How long do you want to live?

My husband and I came to Montgomery County in 2001 after I had recovered from an autoimmune disease. For a while I worried (a lot) about whether, just any time, my illness would show up again. By the time my husband died in 2007 that worry was replaced with other worries.

Now I’m almost 80 years old, knowing I’m not going to live forever. I may not like it but it is what it is. When we are really young, say 20 years old, we don’t give longevity a minute’s thought. Eighty year old is sooooo far away.

Young people, bless their hearts, think they are indestructible, nothing can hurt them. After all their brains aren’t fully developed until they reach the ripe old age of 25. Their parents, on the other hand, are nearing the other end of their life cycle, taught by experience that “anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” This is commonly called Murphy’s law.


The subject here is longevity. I follow the work of several physicians and scientists whose focus is long term survival. It seems clear from those experts that our best potential to live a long time depends on our genes. However luck (Mr. Murphy) and our lifestyle choices (environment) can interfere with that potential.

So assuming some dude doesn’t hit you head-on in a car or you aren’t in the World Trade Center on 911 (that sort of thing) AND your diet, lifestyle, and environment don’t do chronic damage to your body, you will live as long as your genes allow.

I think most people say they just want to feel good most of the time, go to sleep one night and not wake up. Shazam, my heart just stops and I don’t even know it. A very comforting idea. No pain at least for me, probably not so easy for my family and friends.

Controlling for luck and chronic health conditions

We can’t control for luck. If that were possible everyone would buy a ticket and win the lottery. But chronic health conditions (including obesity) aren’t the result of bad luck, instead usually caused by poor diet, lack of exercise and sleep.

Chronic health conditions cause pain and discomfort. If you are overweight, diagnosed with chronic condition(s), take a lot of medications and OTC pain killers, your immune system isn’t working well. Your susceptibility to infections (like bacteria and viruses) is high.

When you are stressed, don’t sleep well, and are inactive (not getting any exercise) you aren’t likely to go to bed feeling “just fine.” You are shortening the longevity potential your genes make possible. One of those chronic conditions can take you out before your time.


Diet is the first priority, exercise and sleep come next. Being overweight and feeling bad doesn’t motivate exercise. Sleep can come naturally when everything else is in good shape.

A good diet consists of whole foods that don’t cause symptoms, a different combination of foods for different people. That has to be figured out. A poor diet will cause weight gain/malnutrition , and consist largely of processed foods and vegetable (seed) oils packaged in boxes, sacks, bottles, etc.

An enormous issue in a poor diet is the structure of the food. Read about that here.

Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. Her website is She can be contacted at, 870-490-1836. Her Facebook page is