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07.17.11

20 Longest-Living Cities

Recent research suggests the obesity epidemic may mean shorter lives. The Daily Beast finds the 20 American cities, from Austin to Oakland, where citizens defy Father Time.

Looking for the fountain of youth? It’s not in Florida, as the legend of Ponce de Leon would have it, or in the rejuvenating waters of Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. The fountain of youth is much easier to find, and it starts right at home: Simply avoid the bad-health trifecta of smoking, alcohol or drug abuse, and poor diet.

Thankfully, tobacco use is declining (PDF) and alcohol and drug abuse awareness is up, but the prevalence of foods high in fat and salt remains a serious risk to maintaining a long and healthy life.  

The obesity epidemic isn’t mere hype from first lady Michelle Obama. It could mean that young people today have shorter lifespans than previous generations, and that health-care costs in coming decades could be much higher than anticipated, according to a recent study out of Utah State University, the University of Illinois, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

“These are not trivial issues without major health and economic consequences for the nation,” said Illinois’ S. Jay Olshansky. “They are profound. An entire generation of children is in trouble. It’s a problem that can be fixed, but first we have to know the problem exists.”

That got us thinking: Do some regions of the country seem to have the whole fountain of youth thing figured out? To identify America’s Longest Living Cities, we looked at a decade’s worth of lifespan data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, equally weighting the average male and female life expectancies over this 10-year period. While the data do show a few surprises, many of the cities in our top 20 are concentrated on the sunny West Coast, with the highest concentration in California. In fact, East Coasters may want to take note: Only two Northeast cities made our list.

Click here to find out America’s Longest Living Cities