Want to Live to 100? Living in One of These 8 U.S. Cities Will Help Healthy Cities – Parade

Hope to blow out 100 birthday candles? I would argue that the biggest impact on how long you live is where you live, says National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner, who has studied the worlds longest-living people in longevity hotspots he calls Blue Zones. Among them: Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; and Nicoya, Costa Rica.

So where in the U.S. can you live to a really ripe old age? You might be surprised.

People in the Blue Zones dont have better discipline or a greater sense of responsibility, says Buettner. They simply live in environments that make healthy lifestyle choices easier, or unavoidable.

Enter your ZIP code into the free Robert Wood Johnson Foundation lifespan calculatorand see.

Some places are better than others at supporting the habits that stretch lifespans. When you can walk to do your errands, youre more likely to be active than if you have to drive to the gym. Living in a community with plenty of neighborhood groups provides a buffer against loneliness, which can shave years off your life. Youre more apt to eat clean and green when farmers markets are nearer than junk-food joints.

What else helps: smart city design (think safe bike lanes, affordable housing), good health care, social opportunities and an economy that sees older workers, entrepreneurs and retirees as an asset, not a drain, says Caroline Servat, co-author of a new Milken Institute report on age-forward communities.

Weve identified eight spots that will help you live long and prosper.

Sure, Cali-beach life is a wellness clich. But theyre not resting on their bikini bottoms here: Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach saw a 17 percent drop in smoking after smoke-free policies began shortly after 2010. Thats the year they joined the Blue Zones Project, which helps cities in California make healthy choices easier for residents. Walking is a big thing: One in four kids walks to school, double the national average, thanks to a new walking school bus program (groups footing it together on safe routes), and older citizens take regular group walks as part of the Blue Zones program.

Check Out:5 Ways to Add Health Wherever You Liveto meet some walkers!

Health props

Its the largest area (population approximately 124,000) to earn Blue Zones Community certification, a mark of healthy-living progress. (Visit the Blue Zones Project to find out how to become a Blue Zones Community.)

Longevity boost

A few years after 100-plus local restaurants and five groceries in the area pledged healthier offerings, the number of overweight residents dropped 15 percent. Thats 1,900 fewer obese people, Buettner says.

Like fellow Colorado mountain townsAspen, Crested Butte and Vailand Jackson Hole, Wyoming, longevity is sky-high in this historic haven near the Copper Mountain and Keystone resort areas. Ski towns draw people who can afford the best health care and prize mental and physical fitness, experts say. But whatever your income, mountain living is code for outdoor motion, whether youre involved in snow sports, fishing, climbing, hiking or shoveling snow.

Health props

Breckenridge (population approximately 5,000) is the seat of Summit County, which has the U.S.s longest life expectancy (86.8 years, compared to the national median of 79). And Colorado is the state with the fewest obese people.

Longevity boost

The 10 million Americans who make their homes above 4,900 feet live one to three years longer than those near sea level. Some experts think lower oxygen levels help heart function. In Breckenridge, at 9,600 feet elevation, youre nearly two miles up.

Big-city benefits (like great health care) without big-city hassles (like bad traffic or bad air) contribute to one of the countrys fittest urban lifestyles. Almost one-fifth of Minneapolis is park land, so theres always a nearby spot for biking, running, walking and mental R&Ror ice skating, fishing and festivals during the cold season. Plant-based eating is made easier with nearly 30 farmers marketsthe most per person in the U.S. outside of Washington, D.C.

Related:Experts Say These Are the 60 Healthiest Cities in America

Health props

Last year alone, Minneapolis (population approximately 432,000) made short lists for healthiest, fittest, bike-friendliest, least-stressed and best access to mental health. Only Hawaii and California have longer life expectancies than the state of Minnesota.

Longevity boost

Local Finnish roots mean lots of saunas, which are linked to better heart health and longevity.

Whats not to love about Naples? The small town (population approximately 22,000) features high-quality health care and loads of leisure pursuits and good-for-you foodall set in a chill backdrop of Gulf of Mexico watersports, golf and sun.

Health props

The Naples-ImmokaleeMarco Island area hit No. 1 in Gallups National Health and Well-Being Index for the past four years. Naples also often tops healthiest eaters lists; who needs sugar when you have white sugar sand beaches to stroll on?

Longevity boost

An unusually high number of Paradise Coast residents say in surveys that theyre low in stress and rich in supportive, loving relationships. Having strong social tiesthere are multiple retirement communities and recreation centers herecan extend lifespan as much as quitting smoking, one research review found.

Maines largest city has just 67,000 people centered on a compact peninsula. Yet its packed with top-notch health care, farm-to-table restaurants and an amenity-rich waterfront downtown made for walking.

Health props

Life expectancy for city dwellers is an impressive 88.7 for women and 86.8 for men.

Longevity boost

Continuing to learn throughout your life seems to build brain reserve, which helps keep old minds younger. In 2001, the University of Southern Maines Osher Lifelong Learning Institute became the first of 124 such programs across the country offering low-cost, non-credit classes of all kinds to 50-plussers.

All the ingredients of a healthy life are here year-round, on land and water, from an above-average number of teams, sports clubs and gyms to fresh, healthy food galore. (Just go easy on the barbecue and grits.)

Related: The Cheaters Guide to Living to 100

Health props

Called one of Americas most walkable cities (population approximately 130,000)especially the scenic downtownits also No. 1 for plant-based eating, with one vegetarian business for every 2,100 people.

Longevity boost

Almost seven in 10 households here have a dog (or many dogs!)which boosts heart health because they lower stress, decrease sitting time and give residents a reason to get up in the morning. Charlestonians walk em in parks, trails and on seven dog-friendly beaches.

Health care is Steel Citys new economic driver, says Nora Super of the Milken Institutes Center for the Future of Aging. Add culture and top-notch education at all ages, downtown parks and trailsand an Age-Friendly Greater Pittsburgh Action Plan focusing on tech, transportation and creative ideas for volunteering.

Health props

Urban areas support longevity because you can access so much, so easilyand Pittsburgh (population approximately 302,000) is the third most livable city in the U.S. (after Honolulu and Atlanta) and 34th worldwide, according to a global research group.

Longevity boost

When the University of California, Irvine studied habits of those over age 90, talking to neighbors ranked high. Community engagement is rich in this citys distinct and tight-knit neighborhoods, more than 90 of them. In the Squirrel Hill area, average life expectancy is a long 86.

College towns tend to be age-friendly magnets, Super saysand this ones a classic. Extra credit for its walkability, first-rate health care (through the University of Iowa Hospitals system), cultural and sports outings, inter-generational activities and a low cost of living.

Health props

Iowa City (population approximately 76,000) has been called Americas least-stressed city, thanks in part to brief commutes (averaging 16 minutes) and shorter-than-average workweeks.

Longevity boost

A low-stress lifestyle means more time for sleep. The sweet spot: seven to eight hours per night; less, or more, is linked to shorter lifespan.

Want to live longer? Try these recipes from Buettners The Blue Zones Kitchen.

Asian-Influenced Heavenly Grain Bowls

Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

Longevity-Boosting One-Pot Lasagna Soup

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Want to Live to 100? Living in One of These 8 U.S. Cities Will Help Healthy Cities - Parade

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