Randy Wyrick

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May 26, 2014
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Central Rockies residents are among the nation's best for life expectancy

Coloradans not only live better, but They also Live longer.

Eagle County is one of five Colorado counties with the country’s highest life expectancy.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle ranked the nation’s top counties for life expectancy and Eagle County was seventh. Gunnison County led the country, followed closely by Pitkin County. Douglas County was eighth and Summit County was ninth.

In places like Eagle, Gunnison, Pitkin and Summit counties, websites are packed with pictures of people hiking, skiing and biking — stuff we tend to do more than people in other places. We’re home to two national forests, seven national wilderness areas and countless hiking and biking trails.

“There’s no question that high rates of physical activity (are) a common theme throughout Colorado counties that also have high life expectancy,” said Dr. Ali Mokdad, a professor of global health at IHME.

Gunnison County posts the second-highest life expectancy for American males and the seventh highest for females among all U.S. counties.

It also helps to have clean air, clean water and access to good recreational opportunities.

“Accesses to health care and quality of health care both have a positive impact on life expectancy, so the affluent population of Fairfax County (Virginia) could very well be a contributing factor,” Mokdad said.

Helping locals live longer

Carly Rietmann runs Eagle County’s Healthy Aging program.

Lots of things contribute to longevity, and all kinds of ideas are floating around, some more realistic than others.

Some studies consider the effects of longevity at higher altitude, but there’s no conclusive data that there’s a correlation, Rietmann said.

Mostly it’s healthy living, she said.

Staying active helps you live longer. So does nutrition and getting together with friends, Rietmann said.

Toward that end, Eagle County’s Healthy Aging program helps local seniors with anything from transportation to meals to exercise classes.

“The goal is to link people to the outside resources they need to thrive,” Rietmann said.

The program tries to keep up with local seniors at three sites: Eagle, Minturn and El Jebel. They get people together, make sure they’re well fed and have a few laughs.

They also run the home delivery program in Eagle County. That helps people stay in their homes longer than they normally would.

A new program is Well and Wise. It helps seniors learn to prevent falls and chronic disease self management. It’s a partnership between Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin counties.

“It has given us the ability to train community instructors to go into the community to teach these balance classes. It helps people set some goals in conjunction with physicians to help them make changes to help themselves,” Rietmann said.

Fairfax tops the list

The average American lives 78.7 years, but that varies depending on gender, race, income and the way you live, including smoking habits and other factors.

For men, Fairfax County, Virginia, tops the list of U.S counties for life expectancy and is No. 5 for females. The county has the nation’s largest concentration of tech jobs, and the median household income is nearly double the state average.

Fairfax also has higher rates of exercise and lower-than-average obesity rates, IHME said.

Only a few miles down the road in McDowell County, West Virginia, the life span for men is 64 years and 9 months and 73 years for women, the lowest in the nation.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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The VailDaily Updated May 27, 2014 04:26PM Published May 26, 2014 03:03PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.