25 Top Cities for Aging Too Fast 2012

Find out where Americans have the unhealthiest RealAge.

Medically reviewed in September 2020

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Is Your City Aging Too Fast?

"Just because you live in a city where many people are making bad health decisions, doesn't mean you have to," says Keith Roach, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Sharecare and a co-creator of the RealAge Test. We think he's on to something. To a large extent, you have the power to control your lifestyle. To get a read on which of America's 50 largest metropolitan areas aren't controlling theirs, we analyzed results from the more than 28 million people and ranked cities by such factors as diet, health insurance coverage, income, and diabetes. We discovered that these American cities are aging too fast:

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1. Knoxville, TN

It's a hard knock life for Knoxville, TN, which is in the bottom spot no thanks to high rates of drinking, smoking, stress, unemployment, low income, and—not surprisingly—the least amount of optimism. When money is tight, an inexpensive hike in the Great Smoky Mountains or a visit to the Market Square Farmer's Market could do wonders. “You can be just as healthy in Knoxville as you can in Denver," says Dr. Roach. "You just have to work a little harder at it."

Reduce your money stress.

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2. Louisville, KY

As the birthplace of KFC, it's no wonder that Louisville, KY, is almost the worst city. These foods are likely responsible for it being the second-worst city for cholesterol. Plus, if bourbon truly is their drink of choice, this might be why Louisvillians have some of the highest alcohol rates, the worst sleep, and the most falls. Socially charming and happily married, these folks could turn their health around by skipping out on the fatty Southern fare.

Say nighty-night to bad sleep.

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3. Memphis, TN

Memphis has a reason to be singing the blues. This soulful town, once home to Elvis Presley, may need to enjoy its sunshine more to boost its spirits. Low income, high unemployment, and an increase in crime could be what's stressing out residents. They may turn to good ol' barbecue for comfort, but it's not doing them any favors for their high rate of diabetes. Instead, they might try turning those frowns upside down and dancing to "Blue Suede Shoes."

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4. Oklahoma City, OK

Oklahoma City is one of the largest livestock markets in the world. We're guessing that's why this city ranks the worst for fruit and vegetables. Residents are likely filling up on meat and potatoes. Maybe that's the reason Oklahoma City comes in third worst for high cholesterol and hypertension. Some diet tweaks and more exercise could improve this city's ranking.

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5. Indianapolis, IN

Well-known for the Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis loves its spectator sports—car racing, football, basketball and more—but all that sitting could explain its poor overall health ranking. Indianapolis ranked third worst for smoking, and made its way to the top 5 worst cities for drinking due to a high consumption rate among males. On the plus side, it's the best city for having a solid social network—a quality its citizens could use to help each other quit smoking, exercise more, and live healthier.

Use this plan to quit smoking for good.

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6. Greensboro, NC

Southerners love their fried foods, but that might be why Greensboro, NC, finds itself ranked the sixth-worst city. With high rates of low income, it could be that fried foods are easier and cheaper to come by over fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Added pressures certainly don't help, but despite reporting a lot of stress, Greensboro-Winston Salem-High Point is the best city for managing anger—thanks to male residents who know how to keep their cool.

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7. Nashville, TN

Nashville, TN, may be "Music City," but we can't sing its praises for healthiness. It scored low notes for smoking and drinking that may be linked to its high rates of stress—or having too much fun at honky-tonks. Nashvillians might see their cholesterol and hypertension levels drop if they tap into their sociability by throwing on their tennis shoes, grabbing an exercise buddy, and striding Nashville's Music Mile instead.

Keep life from getting in the way of your walk.

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8. Greenville, SC

Nestled near the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Greenville, SC, isn't so picture perfect when it comes to health. Greenville has the highest rate of hypertension, possibly because residents eat few—if any—inflammation-fighting fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. Residents of Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson could possibly improve their optimism by taking a hike in the great outdoors or shopping local farmers' markets for a great vitamin D boost.

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9. Cincinnati, OH

This city isn't called the "Chili Capital of America" for nothing, but its Cincinnati chili topped with shredded cheddar cheese over pasta likely isn't doing any favors for residents' cholesterol. Add to this Cincinnatians' lack of exercise and high rates of smoking and stress and it's no shocker Cincinnati-Hamilton made our worst-cities list. These cheery, well-rested dwellers could likely make a health U-turn by trading in their chili for more fruits and veggies.

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10. Columbus, OH

With hot, muggy summers and cold, dry winters, Columbus' weather makes it less than ideal for outdoor activity. That's likely why the city ranks near the bottom for exercise and vitamin D. Not helping matters, "The Discovery City" comes in with bad scores for stress, smoking, inflammation, and drinking—factors that could turn around if residents begin discovering the benefits of regularly working out. Brisk walks at the Park of Roses, perhaps?

Try these no-excuse exercise ideas, inside or out.

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11. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater is a prime destination spot for vacationers and retirees, but ranks number 11 on the oldest-cities list. With high unemployment rates, low incomes, and lack of health insurance (number 49), it's no wonder that residents are stressed, losing sleep, and socializing less. On the upside, they're not putting those sleepless nights to waste. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater folks get their fair share of sex. Maybe those romantic beach sunsets have something to do with it.

Try these tricks to up your mood when the economy is down.

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12. Pittsburgh, PA

Once a booming steel town, Pittsburgh may be less than optimistic about its new identity in a down economy. Pittsburgh citizens are stressed out, smoking, and even angry. Good thing they have a high rate of health insurance coverage. They might turn their health around by passing on the Pittsburgh Salad (steak salad topped with French fries)—quite possibly the culprit for the city's high rate of diabetes.

Stop your job worries in just two steps.

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13. St. Louis, MO

Ranking 13th had more to do with bad habits than bad luck for St. Louis residents. They ranked among the top 10 worst in six factors: eating fruits and veggies, exercising, cholesterol levels, taking aspirin properly, smoking, and sex—all factors that age your body too fast. Plus, the Rams finished 2-14 this year, tied for the NFL's worst. Football isn't a RealAge factor, but a losing season always hurts.

Check out these 5 low-cal game day snacks.

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14. Grand Rapids, MI

Few things age you as fast or dramatically as uncontrolled diabetes, and the people of Michigan's second largest city fare the worst in the country in managing this deadly disease. High unemployment and low income also contribute to making Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland the 14th-oldest city in America.

Check out this plan to help you control your blood sugar and prevent diabetes.

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15. Las Vegas, NV

Too many Las Vegans are lacking three important things: jobs, health insurance, and a strong social network. They rank worst in the country in these factors, and it's aging them. Not getting enough sleep, as well as unhappy marriages, are also pushing Vegas residents' RealAges into the old zone. On the bright side, men in Sin City rank third youngest for sex—no surprise there—and for diabetes.

Trying to save your marriage? Try these 3 things.

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16. New Orleans, LA

Where is New Orleans on the oldest-youngest city spectrum? It's one of the oldest, thanks to diabetes. New Orleans is the second-worst city in America for keeping diabetes under control. Not eating enough veggies, fruits or whole grains certainly isn't helping Big Easy dwellers' blood sugar or blood pressure levels. A high incidence of falls among the elderly and poor sleep are two other aging factors. However, the residents of this famous Mardi Gras spot rank in the top 3 for having a strong social network.

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17. Jacksonville, FL

Residents of this largest city in Florida—and in America, in terms of area—fall victim to some common agers, such as skimping on whole grains, sleep, and vitamin D. Plus, anger is an aging factor for men in Jacksonville, and a high percentage of residents don't have health insurance.

Are you getting enough vitamin D? Find out how to get your daily dose.

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18. Kansas City, MO

Did you know that Kansas City ignored prohibition in the 1920s? Well, alcohol is definitely an aging factor for female residents of KC today. Not enough orgasms per week for men and not enough satisfying sex for women are also contributing to older RealAges in this Midwest town, as are smoking and not eating fruits and veggies.

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19. Detroit, MI

With American car manufacturers downsizing their work force over the past several years, it's no surprise that unemployment is one of the primary factors that's aging Detroit-Ann Arbor-Flint. Diabetes is also playing a big role, along with stress, smoking, marriage-relationship problems, and angry residents (specifically, men). Hopefully the Lions' winning season helped lift spirits in the Motor City.

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20. Rochester, NY

You can bet that Eastman Kodak's recent filing for bankruptcy protection has added to the stress level in Rochester, where the film pioneer has been centered for over a century. Rochacha citizens rank worst in the nation for managing stress and for high c-reactive protein, a warning of inflammation that threatens your heart, brain, and arteries. For women, unsatisfying sex and a pessimistic outlook (wonder if they're related?) are pushing up their RealAges. For guys, it's anger. On the bright side, residents rank in the top 5 for health insurance coverage.

Find out how to fire up desire and get your sex life back.

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21. Charlotte, NC

Charlotte is far from the best place when it comes to enjoying fruits, veggies, and whole grains, which isn't helping residents keep their blood sugar in the healthy zone. In fact, Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill is among the top 10 worst places for uncontrolled diabetes, falls among the elderly, and too few orgasms for men and women. Guess they're using their beds just for sleeping, since they rank best city in America for getting enough sleep.

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22. Cleveland, OH

Cleveland is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but also some not-so-good habits, such as smoking, which landed it among the oldest cities. Plus, too many Clevelanders are lacking a good social network, and you need friends to commiserate with when your team has a 4-12 season record like the Cleveland Browns did. However, Cleveland-Akron gets good scores for both sleep and low c-reactive protein (CRP)—not surprising since skimping on sleep is one thing that makes you prone to high CRP.

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23. Norfolk, VA

Located at the core of Hampton Roads, Norfolk hosts the world's largest naval base and, unfortunately, too many cases of uncontrolled diabetes (good thing Eastern Virginia Medical School is known for its diabetes specialists). Combined with too much alcohol, too little sleep, and not enough social connections, it's one of several reasons the people of Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News have older RealAges.

Trouble sleeping? Try these 10 sleeping-inducing foods.

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24. Buffalo, NY

Think being the birthplace of buffalo wings has anything to do with the high cholesterol levels that put Buffalo-Niagara Falls on the oldest-cities list? Maybe. They also rank among the top 10 worst in three other areas: managing anger (men), having a positive outlook (women), and taking aspirin properly. On the bright side, they were among the top 5 youngest in employment, health insurance, and alcohol consumption.

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25. San Antonio, TX

Historically speaking, San Antonio is one of the oldest cities in the American West. Unfortunately, the same goes for its health. Residents of San Antonio have a few lifestyle factors that landed them on the oldest cities list: they're sixth in the U.S. for unhealthy alcohol consumption (specifically, men) and tenth for both stress and falls among elderly citizens.

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