Healthcare Economy

America's Most (and Least) Healthy Cities

America’s Healthiest Cities

10. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.
> Physical Health Index: 79.7
> Obesity rate: 22.2% (26th lowest)
> Blood pressure: 26.7% (47th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 8.4% (4th lowest)

Washington was one of the healthiest metro areas in the nation. Less than 18% of respondents reported health problems that prevented them from participating in age-appropriate activities, compared with more than 22% of Americans who reported such health problems. Like residents in a number of the healthiest metro areas, Washington-area residents were relatively wealthy and had especially high rates of educational attainment. A typical household earned $88,233 in 2012, more than all but one other metro area. Nearly half of adults living in the region had completed at least a bachelor’s degree that year, also among the best rates nationwide. High incomes and a well-educated population likely contributed to healthy behaviors and relatively few health concerns. Less than 15% of respondents said they smoked regularly, one of the lower smoking rates in the nation.

9. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif.
> Physical Health Index: 79.7
> Obesity rate: 19.7% (11th lowest)
> Blood pressure: 24.9% (26th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.9% (51st lowest)

Residents of the San Francisco metro area were among the nation’s most likely to practice healthy behaviors that can promote good health outcomes. Nearly 87% of respondents said they did not smoke, the fifth highest rate in the nation. Also, more than 70.6% of respondents told Gallup they had eaten healthy all day within the past day, and nearly 63% stated they had had regularly eaten fruits and vegetables. Both were among the highest rates in the nation. As a result, residents were able to avoid a number of serious health problems. For example, relatively few respondents had been told by a doctor that they had high blood pressure or cholesterol. Also, less than 20% of respondents surveyed were obese, among the lowest rates in the nation. By keeping their cholesterol, blood pressure and weight under control, residents were also able to avoid more serious consequences. Respondents were less likely than Americans in most metro areas to indicate they had previously suffered a heart attack or that they were diabetic.

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8. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn.-Wis.
> Physical Health Index: 79.8
> Obesity rate: 22.7% (31st lowest)
> Blood pressure: 22.7% (9th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 10.7% (24th lowest)

Residents of the Twin Cities area were among the most likely to say they had access to basic needs that could promote good health. More than 95% of respondents said they had a safe place to exercise, and more than 90% said they had health insurance, both among the highest rates in the nation. Respondents’ good health also gave them enough energy to get things done, and a large number noted that their health did not prevent them from participating in their usual activities. Residents from the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area were quite wealthy, and therefore likely better able to afford medicine, healthy food and medical care. Median household income was more than $66,000 in 2012, among the highest in the nation, and just 10.7% of people lived below the poverty line, versus almost 16% nationwide.

7. Denver-Aurora, Colo.
> Physical Health Index: 79.8
> Obesity rate: 19.3% (6th lowest)
> Blood pressure: 22.2% (7th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 12.7% (tied for 66th lowest)

A low obesity rate was one major reason the Denver metro area was one of the nation’s healthiest. Less than one in five Denver-area residents were considered obese, considerably lower than the more than one in four of all Americans. According to a recent article from The Guardian, Denver is a “fitness mecca,” with a well-established biking infrastructure and exercise culture. Unsurprisingly, residents of the Denver area were more likely than the vast majority of Americans to exercise on a regular basis, with more than 57% reporting 30-minute exercise sessions at least three times weekly. Regular exercise cannot only limit obesity, but also promotes overall physical health. The region also had one of America’s lowest poverty rates, with less than 13% living under the poverty line. Poverty is linked to poor health outcomes because residents with low incomes often lack health education and the resources needed to afford healthy food, medicine and care service.

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6. Lafayette, La.
> Physical Health Index: 79.9
> Obesity rate: 28.1% (66th highest)
> Blood pressure: 28.8% (84th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 17.9% (127th highest)

The Lafayette metro area had some of the nation’s healthiest residents despite their unhealthy choices. Just 43.4% of respondents said they exercised regularly, the worst rate in the nation. People in Lafayette were also less likely than Americans nationwide to eat healthy foods and more likely to smoke. Despite their behaviors, residents were among the most likely Americans to report feeling well-rested and to say they were able to participate in age-appropriate activities. Only 9.2% of respondents had asthma, among the lowest rates in the nation. Still, the high rate of smoking may pose problems for residents who are asthmatic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies tobacco smoke as one of the leading triggers for asthma attacks.

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