Many of us would like to believe we can control our destinies.
We would like to believe that exercising our free will choices will provide us with a healthier, longer life. That is not a bad approach to living, but when it comes to longevity it may not be entirely true.
There are many who avoid alcohol and smoking while exercising vigorously in an attempt to fend off the inevitable. And although there are studies which support the quality of life benefits of exercise, when it comes to pure longevity, a recent study reported from The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/09/health/research/09longevity.html?%2359;ref=health&_r=1&=&pagewanted=print calls our behavioral efforts into question.
The conclusion from gerontologists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's study of 477 Ashkenazi Jews age 95 to 112 seems to point to genetics rather than behavior as the greatest contributor to longevity.
As a physician and overall observer of other beings, it is clear that smoking, obesity and its associated disease states such as diabetes and hyperlipidemia carry increased risk of diseases. And such diseases produce unwanted limitations on the functional capacity of those who suffer from them.
But when it comes to the compulsive restrictive approach to living including extreme caloric restriction, total avoidance of alcohol, vigorous extreme exercising, the proof is not there.
The occasional but not unheard of death during marathons and triathalons (recently in the NYC example) should be recognized as risks associated with excessive efforts to achieve "immortality".
This suggest what spiritual traditions have always promoted–moderation in all things– is the most reasonable approach. Quality of life rather than pure longevity should be the ultimate goal.
Appreciating the life we have and maintaining the level of fitness which allows us to enjoy it to the utmost is a reasonable goal.