Special Report

Cities With the Lowest Risk of Heart Attack

Tallahassee, Florida
Source: Thinkstock

3. Tallahassee, FL
> Pct. who have had a heart attack: 1.5%
> Obesity rate: 31.2%
> Smoking rate: 18.4%
> Median household income: $44,295

Because high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity all increase the risk of heart disease, communities where these conditions and behaviors are common tend to also have a higher incidence of heart attack. In Tallahassee, however, 30.8% of adults report high blood pressure, 18.4% of adults smoke, and 31.2% are obese — each on the higher end among U.S. metros in general and exceptionally high compared with metros on this list.

Yet Tallahassee residents are some of the least likely to have suffered from a heart attack. The low incidence of high cholesterol in the city, at less than 20% of adults, could partially explain the low heart attack incidence. Like other communities with low heart attack incidence, Tallahassee residents are also relatively well educated. More than 35% of adults have at least a college degree, higher than the corresponding national educational attainment rate of just over 30%.

Ann Arbor, Michigan
Source: Thinkstock

2. Ann Arbor, MI
> Pct. who have had a heart attack: 1.3% (tied)
> Obesity rate: 28.9%
> Smoking rate: 14.3%
> Median household income: $61,977

With just 1.3% of adults reporting a history of heart attack, Ann Arbor is tied with Boulder, Colorado for having the lowest incidence of heart attack in the nation. The population of communities with low incidence of heart attack typically also report low rates of conditions and behaviors that lead to heart problems. Ann Arbor is no exception. Of adults in the area, 22% have high blood pressure, 18% have high cholesterol, and just 7.4% have diabetes, each among the lowest levels in the country. Because diabetes causes sugar to build up in the blood, diabetics are considerably more vulnerable to heart attacks compared to people without diabetes.

Flatirons Boulder, Colorado
Source: Thinkstock

1. Boulder, CO
> Pct. who have had a heart attack: 1.3% (tied)
> Obesity rate: 16.4%
> Smoking rate: 10.9%
> Median household income: $72,009

With healthy eating and exercise habits, the risk of heart attack can be lowered substantially. Such healthy behaviors among Boulder residents likely explain the city’s 1.3% incidence of heart attack among adults, tied with Ann Arbor, Michigan for the lowest in the nation. Just 9.4% of adults in Boulder report having no leisure time for physical activity, the lowest percentage of any U.S. metro area and the only city in the country where fewer than one in every 10 adults exercise so little. Avoiding tobacco and staying within the range of a healthy body size decreases the risk of heart disease, and this appears to be especially the case in Boulder. The city’s smoking and obesity rates of 10.9% and 16.4% respectively are among the lowest of any U.S. metro.

A college degree helps ensure a decent wage — income for medical expenses, healthier lifestyles, alleviating stress caused by financial hardship, and more. Education is also often directly related to healthy choices that lower the incidence of heart disease. More than 60% of Boulder adults have at least a college degree, the highest share in the nation.