Weekly column in the Washington Times Communities by Laurie Edwards-Tate
Do you feel especially young for your age? It might be because you live in San Francisco, Salt Lake City, or my hometown, San Diego.
But if you feel older than your years, it might be because you live in Ohio or Tennessee.
Chronological age is not the sole predictor of your physical and mental youth. Think about different people you know who are 40, 50, or 60. Some of the 60-year-olds are probably younger looking and in better physical health than a few of the 40-year-olds.
Where you live can profoundly affect your rate of aging. The website Real Age analyzed data from 28 million individuals who had taken its free online health and lifestyle surveys, which gather information designed to measure an individual’s “real age” based on criteria like your diet, cholesterol, smoking, marital status, stress, employment, social interaction and alcohol use.
The results of those tests give you a snapshot that determines whether you’re young for your age or, perhaps, aging way too fast. Real Age then ranked the rating of aging against the city of residence using zip codes for everyone who took the survey in the United States. The results might make you consider calling a moving company.
The key factors in aging well turn out to be minimizing stress, not smoking, eating well and getting plenty of healthy exercise that you can stick with for a lifetime.
Healthy diet is the number one reason San Francisco was named America’s best city to remain young among the nation’s top 50 metropolitan areas. San Franciscans eat plenty of fruit, veggies and whole grains. They are active and they don’t smoke.
Other cities on the list ranked high for different reasons. Here in sunny San Diego, it’s the active outdoor lifestyle and low stress overall that keep us young. Salt Lake City has the happiest marriages and lowest rate of smoking. Boston is one of the best cities for lower cholesterol and health insurance. Austin’s residents are the most optimistic and least stressed out.
The 10 cities that ranked top in helping residents stay young were:
1. San Francisco, California.
2. Salt Lake City, Utah
3. San Diego, California
4. Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota
5. Denver, Colorado
6. Raleigh, North Carolina
7. Boston, Massachusetts
8. Austin, Texas
9. Washington, D.C/Baltimore, Maryland
10. Los Angeles, California
But if you are feeling old before your time, you might live in one of the cities at the opposite end of Real Age’s list.
Among the 50 major metropolitan areas ranked, Knoxville, Tennessee is the city where residents age the fastest. The reasons: drinking, smoking, poor employment and high stress rates.
Other cities where residents age too fast earned their place on the list for different reasons. Louisville, Kentucky rated among the worst populations in the country when it came to cholesterol and alcohol use. Memphis, Tennessee is on the list due to high rates of diabetes and stress. Indianapolis, Indiana rated well for social support, but apparently alcohol and cigarette consumption is high.
The 10 major metropolitan areas where residents grow old the fastest are:
1. Knoxville, Tennesee
2. Louisville, Kentucky
3. Memphis, Tennesee
4. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
5. Indianapolis, Indiana
6. Greensboro, North Carolina
7. Nashville, Tennesee
8. Greenville, South Carolina
9. Cincinnati, Ohio
10. Columbus, Ohio
Just because your city is rated unhealthy, you are still in charge of your own behavior and habits. But it’s a lot more difficult if you are surrounded by negative social norms and influences. Numerous studies have shown that eating and exercise habits of your family and friends can greatly affect your own choices.
Rates of obesity, tobacco and alcohol use are higher in virtually every city in the bottom ten, which also leads to higher than average blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Most Americans don’t vary all that much from their chronological age however you calculate a so-called “real age.” But if you make an effort to practice good habits, your age based on health standards can be much younger. Conversely, bad behavior make you old before your time. Some obese 50-year-old smokers have so harmed their cholesterol and blood sugar levels that they register 30 and even 35 years older than the age on their driver’s licenses, according to Real Age experts.
The good news: there are plenty of people in the survey who could get the senior discount anywhere who measure 10 to 15 years younger thanks to a healthy diet, exercise and other healthy behaviors.
If you would like to take part in Real Age’s ongoing measurement and calculate your real age, based on the site’s formula, you need your latest blood pressure and cholesterol numbers. Then you can go to the test here.
When you have your results, share them with us, your reaction and your best tips for maintaining good health here on LifeCycles at Communities @Washington Times.
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!