Longevity Articles

Your Lifespan Can Be Predicted By These 12 Tests

Your lifespan can be predicted by 12 tests

You can predict your lifespan to some degree right now by taking 12 tests that you can do yourself by yourself. If you test poorly, make some adjustments. The goal: Live a long and strong life!

A long lifespan without health is fruitless, but what if you could dial in the ability to live not only a long life, but one full of vitality and strength? To do that you need to measure and manage. What to measure? Twelve things. What to manage? How well you will continue to improve in your ability to do those 12 things, beginning with overall strength.

#1 Get Stronger To Live Longer

Strength training is critical to preserving the ability to maintain an active, independent lifestyle with age, says Harvard Health. Sadly, between the age of 30 and 70, the average person will have lost about a quarter of their muscle strength, and for that person, half his/her strength will be gone by the age of 90.

Without some sort of strength training and proper nutrition to feed them, muscles will become progressively weaker and less functional as you age.

The good news is that strength and muscle can be improved literally at any age. A beginning strength-training program can take as little as 20 minutes per session to accomplish. The key is to use proper form, do compound (multi-muscle) lifts, get proper rest between sessions (at least one day of per muscle group), proper nutrition and be consistent.

What to do?

Go read my exercise articles. Choose a routine, and then do it regularly.

#2 A Simple Strength Test May Predict Poor Heart Health

A strong grip is predictive of a long lifespan

I've written quite a bit about how strength is positively correlated with longevity and how important it is that we maintain our strength as we age. Turns out that there's a simple strength test that may predict heart function – grip strength!

Data analysis of a Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology study of 139,691 adults aged 35 to 70 showed that every 5 kg (11 pounds) of declining grip strength was associated with a 16% increase in death from any cause, a 17% greater risk of cardiovascular-related death, and a 17% higher risk of non-cardiovascular mortality.

The study authors report that:

“This study suggests that measurement of grip strength is a simple, inexpensive risk-stratifying method for all-cause death and cardiovascular death.”

A hand dynamometer is typically used to perform the handgrip test, but you can also use a body weight scale (although it's less accurate) for which there are two methods:

  • Method 1– Stand on the scale and measure your bodyweight. Next, grab someplace you can hang from (a bar or hangboard) and, without bending your elbows and not using any part of your body other than your hands, tense your hands and pull up as much of your weight as possible for 5 seconds. Record what the scale says for the 5 seconds you're tensing your hands. How much you weigh minus how much you weigh while tensing your hands equals your grip strength in pounds or kilograms.
  • Method 2 – Grab a scale with both hands and extend your arms out in front of you so that the scale is about at chest level. Squeeze with all your might and record the highest mark the scale indicates.

The following tables show the average adult male and female grip strength and by various age groups as presented by Complete Strength Training:

Average Adult Male and Female Grip Strength per Hand

in Kilograms (Kg) (1 kg = 2.2 lbs)


Male, Left

Male, Right

Female, Left

Female, Right


> 68

> 70

> 37

> 41


56 – 67

62 – 69

34 – 36

38 – 40


43 – 55

48 – 61

22 – 33

25 – 37

Below Average

39 – 42

41 – 47

18 – 21

22 – 24


< 39

< 41

< 18

< 22

 30 – 39 Year Olds, Both Hands





≥ 115

≥ 71

Very Good

104 – 114

63 – 70


95 – 103

58 – 62


84 – 94

51 – 57

Needs Improvement

≤ 83

≤ 50

 40 – 49 Year Olds, Both Hands





≥ 108

≥ 69

Very Good

97 – 107

61 – 68


88 – 96

54 – 60


80 – 87

49 – 53

Needs Improvement

≤ 79

≤ 48

 50 – 59 Year Olds, Both Hands





≥ 101

≥ 61

Very Good

92 – 100

54 – 60


84 – 91

49 – 53


76 – 83

45 – 48

Needs Improvement

≤ 75

≤ 44

 60 – 69 Year Olds, Both Hands





≥ 100

≥ 54

Very Good

91 – 99

48 – 53


84 – 90

45 – 47


73 – 83

41 – 44

Needs Improvement

≤ 72

≤ 40

 What to do?

Get yourself a hand gripper and use it regularly. I have two: an low-tension Captains of Crush brand hand gripper (80 lb Sport) for 30-plus reps, and a high-tensionCaptains of Crush (140 lb No. 1) for 8-plus reps. (Check them out here.)

#3 Poor Performance on “The Sitting-Rising Test” Can Lead to Premature Death

The “sitting-rising test” measures your fitness at the most basic level. It not only tests muscular strength, but also flexibility, balance and motor coordination. All of these attributes are essential for day-to-day living, and for maintaining your independence as you age.

Nearly any child can do the sitting-rising test and it's not because they're strong. A child squats, twists, turns, kneels, jumps and runs all day and that all makes them mobile. By the time we're adults, we don't move like a child, nor do most of us replace those childhood activities with consistent stretch and do mobility exercises; thus, with age comes tightness and restricted mobility.

A Brazilian study determined that:

  • How well you can sit and rise from the floor, without using assistance from your hands, knees or other body parts, may predict your risk of dying prematurely in the next six years.
  • Those who scored the lowest, requiring the most assistance to sit and rise from the floor, were 6.5 times more likely to die during the study period than those who scored the highest.

To do the test, sit on the floor in a crossed legged position and attempt to stand up without using your arms. (Go here to see videos and read more about this.)

What to do?

Stretch your hips, groin, psoas muscle and lower back. Then practice doing the rising/sitting movement. Use a friend to help you up or a fence or post. Read my article on mobility and follow the exercises in the videos.

#4 Walking Speed Is Related To Lifespan

Stephanie Studenski, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues conducted a study to assess the association of gait speed with survival in older adults and to determine the degree to which gait speed explains variability in survival after accounting for age and sex.

The researchers found that gait speed was associated with differences in the probability of survival at all ages in both sexes, but was especially informative after age 75 years. At this age, predicted 10-year survival across the range of gait speeds ranged from 19% to 87% in men and from 35% to 91% in women.

Predicted years of remaining life for each sex and age increased as gait speed increased, with a gait speed of about 0.8 meters (2.6 feet) per second at the median (midpoint) life expectancy at most ages for both sexes. Gait speeds of 1.0 meter (3.3 feet) per second or higher consistently demonstrated survival that was longer than expected by age and sex alone.

Gait speed might be used to identify older adults with increased risk of early mortality, perhaps those with gait speeds slower than 0.6 meter (2 feet) per second.

Why would gait speed predict survival? Walking requires energy, movement control, and support and places demands on multiple organ systems, including the heart, lungs, circulatory, nervous, and musculoskeletal systems. Slowing gait may reflect both damaged systems and a high-energy cost of walking.

What to do?

Walk faster. Do this by walking with someone who walks faster, but not too much faster. You want to task yourself, not get a heart attack.

#5 Heart Rate Recovery Predicts Both Fitness and Mortality Risk

How quickly your heart rate recovers after a heart-thumping workout not only indicates fitness but your risk of dying prematurely. You can do the following heart rate recovery test at home:

  • Perform an activity that will make your heart race for two minutes, such as jump rope, jumping jacks or running.
  • After two minutes, stop the activity and immediately count your pulse for 20 seconds, multiply it by 3 (to get the one minute pulse rate) and record the result.
  • Check your pulse again in one minute and compare the two numbers.

The desired difference between the two numbers is 12 or greater, which indicates that your heart beat dropped by 12 or more beats after one minute of rest.

If your score was not 12 or greater, you need to improve your cardiovascular health and/or you have a greater than average chance of dying of heart-related problems over the next five years.

What to do?

Regularly do what you did to get your heart rate up for this test. You need cardiovascular conditioning, and — of course — you need to start where you are. So, if you only can walk, walk till you can walk up hills and do that till you can jog. Or ride a bike, or run up stairs, or do burpees. Read some of my articles on exercise.

#6 A High Pulse Rate Will Put You In The Crypt Faster

Lifespan might be shortened by a fast pulse

The higher your resting heart rate, the greater the risk for death. This unwelcome correlation comes from a Danish study published in Heart where researchers tracked 2,798 participants' heart rate and oxygen consumption data from 1986 through 2011.

Here are some data points:

  • Compared with men with rates of 50 beats a minute or less, those at 71 to 80 beats have a 51 percent greater risk of death.
  • At 81 to 90 beats, the rate of death is doubled, and over 90, tripled.
  • People with resting pulses of 80 beats per minute die four to five years earlier than those with pulses of 65 beats per minute.

“If you have two healthy people,” said the lead author of the Danish study, Dr. Magnus Thorsten Jensen, “exactly the same in physical fitness, age, blood pressure and so on, the person with the highest resting heart rate is more likely to have a shorter life span.”

What that means is that resting heart rate is an independent predictor of mortality. And what that means is that all by its lonesome, your resting pulse rate can indicate mortality risk and is a great way to predict your lifespan.

What to do?

My preference for testing your pulse is to place two fingers (pointer and index) on the side of your throat, given that it's typically easier to find there than on the wrist. Count how many beats occur over 20 seconds and multiply by three to get your pulse rate per minute.

Once you have the number, you can go to the Life Expectancy Estimator by Hearth Rate site, type in your resting pulse and, magically, predict your lifespan.

#7 A Large Waist Circumference Increases Mortality Risk

The larger your waist, the shorter your potential lifespan

Having a large waist size doubled the risk of dying from any cause during the nine-year period of the study as compared to those with smaller waists, and this was true whether the person was of normal weight, overweight, or obese. That's the conclusion of this study of more than 100,000 people over nine years.

The key metrics are:

  • For men, a waist size of 47 inches or larger.
  • For women, a waist size of 42 inches or larger.
  • For anyone, your waist should not exceed half the length of your height.

Having a large waist is correlated with large amounts of visceral fat around the abdominal organs, which can cause inflammation, high cholesterol, metabolic resistance, and other problems linked with poor health.

What to do?

Get that tape measure out and wrap it around your waist right below the belly button. Test both for gender specifics (47 vs 42 inches) and for one half the length of your height. If you are six feet tall, that would be a waist circumference no larger than 36 inches (1/2 x 72 inches), which typically would indicate that you're overweight, but not necessarily obese.

Need to lose belly fat? Rub your eyes, sit down (better yet, walk on a treadmill) and read some of these articles I've written.

#8 Reaction Time Predicts Longevity

How fast you can react to certain stimuli can predict your lifespan.

One study measured the reaction time of over 5,000 young and middle-aged adults. Then, controlling for various health risk factors, researchers compared the reaction time results to longevity – in this case, how many of those tested were still alive 15 years later.

As you might expect, there was a strong correlation between reaction time speed and longevity: those with faster reaction times predictably lived longer.

You may test yourself here.

What to do?

As I just suggested, test yourself. If you have abysmal results, start jumping rope and playing catch.

#9 Positive Emotions Extend Life Expectancy By Ten Years

Your lifespan may be impacted by your emotions

According to researchers at the University of Kentucky, a positive attitude to life can add more than a decade to your life expectancy. The more positive your attitude to life is – the more optimistic, upbeat, content and happy you are – the longer you are likely to live.

It makes sense that there's a relationship between emotions and life expectancy. Negative emotions, such as sadness, fear, disgust and worry raise the heartbeat and blood pressure – all which can cause both emotional and physical stress. Conversely, positive feelings such as optimism inhibit the negative impact of stress on the cardiovascular system. If your future outlook is positive, negative events will cause less stress.

The researchers base this bold assertion based on research done with 180 nuns. It turns out that nuns were a good cohort to study because they all live a similar lifestyle with predictable and consistent characteristics that impact life expectancy, such as marital status, social activities, smoking and alcohol, access to medical facilities and physical activity. This consistency made it easier to focus on the presence of positive emotions.

Autobiographies written by each nun between the ages of 18 and 32 ascertained these "positive emotions". Nuns that had written about the most different types of positive emotions had a four times lower risk of mortality than the nuns who expressed the fewest positive emotions. The difference in life expectancy between these two groups was 10.7 years.

What to do?

It's pretty astounding to think that being positive can add nearly 11 years to your life. You can get there by observing your self-talk and what you express to others. If you see things in a negative light, practice gratitude. One way to do that is to write down in a notebook a list of things for which you're grateful. Do this every morning before the duties of the day press upon you.

#10 The Words You Use Reveal The Age Your Likely Lifespan

The nuns wrote autobiographies and so did a group of psychologists in the sixties, two of which discovered that they could predict from their colleagues' word use how long they would live. The more often the psychologists used words with positive emotional overtones, the older they lived.

In 2012, Sarah Pressman, of the University of Kansas, and Sheldon Cohen, of Carnegie Mellon University, used a refined classification for words with emotional overtones, distinguishing between four sorts of words rather than just two. They first looked for words with a ‘high activated positive affect'; words like happy, active, energetic, lively and enthusiastic. Then they looked for words with an ‘unactivated positive affect', such as calm, relaxed and content.

The researchers also distinguished between high activated and inactivated for words with negative emotional overtones. They distinguished between words with a ‘high activated negative affect', such as worried, jittery, distressed and upset, and words with an ‘inactivated negative affect', such as sad, lonely, downhearted and hopeless.

When the researchers looked at which type of words with a high-activated positive affect had the strongest correlation with a longer lifespan, words related to humor were most noticeable, and those who used many of such humorous words in their autobiography lived six years longer than psychologists who had used few humorous words.

The researchers reasoned that this might occur due to “... physiological changes that occur in conjunction with arousing positive emotional experiences (improved vagal tone, increased endogenous opioids) that contribute to better health. These changes may improve health through their influences on immune and cardiovascular function and may also aid in buffering physiological stress responses.”

What to do?

Scroll up and read my suggestion for #9.

#11 No Fear of Aging Extends Life Expectancy

Extend your lifespan by being fearless

When it comes to life expectancy, like in war, the “only thing to fear is fear itself” (Winston Churchill). This is so because life expectancy isn't based on some immutable equation dominated by genes and lifestyle variables, but (also) by how you feel about aging, according to an article by epidemiologists written over ten years ago in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

If you approach your golden years calmly, you'll live seven years longer than if you dread impending old age, say the scientists.

What to do?

Over 20 years ago I reread the Dune Trilogy, by Frank Herbert and committed this to memory:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

When I notice that fear is guiding my thoughts, emotions and actions, I recite Herbert's quote. It calms things down. Suggest you try it too, or at least notice when your thoughts, emotions and actions are fueled by fear.

#12 Tooth Loss Predicts Poor Heart Health

Tooth loss predicts cardiovascular disease

Missing five teeth correlates to a 140% increased risk for cardiovascular-related concerns.

Various studies have shown that that chronic inflammation affecting the teeth and gums increase the risk of inflammation in the vascular and heart systems. To test this further, J.M. Liljestrand, from the University of Helsinki (Finland), and colleagues assessed the correlation between the number of missing teeth and incident disorders of cardiovascular heath.

The Helsinki team collected data on 8,446 participants, ages 25 to 75 years, with 13 years of follow-up and found that more than five missing teeth increased the risk for cardiovascular events by 140%. 


What to do?

Well, it's unlikely that you have five or more teeth missing, but the takeaway is that missing teeth is not a positive outcome for chewing or chronic disease. If you need to, fix your teeth, fix your gums, floss every night just like mommy told you.

Your Takeaway

Consciously living a long and strong life necessitates testing yourself from time to time to see if you're on the right track. You now have 12 relatively easy to do, self-administered tests to check out how you're doing.

The key things to remember:

  • Keep strong and mobile
  • Maintain (or improve) cardio conditioning
  • Keep your teeth and gums in good condition
  • Develop a joyous, fear-free attitude full of positivism

I often exhort readers to make new habits with the help of friends. A friend that is committed to take the journey with you can encourage, make you accountable and simply make everything more fun.

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