Most people don’t know the factors behind a long, healthy life

Want a long, healthy life? What it takes to make that happen is apparently a mystery to many.

A survey done by Ipsos on behalf of the health care company MDVIP found that most people don’t know enough about the lifestyle factors that influence aging and longevity.

“It was surprising that 74% of people failed the (Longevity IQ) survey,” said Dr. Andrea Klemes, MDVIP’s chief medical officer.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the U. S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the survey finds most people don’t know that heart attacks, for example, mostly happen with normal cholesterol.

“And most people think cancer is inherited, whereas most cancers are lifestyle-based,” Klemes said, adding that’s just like with heart attacks: “Obesity increases your risk for cancer. And, of course, we know about smoking and sedentary life, etc.”

One question that people resoundingly got right was the fact that obesity can take up to 19 years off your life.

“Just surprising since the majority of Americans are overweight or obese,” Klemes said.

Asked about how long they’d like to live, 53% of respondents said 100 years or more, but only 30% talk with their doctors about living longer or aging well.

So what should you be asking?

“Is my diet right for me? What else can I do? Am I doing the right exercise?” Klemes said. “Talk about your sleep, and they may want to screen you for sleep issues.”

Doctors also might have advice about managing stress.

“Most people don’t talk to their doctor about their stress, their job, their relationships. All of those things are important, so that they know and can partner with you to help you,” she said.

Primary-care physicians also need to know the list of everything you’re taking, including vitamins, supplements, prescribed medicines and off-label medications, so they can discern whether bad interactions are possible.

“They need to look at if the supplements affect the medications you’re already on. Or, if you’re using an off-label drug that you read about on the internet, maybe it could do more harm than good,” she said.

And don’t expect miracle cures from what might be questionable advice or products.

“You need to eat right, exercise, manage your stress and sleep. But you also need that social interaction. And you need to find a primary-care physician … who can partner with you to help you achieve your wellness goals, and weed out the bad information from the good information,” Klemes said.

The Ipsos poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points for all respondents.

You can take the Longevity IQ Quiz on the MDVIP website.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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