Winning the Lottery of Longevity

Let's pretend you just bought a lottery ticket. Your chances for winning are the same as anyone else who bought a ticket. But what if the lottery commission told ticket holders that they could increase their chances of winning by performing certain acts? Would you perform those actions to increase your odds of winning? It probably depends on what those acts are; if eating ice cream increased your chances, there'd be a run on Ben & Jerry's, but if bettering your odds required climbing a ladder and scraping your gutters, maybe not. It would then likely depend on how much your odds were increased by doing this miserable task.But what if they told you that by performing certain other acts, you would decrease your chances of winning? Would you avoid those? Yes, if the things to avoid were "eating glass" or "lighting your house on fire". Probably not, though, if the acts were ones you enjoyed – watching TV, for example. It probably depends on how much lower your odds would drop.

When we are born, we are each given a "longevity lottery ticket". Your ticket is a winner if you live past your life-expectancy with a decent quality of life. The invisible number on this ticket is not etched in stone – we can influence it based on how we live our lives. The number goes down if we eat "bad" foods, smoke, drink, do drugs or engage in risk-taking behavior. The number goes up if we eat healthy foods, exercise and try to avoid obvious dangers. This doesn't take into account genetic pre-dispositions or meteors falling from the sky, but if we can have even the slightest affect on our life-spans and the quality of that life, why do we, as a whole, tend to ignore that potential and think, "Well, I'm gonna die someday, I might as well enjoy myself now."?

That seems incredibly short-sighted to me. I understand addiction, I was once addicted to cigarettes. I understand overindulgence as well – I was once over 300 pounds. I gave up the cigarettes after trying to play basketball with some friends and having to sit out most of the game due to lack of breath – at age 26. Ten years later I walked away from the high-sugar, high-fat foods after realizing that it was my rear-end that kept knocking things over whenever I turned around. I also wanted to see my grandchildren born and watch them grow up. I was 36 at the time.

When I gave up the cigarettes, it wasn't for my longevity, it was more because I felt left-out and a little inadequate. Ten years later, giving up the crappy foods was a conscious effort to live longer. I'm now looking down the barrel of the "heart-attack years", to be quickly followed by the "stroke years". I want to be relatively healthy as I march through them, not looking over my shoulder each time I feel pain in my left arm. When I quit smoking, I bought a cheap bicycle and started riding. It gave me something to focus on and the more I rode, the better I felt. I weighed 172 pounds when I was riding 2-3 times per week. Eventually I drifted away from cycling and started eating more only to balloon up to 300 pounds. Realizing the health risks, I bought another bicycle and got back to it. I lost 90 pounds the first year. I'm hoping that will positively influence my odds of "winning" my personal lottery.

Once in a while you hear about some old coot who smoked two packs a day and drank bacon grease daily, yet lived to 104 years old. When people hear about someone like that, they figure, "Why should I stop? It worked out just fine for him", and they're right: it worked out just fine for HIM. It won't work for YOU. At least it's unlikely. Why take a chance? Why tempt fate? Do you enjoy your bad habits more than you care about the people who love you? Are you too selfish not to care? Of course not.

So, look at your lottery ticket, think about the future and tell me, are you cleaning your gutters or just watching TV?

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