I have a vivid memory of finding out about serial killers when I was a child. The notion that I could be killed, seemingly at random, was terrifying.
My discovery of the concept of death and its seemingly random nature came as a shock, as I’m sure it did for you in your youth. However, what many adults don’t fully appreciate is just how much control we have over our own mortality. While it can be all too easy to sit back and accept that death will come for you when it is good and ready, it is likely that the time of your death will be determined, at least in part, by you.
Most “live for the moment” types use a phrase like “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow” as a means of justifying their seat-of-pants approach to life. But according to the National Safety Council, the odds of that happening in your lifetime are in excess of 1 in 623. Other commonly feared deaths carry similarly long odds: assault by firearm (1 in 300), airplane accident (1 in 5,862) and motor-vehicle accidents (1 in 85) to name just a few.
Put simply, the chance of you dying from a non-health related cause is relatively slim.
Furthermore, you can always work to reduce your odds of death and have a direct influence on your life expectancy. For instance, I’m not saying don’t fly, but I would suggest driving at the speed limit. That may be a simplistic example, but the potential applications are enormous.
However, what I really want to focus on are the most likely causes of your death in the future – the likes of:
- Heart disease (1 in 6)
- Cancer (1 in 7)
- Stroke (1 in 28)
I am of course talking about health-related fatalities (as opposed to accidents or acts of God). Check out this list of causes of death and note that eighteen of the first twenty are all health-related.
While we are all going to die, it is highly likely that you will have a hand in determining both the cause of your death and the time. If you are willing to accept that you exert enormous influence on when that death will come, you can take steps to prolong your life. As long as you do so while still having an appreciation for living life in the present, there is nothing more important that you can do.
The steps that you can take to increase your life expectancy are manifold: everything from exercising for just twenty minutes per week (if you’re not doing any), to cooking healthier homemade meals, to running from zombies. I’ll talk about many more things you can do in the future here on Healthy Enough.
Do not be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things you can do to prolong your life – just do whatever you feel comfortable with. Do not make your mortality a life’s obsession – strive for a balance between living healthily and enjoying your life. Rely on common sense, but maintain a healthy respect for your body and carefully consider how you treat it.
Living with an awareness of your own mortality and an appreciation for the influence you exert over your eventual death may seem somewhat morbid, but it is also the closest you will ever get to determining your life expectancy. If someone were to ask you when you want to die, you would know you were on the right path if your answer was “as far from now as possible.”