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Your City Could Reduce These Health Risks, Says Gallup Study

Your environment has a relationship to your health and well-being.

Medically reviewed in April 2020

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We all know eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep are key to maintaining good health—but did you know where you live can affect your well-being, too? According to new research by Gallup and Healthways, your environment has a direct relationship to your health and can reduce (or increase) your risk of chronic conditions, like obesity, depression and diabetes.

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Obesity

More than one-third of adults in America have obesity and increased risk of obesity-related conditions like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancers. Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly can prevent obesity or aid in weight loss, but so can living in communities with walking paths, bike lanes, parks and public transit, which promote “active living.” The State of American Well-Being: Active Living Environment in the U.S. report showed that communities with a high Active Living score had almost 21 percent lower obesity rates than communities with poor active living infrastructure. 

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High Cholesterol

Cholesterol levels are major markers of heart health; too much bad cholesterol can lead to hardening of the arteries, and increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Cities with a high bike score showed fewer cases of high cholesterol. Biking to work isn’t an option for everyone, so try incorporating cycling into your regular exercise routine. It’s fun, affordable and easy on your joints. 

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High Blood Pressure

If you’re one of the 70 million Americans living with high blood pressure, you know eating a nutrient-dense, low-sodium diet is key to reducing your risk of heart disease. But, according to Gallup and Healthways, accessibility to parks and open spaces is highly related to lower heart disease risk, too. The top five active living communities—three of which also score in the top five for parks and green space—report 20 percent fewer instances of high blood pressure as compared to the lowest five active living communities. Parks encourage residents to exercise and participate in recreational activities, and studies have linked time spent in nature to reduced stress and tension. 

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Diabetes

As of 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 29 million Americans had diabetes, which can lead to heart and kidney issues, blindness and other debilitating conditions. Cities with high active living environments including active transportation options, like walking or biking, and accessible public transportation showed a whopping 25 percent lower rates of diabetes. Why? An active commute reduces time spent sitting and helps you sneak in an extra workout.

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