The 10 Best Cities for Heart Health in America

Heart disease is a leading killer of Americans. Maintaining your heart health is one of the best ways to stay healthy, happy, and live a long life. There’s lots of research available on how to maintain a healthy heart. Some folks choose to follow it, while others—not so much.

While we might not know why folks choose their paths, we can look at patterns and see where it’s happening. In this post, we ranked the heart health of the top 50 most populous US cities in America using five heart-healthy categories:

Heart Health Data Analyzed:

The obesity rate – Obesity is strongly associated with cardiovascular disease risk and heart disease. The lower the obesity rate in a city, the more heart-healthy it is.

Percentage of people who bike or walk to work – Sitting in a car or a bus during your work commute is time without exercise in addition to sitting at your cubicle all day long, both of which contributes to a sedentary lifestyle. Cities where more people walk or bike to work are doing their hearts a favor.

Percentage of people who smoke – Smoking tobacco products greatly increases the risk for heart disease, heart attack, COPD, and stroke (among other health problems). Fewer smokers = a heart-healthier city.

Number of gyms per capita – A higher number of gyms in a city is a sign that there are more people looking for a place to work out, justifying the expansion of gyms. The number of gyms in a city is divided by the population to compare across different population sizes.

Number of fast food restaurants – This is just like the number of gyms criteria, but with the opposite effect. The more fast food restaurants available to a city’s citizens, the more likely people are to stop in and get a quick, cheap, heart unhealthy meal. This number is also divided by the population in each respective city.

Data Sources:

  • The American Fitness Index
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Gallup-Healthways
  • The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institutes – Cardiovascular Health Study
  • Bike Walk Alliance
  • The United States Census Bureau – American Fact Finder

Ranking Methodology:

Cities were given a score from 1 to 50 (higher scores were better for each category). Each category score was added across the five groups to reach a total heart health rank. The 50 most populous cities in the US were then placed in numerical order to reveal the top heart-healthiest cities in America.

The top 10 heart-healthiest cities in America are:

10. Portland, Oregon

portland

Portland comes in at #10 on the list through fairly low rates of obesity and a high percentage of people who bike or walk to work. Portland is doing some great work in building and maintaining their bikeway network and the residents seem to be taking advantage of this heart-healthy opportunity.

9. San Diego, California

Photo from Flickr Creative Commons

San Diego has the second lowest percentage of smokers of the cities on our list. This is probably due to strict anti-smoking laws and public education programs. San Diego led the way in banning smoking in indoor establishments and continues to be a national leader in heart health.

8. Seattle, Washington

Photo from Flickr Creative Commons

While Seattle has reputation for rainy weather, that doesn’t stop its citizens from walking and biking to work. Seattle also boasts the second highest number of gyms per resident of any city in our ranking. So when it is raining, people living in heart-healthy Seattle can still get their cardio. Seattle would have ranked even higher if they didn’t have the fourth highest number of fast food places per person.

7. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Photo from Flickr Creative Commons

Colorado Springs was a surprising member of our top 10 ranking. The city did not score in the top 10 of any category, but made a strong showing in most of them. Colorado Springs is a great place to be outdoors with high temps not too high and low temps not too low. Colorado Springs also beat Denver, a city that barely cracked the top 20 on our list.

6. Boston, Massachusetts

Photo from Flickr Creative Commons

Boston ranked near the top of the list in lowest obesity rates, highest density of gyms, and numbers of people walking or biking to work. The high number of fast food restaurants is what kept them from moving higher on the list. Still, Boston was one of only two East Coast cities to make the top ten, and for that, we congratulate Boston.

5. Sacramento, California

Photo from Flickr Creative Commons

The capital of California is a heart healthy city, indeed. It has relatively few smokers and few fast food joints. When you consider the number of Sacramento citizens who also walk and bike to work, this capital is a leader in our books.

4. San Jose, California

Photo from Flickr Creative Commons

The home of Silicon Valley is nearly the paragon of heart health. San Jose has the fewest number of smokers of any city on our list. It also has one of the lowest obesity rates in the country and the city has managed to keep out most of the fast food restaurants. What keeps San Jose from being number 1? Not enough gyms! Are people getting all of their exercise playing foosball and air-hockey at their tech companies?

3. New York City, New York

Photo from Flickr Creative Commons

The Big Apple has managed to keep the doctor away—or at least fast food restaurants. But what really sets New York apart on our heart healthy list is that nearly everyone walks or bikes to work (have you ever tried to drive a car in Manhattan?). New York City tops the list in the walking or biking to work category. It is also the highest ranked East Coast city on our list.

2. San Francisco, California

Photo from Flickr Creative Commons

San Francisco is number 2 on our list because they have some of the lowest rates of obesity and smoking with the highest numbers of walkers, bicyclers, and gyms. Unfortunately, the city that loves their Golden Gate also loves their golden arches—they have the sixth highest density of fast food restaurants in the country.

1. Oakland, California

Photo from Flickr Creative Commons

The city that usually lives in San Francisco’s shadow has bested the city on our list. In fact, Oakland beat out all other big cities in the US. Oakland dominated our rankings by scoring 19 points higher than second place. The city boasts the lowest obesity rate, the second most walker/bikers and, and second fewest number of fast food restaurants. Add in an extremely low rate of smoking and Oakland, California is the most heart-healthy city in America!

Best Cities for Heart Health Chart

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As Seen On: American College of Cardiology, U.S.News, JAMA, Circulation Research, The Lancet