make up less than 30% of what determines how long you will live – the rest of your odds for longer life stems from your environment and your own lifestyle choices.

And the good news is, you have lots more control over those.

5 Behaviors That Can Get You To 90

Reaching age 90 in good health is a great longevity goal.

Gender plays into this: men have a harder time reaching 90 than women. So by studying men and their behaviors, researchers can try to figure out what really matters for healthy and successful aging.

In 1981, researchers started to do just that by enrolling 2,300 healthy men with an average age of over 70 into a study on healthy aging. The men were given yearly surveys about their lifestyle and health.

By the end of the study some 16 years later, 970 men (42%) had made it to their 90s. Those 42% had different habits and behaviors that helped them live longer.

As it turned out, five specific lifestyle choices make a big difference in living to 90: not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, good blood pressure control, regular exercise, and avoiding diabetes.

How to Live Longer

Specifically, the study found that:

  • 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 death risk 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 exercised)

    These percentages were calculated 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.

    How Can This Work for You?

    Now that you understand the factors that contribute to living to age 90 and beyond, get started on living longer by working on one of them each month. For example, you can quit smoking this month, lose weight next month, and get your blood pressure under control the following month.

    For some of these factors, like high blood pressure and diabetes, you may need the help of your doctor to get your condition under 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


    Yates LB et al. 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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