A New Generation of Superold People, Created Without Genetic Tinkering

Living to be 100 years old is going to become more common in the twenty-first century, even if we don't make any great leaps forward in medical technology. The Archives of Internal Medicine today published a study showing that genetics account for only about one-fourth of the variation in human life span. That means 75 percent of the factors that affect longevity are environmental, and often under your control. Three basic ways of modifying your life can mean the difference between living to be 60, and living for a century.

Not surprisingly, the factors are: diet, smoking, and exercise. The worst killer is smoking. People who, at the age of 70, eat lots of vegetables and get daily exercise, have a 54 percent probability of living to be 90 or older. If they don't get a lot of exercise, they still have a 44 percent chance of making it to the century mark. But if they smoke, they only have a 22 percent chance of living to 90.

The good news is that there are a lot of things people can do to extend their lives even without miracle drugs. The bad news is that a lot of people live in places where the air is so filled with smoke and pollution that they are effectively smokers even if they don't want to be. AP Photo/Misha Japaridze

Exceptional Longevity in Men [Archives of Internal Medicine]