Stroke rates for younger adults are on the rise. But in Portland, fewer females die from the scary brain attacks than in most other U.S. cities.
Their secret might lie on their plates, which are typically loaded with produce. Research shows that noshing eight or more daily servings of fruits and veggies could decrease stroke risk by 30 percent. The fresh fare is packed with fiber and antioxidants and helps fight high cholesterol and clogged arteries, two factors that contribute to stroke.
"I tell my patients to eat mostly whole grains, fresh fruits, and veggies," says Jane Morris, M.D., an associate medical director at the Neuroscience Institute of Maine Medical Center. Add some tomatoes, grapefruit, and watermelon to your diet. They are rich in a phytonutrient called lycopene that one study found may cut stroke risk.
Take it from the women of Portland, who are also some of the country's least obese: You'll live longer and look better.
Work Out Cancer: Austin, Texas
Sure, sweating is just all-around good for you. But as Austin's women prove, intense exercise sessions can help stamp out the big C.
Fewer women die of cancer in Austin than in almost any other locale, possibly because they tend to hit the gym (or trail, or weights) hard at least three days a week. Vigorous exercise (think rapid breathing and increased heart rate) can power up the immune system and help prevent the development of cancer-causing cells, says oncologist and hematologist Jane Chawla, M.D., of Texas Oncology-Austin Central.
The American Cancer Society advises women to get in at least 75 minutes of tough workouts a week; doing more could yield even better cancer-fighting benefits.
Try some high-intensity interval training: After warming up for three to five minutes, alternate one minute of all-out, fast-paced running or biking with one minute at slow recovery pace; repeat six to eight times, then cool down for three to five minutes. (Are you ready for a challenge? If you can run 3 miles, You Can Run A Half-Marathon. Just follow our 10-week training plan.)
Find Your Purpose: Burlington, Vt.
Healthy living isn't just about exercise and nutrition; feeling that you have a sense of purpose is also essential to your well-being.
Burlington women report having lots of meaning (and less stress overall) in their lives, thanks, in part, to the fact that they're almost all employed; the city has the lowest jobless rate -- 3.5 percent -- of any place in our top 10.
"Jobs provide structure and routine in our lives -- i.e., a reason to get up in the morning -- which contributes to a sense of meaning," says local psychologist Kate Longmald, Ph.D. "And working for something you really care about makes you feel like your life matters."
Of course, not every city's economy is so robust, but you can still suss out a sense of purpose via volunteering or getting creative. Learning a new skill (painting, speaking a foreign language, playing a musical instrument) can parallel the energy-amping, purpose-enhancing effect of a satisfying job, says Longmald.
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