How Your Zip Code Affects Your Health

Find out where the most positive, least stressed people with the best diets live.

1 / 5

The top three rules of real estate? Location, location, location. 

Turns out, location matters when it comes to your health, too. We looked at RealAge data in 50 cities to find out where people are most (and least) optimistic, stressed out, red-meat eating and more. And Keith Roach, MD, co-creator of the RealAge® Test, explains why these factors help determine how long you’ll live.

How do you and your city stack up?


2 / 5 Optimism

If you tend to see the glass as half-full, you’ve got a personality that may help you live longer. While it’s not clear exactly what the relationship between optimism and health is, a positive outlook is clearly associated with a younger RealAge—that is, your body’s biological (not chronological) age.

“What is clear is that people who are generally optimistic rather than cynical tend to have a lower risk of heart disease and death,” says Dr. Roach, who is also Sharecare’s chief medical officer. Anger and cynicism can raise blood pressure and stress hormones, which can cause long-term damage. Optimistic people feel more in control of their health and often make healthy choices, he adds.


3 / 5 Stress

Work. School. Bills. Traffic. The modern lifestyle is full of stress, which causes inflammation and makes your body age faster. It also increases the risk of cardiovascular events.

“People who report no stress or little stress have lower levels of heart disease than people who report high—or worse, continual—levels of stress,” says Roach. Over time, elevated levels of stress “cause damage to blood vessels and the heart, putting you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke,” Roach said.

Red Meat

4 / 5 Red Meat

For meat eaters, there’s not much better than sinking your chops into a juicy piece of steak. But beware: eating too much red meat may actually shorten your life. Keep it to a few three-ounce servings a week.

“Most red meat that is bought in this country is high in saturated fat, and high in the omega-6 fatty acids that increase inflammation in the blood. Most studies show this increases the risk of heart disease,” says Roach.

Youngest and Oldest Cities

5 / 5 Youngest and Oldest Cities

If you live in one of the older cities, don’t lose hope. “Just because you live in an unhealthy city doesn’t mean you’ll be unhealthy yourself,” says Roach.

If your RealAge is older than your actual age, the two biggest lifestyle changes you can make for the biggest impact are cleaning up your diet and exercising regularly. “It’s not hard to go to the grocery store and pass up red meat and get a nice piece of salmon and some vegetables. You can make a huge difference in your RealAge by changing your diet,” according to Roach. Add to that two half-hour walks per day, and you’ll have “dramatic impact” on your RealAge, he says. Start with two, 10-minute daily walks and build up to 30 minutes.

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