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Where in the World Is Good Health Waiting for You

By Martha Michael

Your Climate Can Change

Everyone wants to believe it’s a beautiful day in their neighborhood and some people take pride in their place on the map. But you may be blissfully unaware of threats to your health and wellness based on where you live and habits in your household.

Healthiest Countries

When it comes to countries with the highest life expectancy, the United States didn’t even make the top 10, according to an article by MoveHub. Citing data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, reports show the following countries with the highest average life expectancy.

Japan (84.2 years) - The Japanese diet has long been credited with maintaining the highest life expectancy in the world. In addition to residents eating a lot of fish and vegetables instead of red meat, the country’s culture values mental well-being. Islands in Southern Japan such as Okinawa have fewer cases of dementia, cancer, and heart disease than other parts of the world.

Switzerland (83.8 years) - You can’t look to the Swiss diet for answers for this high-ranking country, as they eat a lot of sausage, cheese, bread, and chocolate. But its citizens have active lifestyles and only about 7 percent of residents claim they work long hours. Much of their time is spent hiking and skiing, and they maintain close ties to their communities.

Spain (83.5 years) - Some predictions put Spain at the top of the list of life expectancy by 2040. Their diet consists of fish, vegetables, fruits, and nuts, which contribute to less inflammation and fewer cases of diabetes. The Spanish are family-oriented and stay connected to their communities as well.

Italy (83.4 years) - Also benefiting from a Mediterranean diet, Italians have an easy pace of life as well, which means they spend time outdoors and in leisure activities with family. Sardinia has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, perhaps due to frequent walking and access to Cannonau wine, which has nearly three times more flavonoids than other wines, a chemical that clears toxins from your arteries.

Israel (82.9 years) - Rates of cancer, stroke, diabetes, and heart disease are lower in Israel than almost anywhere in the world. With the same healthy diet as other Mediterranean countries, Israelis also consume little alcohol. Tightly knit families provide healthy support and compulsory army service means everyone has training in physical fitness.

Others on the top 10 list of countries with highest life expectancies include:

  • Iceland (82.9 years)
  • Norway (82.8 years)
  • France (82.8 years)
  • Australia (82.8 years)
  • Korea (82.7 years)

Average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78.8 years.

Urban Suburban Divide

Among the most admirable aspects of life in America are advantages that promote better health practices. For instance, the U.S. has more than 400 national park sites where families travel for hiking and leisure activities in natural settings. The climate in parts of the country produce dairy products, fruits, and nuts, providing nutritional balance to its citizens, in addition to areas across the globe.

A closer look, however, shows a disparity in access to health resources among residents in different parts of the U.S. Higher crime in metropolitan areas threatens the safety of residents there, but other factors compromise the health of rural residents more than those in urban settings.

Data from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, or CHR, points out a contrast between the life expectancy in metropolitan areas of the United States and some of their rural counterparts. In California’s most populated county of Los Angeles, the life expectancy is 82.4 years, while Fresno County residents can expect to live to 78.9 on average. Miami-Dade in Florida has a life expectancy of 82.4, but the rural county of Jackson is just 74.4 years. In New York’s Manhattan, the average resident lives to 85.3 while those in Niagara have a life expectancy of 78.1.

An article by USA Today says that 23 of the 40 cities where Americans live the longest are in the West. Their list includes San Jose, Calif. with an average life expectancy of 84.5 years and Boulder, Colo. with 82.9 years.

A report by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute says that rural areas report fair to poor physical and mental health, a level that’s almost one and a half times worse than that of urban Americans. A larger proportion of people living in small towns experience chronic conditions including:

  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Hypertension
  • Arthritis
  • Heart problems
  • COPD
  • Mental disorders

The university’s analysis concludes that levels of risky health behaviors between the two groups provide insight into its findings. Twenty-six percent of rural adults are smokers while 23 percent of urban dwellers smoke. People in small towns are more likely to be obese and the numbers that report consuming an average of five or more drinks per day is higher than those in the city.

Preventative health practices such as regular chiropractic visits and medical screening have an impact on wellness and life expectancy. Adults in metropolitan areas are more likely to take those steps than their rural counterparts.

While 50 percent of urban adults have had a blood stool test for colorectal cancer, just 42 percent of those in small towns report doing so. Also, 87 percent of men in cities aged 50 and older have had a prostate exam compared to 82 percent in rural areas.

The disparity is partly due to the smaller number of healthcare providers in rural areas. It makes sense that fewer people in small towns have dental care than metropolitan residents, considering there are only 29 dentists per 100,000 residents in provincial areas while cities have 61 dentists per 100,000 residents.

Family Lifestyle Impact

You don’t have to move to a different state or a foreign country to improve your lifespan or maintain better health as you age. Some changes may occur closer to home.

Smoking is one of the most destructive habits to your overall wellness. If you live with a smoker, see if you can restrict tobacco use to the outdoors. For apartment dwellers suffering from secondhand smoke inhalation, it may mean it’s time to consider a move.

Every family has a diet and exercise regimen that either promotes or compromises your health. If you learned to cook with hydrogenated oils, explore recipes using olive oil or other products containing unsaturated fats.

You can improve your health status by turning around habits you may have acquired from your family of origin. An article by the Mayo Clinic offers a list of healthy behaviors:

  • Get exercise
  • Eliminate addictions
  • Spend time with loved ones
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve your sleep patterns

A discussion about the climate where you live and its effect on your health is more than a conversation about the weather. You don’t have to conform to your country’s fast-food fanaticism, and you can defy the sedentary lifestyle of your housemates. You may even choose to start the new year with bigger changes, such as deciding who you want to be your neighbor.

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