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Salt Lake City is the youngest city in America, according to a list created by RealAge.com, a website that says residents have such healthy lifestyles they have turned back the clock on their aging.
The city has the highest percentage of residents taking a daily aspirin appropriately, and among the most exercising and shunning smoking, the website said in a report released Tuesday.
On average, the physical age of residents in its top 10 cities is at least two years younger than their chronological age, the website said. Half of the top 10 cities are in the West, noted a statement by Keith Roach, chief medical officer of RealAge and a co-creator of its online test, which compares respondents' habits to behaviors advised by medical studies.
"Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's the mountains, but Western cities have adopted active lifestyles that can slow the aging process," Roach said.
Following the Salt Lake City/Ogden metropolitan area in the top five are: San Francisco/Oakland/SanJose, Calif.; Austin, Texas; Denver, Colo.; and Boston, Mass.
Number six is Washington D.C./Baltimore. The rest of the top ten are San Diego, Calif.; Raleigh-Durham/Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.; and Seattle/Tacoma/Bremerton, Wash.
Topping the fastest-aging areas: Knoxville, Tenn. The only Western city in the bottom 10 cities was Las Vegas, Nev.
Why Salt Lake City? As usual, Utah's low smoking rate helped drive Salt Lake City's high placement. Utah was the first state to reach the federal Healthy People 2010 goal of having 12 percent or fewer adults smoking, a factor that routinely helps push it up in various health rankings by health officials, advocacy groups and companies. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the state's predominant religion, advises members against drinking alcohol and smoking.
But such rankings can be misleading, masking serious health disparities based on race and ethnicity, geography, income and other factors. For example, less than 10 percent of Utah adults now smoke, but those in certain Salt Lake valley neighborhoods smoke at rates that match or exceed the national average of 18 percent.
To see The Salt Lake Tribune's ongoing series on health disparities in the state, visit http://www.sltrib.com/topics/healthyforwhom.
The rankings from RealAge are based on a random sampling of 1,000 members who have taken the company's online test in the past three years and said they lived in the Salt Lake City-Ogden metropolitan area. RealAge does not collect ethnicity or racial data and acknowledges its members tend to be more health conscious.
But its income data shows the average member falls in the median American income bracket, Roach said. Its rankings also take into account the demographics of cities, looking not just at average age but the difference between members' calendar ages and their ages as calculated by RealAge's analysis, he said.
Where Salt Lake City is tops. Salt Lake City was not in the top ten for healthiest alcohol use perhaps because the site took a more nuanced view than giving top marks to teetotalers. Drinking alcohol moderately is more associated with a lower risk of heart disease and death than drinking no alcohol at all, Roach noted.
But the Salt Lake City-Ogden metropolitan area made the top 10 on these measures, according to the report.
Aspirin: Number one. For people of the appropriate age and health history, Salt Lake City has the highest percentage of people taking aspirin.
Smoking: Number two, in a near-tie with Los Angeles, which had just a few less smokers, Roach said. The site analyzed how many people smoke, how long they have smoked and how much. It also looked at ex-smokers and exposure to second-hand smoke.
Marital status: Number two, taking into account whether respondents said they were happily married.
Exercise: Number seven, based on personalized exercise recommendations for respondents.
Employment: Number seven, weighing respondents' level of employment and desired level of employment.
Hypertension: Number 10, based on an aggregate number of individuals' blood pressure levels.
RealAge's test was launched in 1999 and more than 27 million people have taken it, the company said. The website includes tips for healthy living, and survey respondents receive a personalized guide. RealAge is a subsidiary of Hearst Magazines.