Your health depends on a lot of different factors. Your age, genetics, family history, and more determine your overall health. But did you know that where you live in the US can also play a part? It’s true! Certain US states have better health outcomes than others. Is yours one of them? If not, don’t pack your bags just yet. Science is likely more impactful than geography. Here’s how you can extract your fellow Americans’ health benefits no matter where you live.
Minnesota: Highest Heart Health
According to a 2020 survey by the CDC, Minnesota had the lowest mortality rate from heart disease when compared to all other states. The fact that Minnesota is the “land of 10,000 lakes” could have something to do with it. A study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that viewing lakes, streams, oceans, or a pool for 1 minute and 40 seconds lowers systolic blood pressure (the top number). “Blue spaces” help us relax, which benefits our physical and mental health.
Another smart way to safeguard your heart: keeping your levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol in check. A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that regularly eating avocados lowers LDL. Thanks goes to their rich supply of healthy fats, fiber, and plant sterols.
When it comes to the U.S. state with the happiest people, a new report found that Hawaii tops the list. And it’s not just because of the beautiful weather — Hawaiians are filled with gratitude. In fact, the Hawaiian word mahalo means more than just “thank you.” It’s a phrase that reminds the person saying it to be grateful for everything they have. And when you count your blessings, you’ ll be happier too. Research in The Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who write down reasons to feel grateful experience an immediate surge in positivity. Being reminded of all that is going well in your life makes you optimistic about your future, lifting your spirits.
Another happiness booster? Talk to a stranger. While waiting in line at the supermarket, strike up a conversation with the person next to you about the weather or her pretty bracelet, and you’ll be happier all day. A study from The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that talking with someone new boosts cheer because it ’s stimulating and fun.
Arizona: Best Memory
Arizona has one of the lowest rates of dementia, and its capital, Phoenix, has been dubbed the sunniest city in the nation. Research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people with deficiencies in vitamin D (a nutrient we get from the sun), are more likely to develop dementia. The scientists explain that ample stores of vitamin D are associated with adequate levels of grey and white matter in the brain, keeping it healthy. Tip: Taking 600 IU of vitamin D-3 works too.
For another way to boost your memory, say whatever it is you want to remember out loud. A new study out of Gerontology found that saying words aloud stores information in your memory banks more effectively, making it stick longer.
South Dakota: Best Sleep
A recent study shows that South Dakotans sleep more than citizens in other states. One possible reason? As one of the least densely populated states, South Dakota may have less of the nighttime light and noise that keeps folks awake. To get the same benefits, wear a sleep mask and earplugs to bed. A study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found these sleep aids are so effective, they enable patients in noisy, bright hospitals to clock longer, deeper Zzzs.
Another method: Listen to the right music. A study in PLOS One found the mellow, piano-driven songs “Jealous,” by Labrinth, and “lovely,” by Billie Eilish and Khalid, are some of the most popular sleep-inducing tunes. Slow, melodic songs may spur deep relaxation so you can doze off.
Colorado: Lowest Diabetes Rates
Colorado has the fewest residents with type 2 diabetes in the nation, accsording to 2020 CDC research. One possible link: Colorado is also the fittest state in the nation. Staying active keeps blood sugar steady. Copy their moves by taking a 2-minute walk (grabbing the mail counts!) an hour after eating. Research in Sports Medicine says light exercise could lower blood sugar after eating and prevent blood-glucose spikes that increase diabetes risk.
For more protective benefits, drink tea. Sipping 4 cups of black, green, or oolong tea a day cuts type 2 diabetes risk. Recent research suggests tea’s compounds were linked to a reduced risk of the disease.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.