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Would You Want To Know? Life Expectancy Test Could Become Reality

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Researchers say a simple blood test could give an idea on life expectancy based on the length of telomeres, which shorten as people age. (Credit: CBS 2)

Researchers say a simple blood test could give an idea on life expectancy based on the length of telomeres, which shorten as people age. (Credit: CBS 2)

Kristine-Johnson-thumbnail Kristine Johnson
Kristine Johnson currently co-anchors the 5 p.m. & 11 p.m. news at...
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NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Would you want to know how long you’re going to live? In the coming months, it could become a possibility.

A new blood test is being developed that could give you a look at your longevity.

Everyone wants to know what life has in store for them, but how comfortable would they be knowing how long they had to live?

“My life would be a nightmare, because it would be all I would be thinking about,” John Banter said.

“You need to honestly live every day like it’s your last,” said Samantha Ballard.

There’s a simple blood test that will soon be available that may be able to tell people how quickly they’re aging.

“These tests are really measuring…biological age, which is only loosely correlating with chronological age,” pathologist Dr. Mark Freidman of St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital said.

The test measures how old your body really is – not how old you are in actual years, but by looking at the length of telomeres.

Telomeres are the green tips on the end of the chromosomes, the genes that carry our DNA. Scientists believe that the shorter your telomeres, the faster you’re aging.

“The longer that is, apparently, the longer you might live,” Dr. Friedman said. “As you age, they get shorter, and that might predict your aging process which, again, may have some correlation with how long you’re going to live.”

The test is still new, and there is no formula yet that can predict how much time you really have left, but experts say they can provide a window into your health.

“Very short telomeres are what are behind a lot of different age-related diseases,” said Dr. Calvin Harley, chief scientific officer at Telome Health.

Doctors say shortened telomeres may put you at a higher risk of cancer or heart disease. Even stress can speed up the aging process, impacting the telomeres.

“Chronic stress itself is causing accelerated cellular aging through telomere-shortening,” Dr. Harley said.

“You find a shortened telomere, there’s really no medication or treatment or anything that you can really do about it at this point, other than to improve your lifestyle,” Dr. Friedman said. “But even without this test, we already know that you should be trying to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible.”

Doctors have expressed concern that knowing life expectancy could have a strong emotional impact on a person’s behavior.

There’s also concern that predicting life span could lead to abuse by insurance companies, saying they could use the results to deny people or gouge for coverage. Industry experts, though, said that’s not the case.

“We already have a lot of information that’s pretty easy to get at, and pretty reliable in terms of predicting how long a group of people might live,” said Steve Weisbert, senior VP and chief economist at the Insurance Information Institute.

The test is set to be available in the fall, and is expected to cost between $500 and $700.

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