Want a Big Life? A Calculator Tool May Help You Get There

It has been well established that it’s never too late to make lifestyle changes which can improve quality of life and increase longevity, but sometimes we need to see hard data to give us the motivation to stick to resolutions like stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet or getting regular exercise.  Now there’s an online calculator that can predict your life expectancy, risk for heart attack or stroke and tally up how much sodium you consume. 

Project Big Life is an online tool created by a group of researchers from the University of Toronto, the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.   The algorithms used by Big Life rely on data collected by Statistics Canada to assess health risks for people with particular health profiles.  By answering a group of questions, the tool can predict life expectancy, risk of developing certain diseases and assess diet quality.  And elderly adults will soon be able determine approximately how close they are to the end of life.

The Canadian Community Health Survey collects data from more than 1 million respondents making it one of the largest surveys of its kind.  Many of the factors that influence health and longevity including physical activity, diet, alcohol consumption, smoking and obesity are modifiable.  Although it’s not always easy, leading a healthy lifestyle is something that you can change yourself.  However there are other factors, such as air pollution, that may be more difficult to modify.

Each calculator tool takes about 3 to 5 minutes to complete.  The life expectancy calculator includes information about how you can improve your outcome with changes to habits and behaviors like smoking, alcohol consumption, diet and activity level. 

The sodium calculator may be the most surprising tool for people; many don’t realize they are consuming what can be dangerous levels of salt each day.  According to a Globe and Mail report, nearly 80 per cent of our sodium intakes comes from packaged and processed foods.  The recommended upper limit for sodium consumption each day is 2,300 milligrams but the average Canadian consumes about 3,400 milligrams daily.  A high sodium diet is a major risk factor for high blood pressure which can lead to stroke, heart attack and other serious health problems.   

Using Project Big Life only takes a few minutes of your time but it could help you or a loved one make better lifestyle choices that will lead to a greater quality of life and more time to enjoy the things that matter most.