The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

March 16, 2013

These are the days of our lives

ENID, Okla. — How do you measure a life?

Psalm 90:10 tells us “The days of our years are threescore years and 10; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years.”

Threescore years and 10 is 70, while fourscore years is 80. In the U.S. the average life span is 78.2 years, according to some recent figures.

Admittedly, pondering our own mortality is sobering. None of us knows how long we will live, which is a good thing. It would be terrible to be tasked with drawing a big, black ring around some distant date, knowing that after that, the world will go on without you.

Now a group of researchers in San Francisco have developed a test to determine how long someone is likely to live. The so-called “mortality index” was developed by researchers at the University of California-San Francisco for people 50 and older.

The index helps determine a person’s likelihood of still being alive a decade from now.

The 12-item quiz was developed primarily for physicians, to help them decide whether health screenings or medical procedures are worth the risk for patients who aren’t likely to live 10 more years.

So let’s get to it, shall we? Each item is assigned a point value. The fewer points you have, the better off you are. Good luck.

OK, since men are so special, we automatically start out with two points. Anyone from 60 to 64 gets another point, while those 70 to 74 get three points, while those 85 and over get seven points.

So I have three points so far. Give yourself two points if you have a current or previous cancer diagnosis, excluding minor skin cancers. You get two more points for having lung disease limiting activity or requiring oxygen. Two more points if you have been diagnosed with heart failure, two more if you smoke, another two if you have difficulty bathing, two more if you have difficulty managing money because of health or memory problems and yet another two if you have difficulty walking several blocks.

Give yourself one point each for having diabetes or high blood sugar, difficulty pushing large objects such as a heavy chair and being thin or normal weight.

I have difficulty managing money, but only because I want to spend it as fast as I get it, not because of health or memory problems. So that means I have a total of four points, which is good.

The best you could do is three points, which means you’d have only a 3 percent chance of dying within 10 years.

But the only ones who can score that low are women under 60 with no infirmities, but who are slightly overweight.

If you scored 26, don’t sign any long-term leases. That means you have a 95 percent chance of leaving this world within a decade.

But that also means you are 85, thin and having every one of the previously mentioned health problems.

So that means I should be around for some time to come.

Or not, depending on what study you believe. Researchers in Australia have found that for every hour of television you watch when you are over the age of 25, you shorten your life expectancy by 22 minutes.

In that case, I should have died six years ago. But wait, another study says brisk walking for up to 75 minutes a week can increase your life expectancy by 1.8 years, so it kind of balances out, sort of.

There are other ways to add years to your life, experts say, like drinking plenty of water, laughing a lot, staying home when you are sick, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables (especially berries), eating chocolate in moderation (especially dark chocolate), eating a good breakfast (within 90 minutes of arising), and getting plenty of sleep (preferably on your side), among others.

 In the end, however, measuring a life has nothing to do with the calendar. It’s not how long you live, but how well.

Live with joy, with compassion, with love, with commitment, with humility, with concern and with humor.

And, above all, don’t take tests designed to measure how long you are supposed to live.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.

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