Special Report

Cities With the Lowest Risk of Heart Attack

University of Florida Auditorium and Century tower, Gainesville, Florida
Source: Thinkstock

9. Gainesville, FL
> Pct. who have had a heart attack: 2.1%
> Obesity rate: 25.2%
> Smoking rate: 18.3%
> Median household income: $46,949

Some metropolitan areas in Florida report very high incidence of heart attack, while others report very low incidence. In North Port and Deltona metro areas, at least 7% of adults report having had a heart attack, one of the higher rates of all the nation’s metro areas. Meanwhile, just 2.1% of Gainesville residents report the same, lower than in all but a handful of U.S. metropolitan areas.

People living in poverty are at greater risk of heart disease and other potentially preventable conditions as they are less likely to have access to nutritious food, exercise opportunities, and quality health care. Despite this, Gainesville has one of the higher poverty rates in the country, at 21.9%, significantly higher than the national rate of 14.7%.

San Luis Obispo County, California
Source: Thinkstock

8. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA
> Pct. who have had a heart attack: 2.1%
> Obesity rate: 23.9%
> Smoking rate: 12.4%
> Median household income: $62,648

Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most effective ways to lower the risk of heart disease. Less than 25% of adults living in the San Luis Obispo area are obese, one of the lowest proportions in the United States. The percentage of adults with no leisure time to exercise is greater than 20% in the majority of metro areas surveyed by Gallup. In the San Luis area, however, 15% of residents report no leisure time for exercise — also one of the lower shares nationwide.

Financial well-being is closely tied with favorable health outcomes. When it comes to costly medical bills, the two can even be directly related. So, as is generally the case, San Luis Obispo area residents, who are some of the least likely to suffer from a heart attack, are also relatively wealthy. The typical household earns $62,648 a year, higher than the national median income of $55,772 a year.

Visalia, California
Source: Thinkstock

7. Visalia-Porterville, CA
> Pct. who have had a heart attack: 2.0%
> Obesity rate: 33.2%
> Smoking rate: 15.4%
> Median household income: $42,413

Being obese and smoking can increase the risk of heart problems. The Visalia area has nearly the lowest incidence of heart attack of U.S. metro areas. But while the metro’s smoking rate of 15.4% is below average, its obesity rate of 33.2% is high compared with most major metropolitan areas, and particularly high compared to most cities with low heart attack rates.

Apart from its low heart attack incidence, several social and economic factors in the Visalia-Porterville metro area are uncharacteristically poor compared with healthy communities. For instance, just 14.2% of adults have a college degree, half the national percentage, and 27.6% of people live in poverty, one of the highest poverty rates nationally.