Central Rockies residents are among the nation’s best for life expectancy
Ryan Summerlin May 28, 2014
Highest Life Expectancies For Women (National average: 80)
Many places were tied with a life expectancy of 84 years.
Marin, California: 85
San Mateo, California: 84
Santa Clara, California: 84
Gunnison, Colorado: 84
Pitkin, Colorado: 84
Douglas, Colorado: 84
Collier, Florida: 84
Honolulu, Hawaii: 84
Fairfax, Virginia: 84
Loudoun, Virginia: 84
Montgomery, Maryland: 84
Bergen, New Jersey: 84
Westchester, New York: 84
Los Alamos, New Mexico: 84
Wayne, Nebraska: 84
Cedar, Nebraska: 84
Stearns, Minnesota: 84
Winneshiek, Iowa: 84
Sioux, Iowa: 84
Lincoln, South Dakota: 84
Source: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation
Highest Life Expectancies For Men (National average: 76)
Gunnison, Colorado: 82
Pitkin, Colorado: 82
Marin, California: 81
Fairfax, Virginia: 81
Loudoun, Virginia: 81
Montgomery, Maryland: 81
Eagle, Colorado: 81
Douglas, Colorado: 81
Summit, Colorado: 81
Blaine, Idaho: 81
Nine ways to live longer
1. Eat less: In a 2008 study, St. Louis University researchers found that limiting calories lowered production of T3, a thyroid hormone that slows metabolism. T3 also speeds up the aging process.
2. More sex: Satisfying sex two to three times per week can add as many as three years to your life and can sometimes burn as many calories as running for 30 minutes. And really, which would you rather do?
3. Less TV: A 2010 study followed 8,800 adults with no history of heart disease for more than six years. Compared to those who watched less than two hours of TV per day, people who watched four hours or more were 80 percent more likely to die from heart disease and 46 percent more likely to die from any cause. All told, 284 people died during the study.
4. Less loneliness: Your heart disease risk goes up without a network of friends and family. Loneliness can be just as dangerous as high cholesterol or smoking. It poses the greatest risk for the elderly, who are also prone to depression.
5. More sunscreen: Too much sun can cause skin cancer, which will kill you.
6. Less drinking: A 2010 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology linked light drinking to significant heart benefits. Light drinking is one drink a day for women and two for men.
7. More fruits and veggies: Fruits and veggies packed with fiber and vitamins can lower your risk of heart disease by 76 percent and may even play a role in decreasing your risk of breast cancer.
8. More exercise: A 2008 study found that regular high-intensity exercise, such as running, can add up to four years to your life. It also improves your heart and speeds your metabolism.
9. No smoking: A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that women who quit smoking by age 35 add roughly six to eight years to their lives.
Source: Centers for Disease Control
Summit County is one of five Colorado counties with the country’s highest life expectancy.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle ranked the nation’s top counties for life expectancy and Summit County was ninth. Gunnison County led the country, followed closely by Pitkin County. Douglas County was eighth and Eagle County was seventh.
In places like Eagle, Gunnison, Pitkin and Summit counties, websites are packed with pictures of people hiking, skiing and biking — stuff we tend to do more than people in other places. We’re home to two national forests, seven national wilderness areas and countless hiking and biking trails.
“There’s no question that high rates of physical activity (are) a common theme throughout Colorado counties that also have high life expectancy,” said Dr. Ali Mokdad, a professor of global health at IHME.
Gunnison County posts the second-highest life expectancy for American males and the seventh highest for females among all U.S. counties.
It also helps to have clean air, clean water and access to good recreational opportunities.
HELPING LOCALS LIVE LONGER
Carly Rietmann runs Eagle County’s Healthy Aging program.
Lots of things contribute to longevity, and all kinds of ideas are floating around, some more realistic than others.
Some studies consider the effects of longevity at higher altitude, but there’s no conclusive data that there’s a correlation, Rietmann said.
Mostly it’s healthy living, she said.
Staying active helps you live longer. So does nutrition and getting together with friends, Rietmann said.
Toward that end, Eagle County’s Healthy Aging program helps local seniors with anything from transportation to meals to exercise classes.
“The goal is to link people to the outside resources they need to thrive,” Rietmann said.
The program tries to keep up with local seniors at three sites: Eagle, Minturn and El Jebel. They get people together, make sure they’re well fed and have a few laughs.
They also run the home delivery program in Eagle County. That helps people stay in their homes longer than they normally would.
A new program is Well and Wise. It helps seniors learn to prevent falls and chronic disease self management. It’s a partnership between Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin counties.
“It has given us the ability to train community instructors to go into the community to teach these balance classes. It helps people set some goals in conjunction with physicians to help them make changes to help themselves,” Rietmann said.
FAIRFAX TOPS THE LIST
The average American lives 78.7 years, but that varies depending on gender, race, income and the way you live, including smoking habits and other factors.
For men, Fairfax County, Virginia, tops the list of U.S. counties for life expectancy and is No. 5 for females. The county has the nation’s largest concentration of tech jobs, and the median household income is nearly double the state average.
Fairfax also has higher rates of exercise and lower-than-average obesity rates, IHME said.
Only a few miles down the road in McDowell County, West Virginia, the life span for men is 64 years and 9 months and 73 years for women, the lowest in the nation.