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Posted: May 28, 2008

West is Best for Women's Heart Health, South and Midwest Worst

With a few exceptions here and there, the best cities for women wanting to keep their hearts healthiest are in the West, while the worst cities for heart-health are generally in the South and Midwest, according to a new American Heart Association survey.
The association identified Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco and their environs as the three best metropolitan areas for women to encounter the fewest heart-related health challenges.
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Meanwhile, women seem to fare worst with their heart health in Southern and Midwestern metro areas, led by Nashville, Tennessee, St. Louis and Detroit.
(A complete list of metro area rankings, grouped by populations, appears at the end of this article.)
"It's fair to say that if you live in the least heart-healthy cities, there's a chance that you'll have a high (likelihood) of heart disease and stroke and may have a shortened lifespan," said Dr. Jennifer Mieres, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association and director of nuclear cardiology at the New York University School of Medicine.
Women in general have a serious issue with heart health, and heart disease now ranks as the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. In fact, cardiovascular disease accounts for the death of more American women each year than the next five most common causes of female death combined. In all, the AHA believes a third of the adult female population currently suffers from some degree of heart problem.
As a part of its campaign to improve women’s heart health and awareness, the AHA commissioned Sperling's BestPlaces, which ranks the best places to live in the United States, to analyze 22 factors affecting women's heart health, including rates of cardiovascular mortality, high blood pressure, exercise, and smoking, and compare them in the 200 largest US metro areas. The result was compiled into the best- and worst-city rankings.
The review, which also looked at factors like stress levels and the numbers of people who commute by bicycle or on foot, encompassed the 200 largest metropolitan areas in the country.
In addition to the metropolitan area rankings, the AHA broke out findings into lifestyle subsets to aid in their working with women to maintain a healthy heart. For example, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Boston and Phoenix were found to have the lowest heart-disease mortality rates for women, while women in San Francisco, Denver and Los Angeles are the thinnest. Also, women in San Francisco, San Diego and Washington, D.C., are the healthiest eaters, while those in Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Francisco smoke the least.
In addition, the AHA said women in Cleveland, Columbus, Ohio, and San Antonio, Texas, are among the most overweight in the country, and the highest concentration of women smokers was found in Cincinnati, Nashville and Indianapolis. What’s more, women eat the least healthy food in St. Louis, Kansas City, Kansas, and Milwaukee.
There are also some interesting coincidences that line up with these findings, AHA’s Mieres said. For example, the least heart-healthy cities seem to share an abundance of fast-food restaurants, a higher ratio of drivers versus people who walk, and overall high smoking rates.
Mieres said these “unhealthy” cities also appear to have fewer teaching hospitals and fewer doctors per capita. "When you look at the middle of the country and the South, they are about a decade or five years behind in getting the message that simple changes in diet and activity can have an impact," she said.
Before jumping to a conclusion that women should pack up the family and relocate to a “healthy” city, Mieres reminded that environment alone cannot predict a healthy future. "What we're trying to do is to get women across the country to recognize that whether or not you live in a heart-friendly city, heart disease can be prevented," Mieres emphasized.
Here are the AHA rankings:
The Top 10 heart-friendly major metro areas for women:  
  1. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota
  2. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria (Va.), District of Columbia
  3. San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland, California
  4. Denver-Aurora, Colorado
  5. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Massachusetts
  6. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington
  7. Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Oregon
  8. San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, California
  9. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, California
  10. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona 
The Bottom 10 heart-friendly major metro areas for women:  
  1. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro, Tennessee
  2. St. Louis, Missouri
  3. Detroit-Warren-Livonia, Michigan
  4. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  5. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas
  6. Columbus, Ohio
  7. Cincinnati-Middletown, Ohio
  8. Las Vegas-Paradise, Nevada
  9. Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, Ohio
  10. Indianapolis, Indiana 
The Top 5 heart-friendly mid-sized metros: 
  1. Salt Lake City, Utah
  2. Honolulu, Hawaii
  3. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  4. Rochester, New York
  5. Albuquerque, New Mexico
The Bottom 5 heart-friendly mid-sized metros: 
  1. Birmingham-Hoover, Alabama
  2. Lakeland, Florida
  3. Tulsa, Oklahoma
  4. Louisville, Kentucky
  5. Toledo, Ohio 
Other Metros, Top 5 Heart-Friendly Cities: 
  1. Boulder, Colorado
  2. Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, Maine
  3. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, California
  4. Fort Collins-Loveland, Colorado
  5. Ann Arbor, Michigan 
Other Metros, Least Heart-Friendly Cities: 
  1. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts
  2. Bellingham, Washington
  3. Provo-Orem, Utah
  4. Charlottesville, Virginia
  5. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California

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