Want To Live Longer? Move To Aspen

Aspen Shopping (Credit, www.colorado.com)

By Denis Flierl, Examiner.com

Maybe the rich and famous who live in Aspen know something that we who only live at a mile high don’t. In a recent University of Washington study, Pitkin County boasts a top-10 life expectancy; 84.2 years for women, 80 for men, for an average life span of 82.1. The study counts more than 2,000 counties across the nation.

The average life span of those who live in Denver is 75.9 years. So what are Aspenites doing differently to gain an astonishing additional 6.2 years of life? Can the super-rich just afford better health care than the rest of us? The answer is interesting and it’s something anyone can afford.

It’s well documented that health risks like obesity, lack of exercise and diabetes are dragging down most Coloradans and Americans. Diabetes affects 25.8 million people of all ages: 8.3 percent of the U.S. population. Diabetes is a major cause of heart disease and stroke. There are 18.8 million people diagnosed with the disease in the U.S. while another 7 million go undiagnosed.

The cure for getting diabetes in the first place is to keep your weight down by staying active. Pitkin County residents are not surprised by the new statistics for longevity. There is a culture of fitness that permeates the residents of Aspen.

Pitkin County senior services director Marty Ames said, “If they are not already active when they come here, they quickly are submerged in it. When every other person you talk to says, ‘what did you do today?’… ‘I rode up to the Bells …’ or ‘You should hike Hunter Creek,'” Ames said. “There’s just a flavor of fitness and wellness here.”

Pitkin and a few other counties made it into the rare category of “years ahead” of international leaders like Japan and Sweden. Denver is nowhere near the code-red condition of an American obesity belt coloring the Deep South from Louisiana to North Carolina.

“Colorado counties perform relatively well compared to counties in other states, particularly the southeastern U.S.,” said Jeff Bontrager, director of research on coverage and access for the Colorado Health Institute.

So what can we who live in Denver learn from our high altitude neighbors in Aspen? Stay active by doing things like hiking, biking, take a walk, jogging, playing sports like racquetball, tennis, or join an adult soccer league. My family physician in Conifer told me six years ago that I was headed for diabetes if I didn’t change my lifestyle. He told me that exercise is what will keep you young. I listened to him and now I run 3 miles a day and feel better now in my 50’s than I did twenty years ago.

You don’t have to move to Aspen to develop a culture of fitness.