Want to Know When You’ll Die? A New Blood Test May Hold the Answer
It’s not perfect, but scientists are excited by the potential
Predicting death was once just a trick for fortune-tellers, with nothing scientific about it. But now, scientists are getting a little bit closer to being able to forecast when your time might run out.
Though predicting an exact day is far from likely, an experimental blood test may be able to tell an individual’s risk of dying in the next five to 10 years.
Researchers in Europe made a predictive tool using data from more than 44,000 individuals ages 18 through 109 years old, 5,500 of whom died during the study period. They identified 14 different substances from participants’ blood samples that were associated with a risk of death — such as blood sugar, lipid particles that transport “bad” cholesterol throughout the body, and albumin, a protein made by the liver that keeps fluid in your bloodstream so it doesn’t leak into tissues. When these substances get higher or lower, they can be indicative of certain health problems, like Type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
Using those 14 indicators, the researchers built a model that predicts the likelihood that a person will die in five to 10 years. In a new study published Tuesday in Nature Communications, they report the prediction accuracy was around 83% overall. For individuals over 60, the accuracy fell to about 72%.
One problem with the predictor, however, is that the data came exclusively from people of European descent, so it wouldn’t be able to accurately predict mortality risk in people of Asian or African descent, for example.
But even if a test could predict when you’d die, researchers say you’re not bound to your fate. Joris Deelen, a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Ageing in Germany and an author on the new paper, says people could still change their lifestyle, which would change the mortality risk prediction.
“This is an exciting study,” says Daniel Belsky, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University who studies aging and was not involved with creating the new predictor. He says the test could be especially helpful for evaluating risk in…