What is Longevity?

Senior couple on paddle board in ocean
Senior couple on paddle board in ocean. Getty Images/Hero Images

Longevity is defined as "long life" or "a great duration of life." The term comes from the Latin word longaevitās. In this word, you can see how the words longus (long) and aevum (age) combine into a concept that means an individual who lives a long time.

The most important part of this definition is the comparative nature of it. Long life implies longer than something –- and that something is the average life (or obviously a shorter-than-average life, as well).

If you live longer than the average person, then you could be said to have longevity. Striving for your maximum potential age is the goal of longevity. This potentially can be reached through practicing healthy behaviors and attitudes.

How Is Longevity Defined?

Biologists sometimes define longevity as the average life span expected under ideal conditions.

It's hard to say what's ideal. Plenty of medical research is ongoing about the "right" amount and type of exercise to get, the best diet to eat to maximize longevity, and whether certain pharmaceuticals or supplements can help improve your longevity.

Lifespans have increased pretty dramatically over the last century or so, in large part due to advances in medicine that have nearly eliminated certain deadly infectious diseases.

The average baby born in 1900 lived about a half-century. Nowadays, the life expectancy of people in the United States is nearly 79 years on average — 81 years for women and 76 years for men.

In some countries, life expectancy is even longer.

It's very possible that our true longevity might be much higher. We all might live longer if we can create the ideal conditions of a healthy diet and exercise.

What Determines Our Longevity?

You may think that your genes determine your longevity, but the truth is genetics account for a maximum of 30 percent of your life expectancy.

The rest comes from your behaviors, attitudes, environment and a little bit of luck.

You may have heard about various life extension techniques. Keep in mind that none of them have been proven in humans and most are just theories. The only proven way to live longer is to live a healthy life.

So if you want to beat the average and maximize your longevity, what should you do? Here's a list of things to consider:

  1. Exercise regularly. Research indicates that moderate exercise, when practiced regularly, can actually roll back the clock on your DNA.
  2. Fill up your plate with vegetables. While there are numerous debates about the best diet for an increased lifespan, nearly every diet agrees that eating more vegetables is the way to go.
  3. Get enough sleep. Most people feel best when they get seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
  4. Carefully manage your stress. Stress can have unhealthy effects on your body, and can promote unhealthy behaviors, as well (overeating or smoking, anyone?).
  5. Cultivate personal relationships. Spending time with our loved ones actually does seem to improve longevity, maybe because it decreases stress or risky behaviors.

    So make a commitment today to make one healthy change a week. Before you know you’ll be feeling better and on the road to longevity.

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