Is your city keeping you young, or making you old before your time? The RealAge 2012 Youngest & Oldest Cities in America report employed RealAge Test results from more than 28 million people to rank America's 50 largest metropolitan areas to uncover the best places to stay young.
"Aging is inevitable, but the rate of aging is not," says RealAge Chief Medical Officer Keith Roach, MD. "Each city ranking is a unique assessment of the healthy lifestyles, or lack of them, in that metro area."
This year, RealAge reviewed two dozen factors that influence a person's RealAge to reveal the best places to stay young. Lifestyle choices have a big impact on a city's age, says RealAge cofounder Michael F. Roizen, M.D. "Cities with the lowest stress are basically the youngest. Stress, smoking, diet, exercise -- all four of those seem to go together." When residents take good care of themselves, they tend to have lower rates for high cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes. And that translates to a younger RealAge.
The top cities and areas to stay young include:
1. San Francisco, CA
Healthy habits earn the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose area the top spot as America's youngest city. Bay Area residents rank first for gobbling fruits and veggies, and second for eating whole grains -- no surprise, since the region gave birth to the local-food movement. They're also best in the nation for not smoking and second best for exercise. All those factors help keep residents' blood pressure, cholesterol, and stress levels healthy.
2. Salt Lake City, UT
Two highlights help earn Salt Lake City-Ogden the second-youngest RealAge in America: The region is the best place for happy marriages and second best for not smoking. Residents' other healthy habits include taking a daily aspirin and keeping an optimistic outlook. Both are good for your heart.
3. San Diego, CA
An ideal climate and Pacific setting make this SoCal city number three. Sun-drenched San Diego is the best city for exercise (no surprise in a place that's home to 80-plus golf courses and where radio stations broadcast daily surf reports). It's also third best for optimism and fourth best for not smoking. A sunny outlook and healthy habits help keep San Diegans' diabetes, blood pressure, and stress levels in check.
4. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
Denizens of this vibrant Midwestern metropolis know how to take care of themselves, and that makes it one of the best places to stay young. Minneapolis-St. Paul is best when it comes to eating whole grains, which helps residents have the best blood pressure, too. It's also second best for low stress, and third best for adequate sleep and vitamin D -- all of which make this a youthful city.
5. Denver, CO
Residents of the Mile High City and its neighbor Boulder rank best in the country for optimism. They're also third best for exercise, thanks to more than 850 miles of off-road trails for cycling, running, and hiking. All that activity helps Denver-Boulder rank as the best place to dodge cholesterol and diabetes, and second-best place for healthy blood pressure.
6. Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC
Home to academic powerhouses, such as Duke University, Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill forms the famous "Research Triangle." That helps foster a lively, optimistic, and socially connected population. This region ranks third for healthy cholesterol and fifth for healthy blood pressure. It's also fifth for strong employment levels.
7. Boston, MA
Home to Harvard and the Boston Marathon, Boston-Worcester-Lawrence combines brains and brawn to land the number seven spot among America's youngest cities. Boston is best for health insurance coverage, which helps residents stay on top of their healthcare. Smart habits, such as exercise and eating plenty of whole grains, fruits, and veggies, also help this Yankee region nab the number two spot for healthiest cholesterol.
8. Austin, TX
Like several of our youngest cities, Austin-San Marcos is a college town. "That's good for a city," says Dr. Roach, "because residents tend to have a good understanding about health." Folks in the capital of Texas can brag about the best employment rate among RealAge cities, which helps foster the lowest stress and second-best optimism in the country.
9. Washington, D.C.
Home to the nation's power brokers, Washington-Baltimore does have residents with a lot of stress. "But they also have a pretty good diet and relatively low smoking rates," says Roach. More importantly, Washington ranks best among RealAge cities for income and a healthy third for employment. Both provide residents solid financial resources to look after their health.
10. Los Angeles, CA
No, it's not plastic surgery that keeps Real Housewives and other residents of Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County young. These SoCal dwellers also maintain plenty of heart-healthy habits, including exercise, eating fruits and veggies, taking aspirin, and not smoking. But there's room for improvement, says Roach. "They're angry, and they have low marital rates."
Other top cities include:
11. Sacramento, CA
12. Hartford, CT
13. New York, NY
14. Seattle, WA
15. Miami, FL
16. Chicago, IL
17. Philadelphia, PA
18. Phoenix, AZ
19. Atlanta, GA
20. Houston, TX
21. Milwaukee, WI
22. Portland, OR
23. Orlando, FL
24. Providence, RI
25. Dallas, TX
Factors in aging
What traits separate the residents of the youngest cities from residents of those that make you older? (Note for you statisticians: RealAge adjusted the data for age, so areas with lots of retirees weren't penalized and college towns didn't get an edge.) They looked closely at 22 factors that slow or speed aging,from diet and exercise to optimism and smoking.
Among your most important stay-young factors: better blood pressure.
Other key factors:
A joyful marriage.
Wedded bliss extends your warranty, making men's RealAge 4.2 years younger; women's, 2.5 years.
Raleigh (sixth-youngest) and Minneapolis (10th-youngest) are great places to enjoy marriage.
Vitamin D-3 is a major nutritional anti-ager that protects against brittle bones, heart attacks, strokes and some cancers.
Some of the youngest cities are far north, including Boston, Minneapolis and Seattle (14th-youngest but No. 1 for D-3) -- meaning residents often don't get enough sunshine to activate their skin's D-3 factory, but they clearly take their vitamin D-3 supplements.
Less sitting, more moving
Regular exercise makes your RealAge almost three years younger.
Not lighting up
The three youngest cities had the lowest smoking rates. Enough said.
What about sex?
Satisfaction between the sheets also makes your RealAge younger. It gave women in Knoxville and men in San Diego a real advantage.
The take-home lesson? Although we've all got room for improvement, we've also all got health strengths that let us live younger than our years. It's really quite simple: If you can read this, you can get younger.