News flash! Feeling fit and fabulous might be a matter of… zip code. To find out which towns make the healthy list, we teamed up with Men's Health in our fourth annual survey of how 100 cities rank in more than 30 categories--from obesity and breast cancer rates to commuting times and hours spent working out.
If your city's on top, go ahead and brag. If it falls on our worst list (ouch--sorry, Birmingham), don't worry: You can help turn around your region's reputation by following these tips.
Raleigh, North Carolina
What does it take to be number one? A smart dose of prevention--something the women of healthiest-overall-city Raleigh know well. A whopping 90 percent of them have perfect Pap smear timing (the American Cancer Society recommends that women over 30 who have had three normal Pap tests in a row get one every three years), and 81 percent of those over 40 stay on track with regular mammograms. Both tests can save lives by detecting cancers early. "It's very important to be proactive about preventive measures that have proven benefits," says Dr. Andrew Berchuck, director of gynecological oncology at Duke University Medical Center. Ask your doctor how often you should be screened, and while you're at it, get a physical (yes, even if you feel totally fine).
Give some people 300-plus days of sun a year and they might spend it lounging on the beach. Not these women, who rank second in our survey for overall fitness as well as for the number of women who run, swim, or lift weights. Sure, all that sweat can lead to a tight, toned body; it can also lead to top-notch health. Moderate exercise enhances the immune system and can strengthen your respiratory muscles, says Peggy Plato, Ph.D., an associate professor of kinesiology at San Jose State University. Accordingly, this city's gals have a very low death rate from chronic lower-respiratory disease (i.e., lung problems, a major female threat). If the view from your window is more snowy than sunny, strap on some cross-country skis or snowshoes (exercising with either scorches 490 calories an hour!) or stay inside and try alternating pushups, squats, and planks with jogging or climbing stairs for 30 minutes five days a week, says Plato.
It may sound New Age-y, but nothing spells long life better than a solid mind-body connection. Case in point: Women in Madison are some of the happiest around. Fewer than 3 percent of them report feeling sad all or most of the time, and less than 2 percent say they feel hopeless. And their life expectancy is over 80. Make like them and bolster your mood, because depression can take a toll on your physical health in the form of infrequent exercise, poor eating habits, and lack of sleep, says neuropsychiatrist Dr. Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain. Create standing dates with your close pals, she advises. "During social interactions, the brain releases the hormones dopamine and oxytocin, both of which combat depression." Better yet, make those plans with upbeat friends--happiness is contagious.
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