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Watch out for that bus — and second-hand smoke.

OK, so you’re getting to the gym on a regular basis, eating right, getting enough sleep, and beginning to feel that maybe you’re on the high road toward a long and healthy life. I hate to rain on your parade, but that’s not necessarily going to do the trick.

Longevity is a tricky thing. You can make all the right choices, such as those above, and walk across the street tomorrow and get hit by a bus — nothing in this life is guaranteed except death (and brief episodes of embarrassment, confusion, and contrition). We don’t completely control our destiny; there are environmental factors beyond those healthy behaviors we adopt that can dramatically impact our life span.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina have pinpointed a variety of environmental factors they call “gerontogens” that can lead us to an earlier than expected grave. Cigarette smoke tops their list, along with ultra-violet rays from the sun, chemotheraphy and everyday stress. “We believe just as an understanding of carcinogens has informed cancer biology, so will an understanding of gerontogens benefit the study of aging,” Norman Sharpless, MD, professor of medicine and genetics at the University of North Carolina, told Rodale News. “By identifying and avoiding gerontogens, we will be able to influence aging and life expectancy at a public health level.”

We’re not powerless in this struggle, Rodale reminds us.

We can limit our exposure to these popular household toxins:

  1. Coal tar driveway sealant
  2. Synthetic pesticides
  3. Antibacterial soap
  4. Synthetic fragrances
  5. Conventional cleaning products
  6. Nonstick cookware
  7. GMO foods
  8. Vinyl products
  9. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  10. Flame retardant chemicals in furniture
  11. Bisphonol A (BPA) in canned foods
  12. Dry-cleaning chemicals

Stay away from these and other gerontogens while you maintain your healthy lifestyle and your chances of living to a ripe old age will improve. Meanwhile, look both ways when you’re crossing the street.

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