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How's Your City Doing?

America's Top 10 Youngest and Oldest Cities 2013

Find out where Americans have the healthiest and the unhealthiest RealAge.

1 / 23 How's Your City Doing?

Is your city making you old? Or is it helping you stay young—no matter what the calendar says? Our 2013 Youngest & Oldest Cities in America report is out, with a list of the places where people are so healthy and fit it’s like residents have erased the year on their birth certificate and penciled in a later one. The report also lists areas where you’d swear the inhabitants are older than their driver’s license would lead you to believe, thanks to day-to-day choices that speed their decline. 

Our Calculations

2 / 23 Our Calculations

Sharecare analyzed health data generated by its patented RealAge® Test to determine the Top 10 Youngest & Oldest Cities in America. Results from more than 250,000 people went into the calculations as we did the math on America’s 50 largest metropolitan areas. The analysis included not just dietary and exercise habits but also cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and sleep patterns and anger-management skills—28 factors in all.

Is Your City Aging You or Keeping You Young?

3 / 23 Is Your City Aging You or Keeping You Young?

Your city can make it easy or hard to make healthy choices, says Keith Roach, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Sharecare and co-creator of the RealAge Test. Part of that has to do with local habits: “If your friends usually say ‘Let’s go for a hike today,’ you’re probably in better shape than if your friends always say, ‘Let’s go get ice cream.’” Part of it has to do with policies: New York City’s taxes on cigarettes have made a dent in smoking rates in that area, for example. But your city doesn’t condemn you to having problems. “Even if you live in New Orleans you can eat healthy. By the same token, living in San Francisco doesn’t stop you from going to McDonalds or playing videogames all day.” 

Youngest: #10 Los Angeles, CA

4 / 23 Youngest: #10 Los Angeles, CA

The tenth-youngest city in America, Los Angeles is ready for its close-up. What are its residents doing right? For starters, they say yes to lots of fruits and veggies (they’re close to the top in consumption) and no to cigarettes (they’re near the bottom for that super-aging habit). Angelenos also benefit by ranking in the top 10 for exercise. On the other hand, a lot of those workouts must take place in Zen-calm yoga studios or pumped-up spinning classes, because residents score only a middling 25th in vitamin D levels. What ages these golden gals and guys most? They have some work to do on their relationships. LA scores a dismal 47th in social networking, and dead last for happy marriages.

Youngest: #9 Hartford, CT

5 / 23 Youngest: #9 Hartford, CT

Hartford, Connecticut, made its way into the top 10 youngest cities in America this year (it was #12 last year). This vibrant New England city outdoes all others when it comes to diet diversity, a habit that can shave as much as five years off your RealAge. 

Other traits that boosted Hartford into the youngest cities: Men ranked second in their anger-management skills, giving them a healthy approach to emotions that lengthens life by two years, on average. Hartford residents are also non-smokers, a fact that shaves years off nearly every biological system. And it probably doesn’t hurt that natives of the city known as “The Insurance Capital of the World” rate third for insurance coverage.

Youngest: #8 Seattle, WA

6 / 23 Youngest: #8 Seattle, WA

Seattle may be known for its cloudy skies and rainy weather -- but its residents rank second in the country in vitamin D levels. Seattle residents are also near the top in their consumption of whole grains and fruits and veggies, which offer plenty of age-reversing benefits.

Living among gorgeous mountains also has its upside: Residents rank high in the amount of exercise they get. All that time outside may be one reason Seattle is the twelfth most optimistic city in the country, a personality trait that’s been linked to a long, healthy life.

Tip: Everything you ever wanted to know about whole grain foods

Youngest: #7 Washington, DC

7 / 23 Youngest: #7 Washington, DC

Our capital is also the nation’s seventh-youngest city, partly because this buttoned-up city tends to go to bed early: Washingtonians rank second in the country on clocking a decent night’s sleep. Inhabitants also eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, don’t go overboard on red meat, and get a decent amount of exercise (their eating habits rank tenth in the country, and they’re 15th when it comes to exercise). Washingtonians are also good about keeping their cholesterol in check and blood sugar under control. Even though political bickering is the city’s primary sport, the residents of this town rank surprisingly high on optimism and stress-management—habits of mind that keep the body young.

Youngest: #6 Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

8 / 23 Youngest: #6 Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

Minneapolis-St. Paul ranks as the country’s sixth-youngest metropolis this year, with top-10 showings in 12 different categories. Additionally, Twin City residents score high on exercise and vitamin D status in spite of the area’s brutal winters.

When residents come inside, they behave well in the kitchen, getting plenty of whole grains and eating a diverse diet. These habits probably contribute to their better-than-average cholesterol levels and low rates of high blood pressure and diabetes. Also, the region has high levels of employment, income and health insurance coverage. The booming economy keeps stress low and makes it easier for residents to take care of themselves.

Youngest: #5 Denver, CO

9 / 23 Youngest: #5 Denver, CO

Given its beautiful hiking, biking and running trails and incomparable skiing, it’s no surprise that Denver, the fifth-youngest city in the country, is number three nationally in both exercise and optimism. The Mile High City also boasts more than 300 days of sunshine a year, which may explain the healthy levels of vitamin D boasted by its inhabitants. That keeps people young, says Roach, because vitamin D bolsters the health of the heart, skin, and bones, and helps cut the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

Youngest: #4 Boston, MA

10 / 23 Youngest: #4 Boston, MA

Boston comes in at fourth youngest city in America—a jump up from their number seven ranking a year ago. One reason the city is doing so well is its pedestrian-friendly nature (plenty of mass transit and lots of walks through neighborhoods studded with historical attractions). High activity levels are likely one reason diabetes levels are so low in Beantown: The city has the lowest rate of diabetes in the country. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels are way down, too. One other possible factor in Boston’s healthy youthfulness: Since 2006, residents have enjoyed universal health insurance (the city ranks number one in the nation in coverage).

Tip: Take short walks to live longer

Youngest: #3 San Diego, CA

11 / 23 Youngest: #3 San Diego, CA

San Diego comes in as the third-youngest city in the country for the second year in a row. What makes this Cali city so youthful? For starters, San Diegans don’t let much bother them: They reported less stress than people in any other city. San Diego’s weather and beaches make it easy to get out and get active, and people do: They rank second for exercise. And they also get plenty of fruits and veggies. Residents are aware of the heart healthy benefits of aspirin, making better use of the drug than anyone else in the U.S.

But would it hurt San Diegans to pick up the phone once in a while? The city ranks 41st in social networks, and does only marginally better when it comes to happy marriages. 

Youngest: #2 Salt Lake City, UT

12 / 23 Youngest: #2 Salt Lake City, UT

Salt Lake City is the second youngest city in the U.S—again (the city was runner-up last year, too). One big reason residents are so healthy: They’re more likely than nearly anyone else in the country to have a happy marriage. A solid union lowers blood pressure, raises the odds that you’ll see a doctor when you ought to, and generally increases your chances for a long life. Women in Salt Lake City also tend to be optimistic, a personality trait that some studies have linked with better health and biological youthfulness. In addition, these Utahns don’t smoke—keeping their skin unlined, their hearts working well and their lungs happy.

Tip: How to have a happy marriage

Youngest: #1 San Francisco, CA

13 / 23 Youngest: #1 San Francisco, CA

For the second year in a row, San Francisco wins the honors as America’s youngest city. A multitude of healthy habits gets it there. Residents rank number one in the amount of exercise they get, perhaps thanks to the city’s many hills and its disdain for an all-work/no-play lifestyle. San Franciscans also grab the first spot for their fruit-and-veggie habit and consumption of whole grains.

One other thing San Franciscans do right: They just say no, to cigarettes. There are fewer smokers here than in any other city in the country. On the other hand, San Franciscans strike out on social connections, ranking dead last in the country. 

Oldest: #10 St. Louis

14 / 23 Oldest: #10 St. Louis

The Gateway to the West checks in as the tenth-oldest city this year, slumping into the bottom ten in a host of heart-health categories. Damaging bad habits include: The second-highest smoking rate, a vice proven to take an average of 10 years off life expectancy. Men and women alike in this Midwestern city also get too much artery-clogging saturated fat, thanks to their appetite for red meat.

St. Louisans also fared poorly on four factors that affect blood vessel health: diabetes control, levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and C-reactive protein (a measure of inflammation). One bright spot: Folks in this Midwestern city eat above-average amounts of healthy whole grains, fruits and veggies.

Oldest: #9 Memphis, TN

15 / 23 Oldest: #9 Memphis, TN

Memphis is singing the blues. The city, the ninth-oldest in the country, is good about tending to psychological health—residents have strong social networks, keep stress under control and score relatively high for optimism. But they also have woeful levels of hypertension, and blood sugar control that’s near the worst in the country, opening them up to a passel of dangers.

Natives need to take a walk on Beale Street so they can move their exercise score up from the 48th slot nationwide. The regular workout might help them get a little more sleep, too—since Memphis is currently ranked number 47 for sleep, residents could use the extra rest.

Try this excuse-proof workout

Oldest: #8 Las Vegas, NV

16 / 23 Oldest: #8 Las Vegas, NV

 Las Vegas’s unlucky number makes it America’s eighth oldest city, partly because its residents stay up until all hours: They have less healthy sleep patterns than people anywhere else. Las Vegans also cope with a lot of stress, which may explain why they do more drinking and smoking than is good for them. One reason for that stress: They’re less likely than residents of any other major metropolitan area to have health insurance.

Still, healthy moves don’t always take time or money. Las Vegas ranked last in oral health, but taking care of teeth and gums can prevent inflammation that affects the entire body.

Tip: Sleep better in 9 steps

Oldest: #7 Greenville, SC

17 / 23 Oldest: #7 Greenville, SC

Greenville, SC, has one good thing going for the wellbeing of its residents: strong emotional connections. Its natives are third in the country for happy marriages and fifth for robust social networks—both of which are linked to better overall health. But that support system isn’t enough to wipe out the effects of Greenville’s stress levels, which are higher than anywhere else in the country. Also high: levels of C-reactive protein, a signal of inflammation in the body and of increased risk for heart attack or stroke. As for exercise, residents rank a dismal 45th in the country. They could eat healthier and sleep more -- they rank a sad 48th in both those categories.

Oldest: #6 Jacksonville, FL

18 / 23 Oldest: #6 Jacksonville, FL

This town took a tumble this year, from near the middle of the pack to sixth-oldest in the country. One big reason: Residents’ blood pressure is the worst in the nation, raising their risk for stroke and a host of other health problems. Cholesterol levels aren’t much better. These Floridians could help both problems by eating more whole grains (they’re near the bottom on that) and getting more exercise (ditto). They may also want to stub out those cigarettes. People in Jacksonville rank 46th in the country when it comes to smoking, and almost all other health considerations pale by comparison, says Roach. “Quitting smoking is the most important thing people can do to improve their health.”

Oldest: #5 New Orleans, LA

19 / 23 Oldest: #5 New Orleans, LA

It’s the Big Easy, but the fifth-oldest city in America isn’t so easy on the health of its residents: New Orleans comes in dead last for control of blood sugar, raising residents’ risk for a host of complications, including heart attack and stroke. Denizens of New Orleans also tend to eat lots of red meat, which is high in heart-unfriendly saturated fat. New Orleans is also the second-most unhealthy city in the country when it comes to exercise.

What are New Orleanians doing right? They rate tops in the country for the strength of their social networks. Those emotional connections are such strong medicine, they help make up for some of the habits that make life in New Orleans fun but high-risk.

Oldest: #4 Oklahoma City, OK

20 / 23 Oldest: #4 Oklahoma City, OK

Oklahoma City isn’t the worst in the country on a single measure of health. But the country's fourth-oldest city is nearly the worst on a bunch of them: People here don’t exercise much or eat many fruits and veggies, which accounts for poor blood pressure control and mediocre cholesterol levels. They also score poorly for oral health, which may explain why they have high levels of C-reactive protein—a sign of inflammation, which can raise the risk of heart attack. The bright side: Their grim standings mean that they could cut their age substantially with a few easy moves. Making time for exercise would make a big difference, as would adding some greens to their meat-and-potatoes meals

Oldest: #3 Tampa, FL

21 / 23 Oldest: #3 Tampa, FL

These Floridians performed worse than average in 23 of our 28 categories. Residents are more likely to smoke than inhabitants of any other American city, raising their risk for heart disease, cancer and dementia. 

They’re likely to be unemployed, have low incomes and lack health insurance, which can make it hard to carry through on healthy intentions. They also reported high levels of stress, anger and poor sleep. Surprisingly, residents of this Sunshine State city have low levels of vitamin D. A little exercise could improve many of the factors that age these Floridians, says Roach. As a plus, many smokers find it easier to quit once they start working out.

Oldest: #2 Greensboro, NC

22 / 23 Oldest: #2 Greensboro, NC

The country’s second-oldest city carries a heavy load: The city has the lowest average income of the 50 metropolitan areas surveyed, and residents are just shy of the bottom when it comes to insurance coverage. Both those factors can make it hard to stay on top of doctor visits, but adding some variety to their diet (more whole grains, fruits and veggies; less red meat) would up their quotient of disease-fighting nutrients and reduce both cholesterol levels and the risk of diabetes, which are currently among the highest in the country. A little more exercise and a little extra sleep could cut stress levels, too. 

Oldest: #1 Louisville, KY

23 / 23 Oldest: #1 Louisville, KY

The oldest city in this year’s rankings has a booming health industry and a prominent medical school, but healthy living doesn’t make it into the daily lives of those living in the area. Inhabitants are less active than people of any other city, and less likely to eat any kind of produce. So it's not a shock that Louisville ranks worst in the country for cholesterol levels, and second-worst for blood pressure.

Louisville natives can be proud of the fact that the town hosts one of only eight Ironman triathlons in the country. However, residents could benefit by giving up their spectator status on other weekends and wandering through the town’s famed parks.

See all our RealAge Top Cities reports

Wellness

Wellness

Wellness is a difficult word to define. Traditionally wellness has meant the opposite of illness and the absence of disease and disability. More recently wellness has come to describe something that you have personal control over. ...

Wellness is now a word used to describe living the best possible life you can regardless of whether you have a disease or disability. Your wellness is not only related to your physical health, but is a combination of things including spiritual wellness, social wellness, mental wellness and emotional wellness. Wellness is seen as a combination of mind, body and spirit. Different people may have different ideas about wellness. There is no single set standard for wellness and wellness is a difficult thing to quantify.
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