life span

  1. When will it end?

    What if you had an expiration date stamped somewhere on your body -- a little message that says exactly how much longer you might live?

    Would you even want to look at it? Would you let your family see it?

    Researchers say they've found just such a mark, hidden in your bloodstream -- and they'll read yours... for a price.

    It's a $700 test that measures telomeres, little caps that sit on the ends of the chromosomes inside your white blood cells.

    You can find a pretty good image of them here.

    Every time your cells divide, the telomeres get just a little bit shorter. Since cell division is a hallmark of aging, researchers believe the length of the telomere is a better measure of your true age than birthdays.

    And if your telomeres are getting short, your time may be as well.

    Of course, the test can only measure telomeres -- it can't measure dumb luck, tragic endings or pure stupidity. It can't predict whether you'll drop dead after winning a hot dog eating contest, perish in a tragic bungee jumping accident or get gored while running with the bulls.

    But the test may be able to offer a glimpse into the effects of your lifestyle, genes or both -- and maybe even tell you about your disease risk, since short telomeres have also been linked to dementia, cancer, heart disease and more.

    In a way, maybe the test can serve as a warning for some people: make some changes, or start planning your funeral.

    On the other hand, it could also cause some people to party like there's literally no tomorrow.

    In reality, all the expensive test really offers is a vague and incomplete prediction -- but if you still want to take it, consider some of the other issues here... ones that go far beyond pure physical health.

    Once you get the test, for example, would you be required to reveal the results to your health or life insurance companies? Your employer? On the flip side, could employers or insurance companies require you to take the test even if you don't want to?

    Already, there are employers who won't hire smokers, doctors who won't treat the obese and insurers who won't give coverage to people based on certain conditions -- and the telomere test could trump all that, the granddaddy of preexisting conditions.

    Personally, I find all this too frightening to contemplate -- and have no plans to get my telomeres measured anytime soon.

    If you want your own test, feel free -- but don't pay $700. U.S. companies plan to offer their own version of the service soon, and you can expect it to be as low as $200.

    Just remember: A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

  2. Killer coworkers

    Here's one more reason to hate your job: Your coworkers might be killing you, and I mean that literally.

    They're not booby-trapping the halls or stalking you with a knife -- but colleagues who don't like you could be boosting the odds of an early death just the same, according to a new study.

    Israeli researchers examined data on 820 healthy workers who were tracked for 20 years after filling out surveys on their work conditions.

    Over those two decades, 53 died -- and the researchers say those with high levels of social support at work, including friendly and helpful coworkers, were less likely to be among them.

    Those who worked in proverbial snakepits, on the other hand, were more likely to drop dead -- especially if they were between the ages of 38 and 43, according to the study in Health Psychology.

    Here's what's really interesting: Those risks only came from lousy or unsupportive coworkers. Having a crummy boss -- or even a great one -– didn't make a bit of a difference.

    But I'd strongly recommend being on civil terms with yours just the same, especially if your boss is a woman -- because according to the same new study, she may not have much longer left.

    Women who had higher levels of control and decision-making authority were actually more likely to die... while men who seize the managerial reins actually lived longer -- showing that at least one form of sexism in the workplace may still exist after all.

    Of course, except for that higher death risk among female supervisors, there's not a lot in this study that's surprising.

    Too much stress is no good for you no matter where it comes from -- and there's nothing more stressful than sitting in a room full of people who either don't like your or are completely indifferent to you for eight hours a day or more.

    And if that's your situation, find a new job -- if it doesn't save your life, it might at least save your sanity.

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