How Fast is Your Reaction Time and Why It Matters

reaction time

How fast is your reaction time? If you react quickly it could save your life by allowing you to jump out of the path of a speeding car before it hits you. That certainly works in your favor, doesn’t it? We are fascinated by a new study showing a faster reaction time could be a marker for a lower risk of mortality.

Reaction Time: Is It a Marker for Mortality?

According to a study from the U.K, faster reaction times are linked with lower mortality from heart disease and other causes as well. Having a faster reaction time might be helpful not only for helping you move out of the path of danger but also a marker for greater longevity.

Researchers looked at data on more than 5,000 healthy adults as part of a larger study called the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They measured their reaction speeds using a computer program. The program they used was similar to sites online where you can measure your reaction time by pressing on your mouse when you see a color change or a number pop up. We’ve included a link below where you can test YOUR reaction time.

Interestingly, they found people that had slower reaction speeds after adjusting for age and sex were at greater risk for dying from heart disease and had a higher overall mortality rate as well. Interestingly, this isn’t the first study to show a link between fast reaction time and a reduce risk of dying. A previous study found a similar link.

What’s the Link Between Reaction Time and Mortality?

How might reaction time be linked with mortality? One theory is a slow reaction time could be a marker for a nervous system that’s slower and less responsive. Your nervous system controls the function of everything in your body including your heart. Even your heart rate is controlled by nerves that slow it down and speed it up. If your nervous system doesn’t react quickly it may increase your risk for an irregular heart rhythm. A slow reaction time may also be a sign of a general slow-down in how your body functions.

Want to test your own reaction time? Here’s a link to a site where you can measure it:

Test Your Reaction Time

Don’t get hung up on the results. A variety of factors can affect your reaction time – age, how much tired you are, how much caffeine you’ve had, medications etc. It’s just a quick and easy way to test yourself and see how you compare to others.

Longevity Benefits: Lifestyle Habits That Help You Live Longer

It’s fun to share information like this but don’t spend time worrying if your reaction time isn’t what you think it should be. Worry about factors you CAN control like getting enough aerobic exercise to condition your heart and lower your risk for heart disease and strength training to hold on to lean body mass. These are factors that can definitely lower your risk for health problems like heart attacks, hip fractures due to bone loss, frailty and difficulty getting around as you get older. Don’t want to go to a gym, strength train at home with resistance bands. They work as well as weights.

Then worry about your diet. If we can encourage you to do a few things to improve your health it would be strength train, do exercise that gets your heart rate up several times a week and eliminate sugar and most processed foods from your diet. Move more and eat better. We’ll keep inspiring you to take action. 🙂

References:

PLOS One. “Reaction Time and Mortality from the Major Causes of Death: The NHANES-III Study” (Jan, 2014)
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0082959

Kristie Leong M.D.

Dr. Kristie Leong and Dr. Apollo Leong are physicians helping you to lead a healthy lifestyle by sharing nutrition and fitness tips and keeping you abreast of the latest health news.

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