How long can humans really live? Study suggests 150 may be possible

Our resilience — or how well we bounce back from stressors — determines our life expectancy, according to a research study published in Nature Communications. And in an ideal world void of infection or trauma, humans have the potential to live for a very long time.

Dr. Heather Whitson, the director of the Duke University Aging Center, was not part of the study. She told FOX 5 NY that the researchers modeled the concept that in a stress-free environment, all you have is the pace of aging.

"At what point does it go to zero so that you can't respond to or bounce back from anything — the slightest little perturbation from your baseline would kill you," Whitson said. "And what they estimated was that that happens at some point between 120 and 150 years."

Our resilience, or our ability to recover, does decline over time so keep in mind that a human living to 150 years old makes for a sensational headline.

"That's pretty safe since the longest-lived person in the world made it to 122," Dr. Jay Olshansky, a professor at the University of Chicago School of Public Health, told FOX 5 NY. "The bottom line message is don't expect anyone alive today to live to 150."

Get breaking news alerts in the FOX 5 NY News app. Download for FREE!

The study modeled two very simple data points: counting red blood cells and physical activity such as step counts. The study ultimately sought ways to slow that process, according to Whitson. 

"There are some big studies going on right now asking if there are medications that could be used that might slow the pace of aging," Whitson said. "The other one that across multiple species has seemed to slow the pace of aging is caloric restriction — and that's not something that a lot of humans want to do."

Olshansky said that ultimately the focus needs to be on the quality of one's life — not the length.

"And that was the primary message. We smoke cigarettes, we drink excessively. We become sedentary. Those are the things that shortened life," Olshansky said. "Once you adopt all of those healthy lifestyles, then it's diet and exercise. Those are the two key things that work today."