The thought of dying is scary, but understanding your risk factors can help you take actions to reduce threats to your health. A new on-line questionnaire (www.ubble.co.uk/risk-calculator) can predict your risk of dying in the next 5 years.
People who take the questionnaire will receive their “Ubble Age.” If it’s significantly higher than your actual age it serves as a warning that you need to increase physical activity, stop smoking, and eat a healthier diet if you want to increase your lifespan.
The assessment was developed by researchers who spent 8 years following nearly a half million British subjects ages 37-73, collecting 655 measurements including blood samples, family history and lifestyle factors. The results were published in The Lancet on June 4, 2015.
The study found that certain demographic, lifestyle and health measurements could predict death from any cause, as well as 6 specific separate causes for men and women. Overall, the health data doctors routinely collect did not predict death as accurately as the answers people gave on the questionnaire. Blood tests did provide one important diagnostic indicator: the variation of red blood cell size strongly predicted cardiovascular mortality.
Two strong predictors of either a man or a woman dying within 5 years were self-reports regarding their overall health and their usual walking pace. For women only, the strongest predictor of demise was having a previous cancer diagnosis. For men only, self-reports of their overall state health was the strongest predictor for all-causes of mortality.
The pace at which people said they typically walk was a stronger predictor than lifestyle measurements such as smoking habits. For instance, men who reported their walking pace was slow had nearly 4 times higher chance of dying than men who stated they usually walked at a “steady average pace.”
But don’t let your walking speed lead you to believe that it will ward off the effects of smoking. If you’re currently a healthy individual free from any major diseases, being a smoker is the biggest indicator that you could suddenly develop a disease and die within 5 years. In fact, the authors noted that a man or a woman’s smoking habit was effectively the strongest predictor they’d become ill and die.
The biggest determinate of mortality due to external causes (e.g., suicide and accidental falling) was having psychological problems and/or socio-demographic challenges. Getting help could make a big difference.
What affects the chances you’ll contract a specific disease? A low rating of your current state of health and problems noted in your medical history. In combination, these risk factors were strong predictors that you could succumb to cancer or diseases involving cardiovascular, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems. While you can’t do anything about your family history, you can improve your current state of health.
The benefit of taking the short quiz and getting your results is in awareness of your health risk-factors. While this may cause you some anxiety, that would be a good thing if it motivates you to make changes. You can use your concerns to turn your worry into action. You have the power to improve your health.
The first action to take is to call your physician and schedule a time to talk about how to get help to deal with your most significant health risks. If you’re a smoker, your doctor will be able to refer you to smoking cessation programs. If you’re overweight, ask about which weight loss programs the doctor has experienced as best able to help people shed their extra pounds and keep them off.
There are other significant steps you can take to improve your wellbeing, the most important of which is to get more exercise. Set up a regular time to take a walk (with a friend if it will help you to get out the door), building up to 30 minutes 5-6 times every week. Figure out a time to insert exercise into your existing schedule. For example, if you’re going to exercise in the morning make the commitment to take a walk as soon as you finish your first cup of coffee. To accomplish this, you may need your spouse to take care of the kids for a half hour.
The first couple of weeks of trying to change your daily habits will involve a lot of trial and error. DON’T GIVE UP! Commit to learning something from each setback for the first month. Perseverance will pay off by improving how you feel every day as well as protecting your long-term health.