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Medina County boasts highest life expectancy in region

By Cheryl Powell
Beacon Journal medical writer

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Frank Cross, a retiree, his cocker spaniel Patty, walk along a path at Lake Medina on Thursday. (Mike Cardew/Akron Beacon Journal)
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If you want to live a long life in the Akron area, Medina County is the place to be born.

Average life expectancies improved modestly during the past two decades in Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit and Wayne counties, according to new county-by-county national data released Thursday by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

Boys and girls born in Medina County in 2009 can expect to live the longest lives in the region — 78 years for males and 81.4 for females.

Overall, the estimated lifespan in the Akron area closely mirrored the 2009 state average reported by the institute: 75.1 years for males and 80.2 years for females. Nationwide, the average life expectancies were 76.2 for males and 81.3 for females.

Summit County’s average life expectancy improved from 72 years in 1989 to 75.2 in 2009 for males and from 78.3 to 80.1 for females.

According to the institute’s analysis, Summit County’s life expectancy for females in 2009 was the same as their female counterparts in Kuwait and Uruguay. Male life expectancies in Summit County were similar to those found in Qatar (75.1) and Puerto Rico (75).

As people age and “beat the odds of genetics,” their lifestyles play a much larger role in their longevity, said Barbara Palmisano, director of the Office of Geriatrics at the Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown.

Socioeconomic factors, such as income and education, also can affect lifespan by impacting everything from diet to access to preventive medicine, she said.

“We just can’t emphasize it enough: exercise, nutrition and preventive care,” she said.

Huge disparities continue to exist nationwide, depending on where people live and other socioeconomic factors.

Boys born in 2009 in Marin, Calif., can expect to live the longest: 81.6 years. But males in Quitman and Tunica, Miss., have the lowest estimated lifespan: 66.1.

For females, the longest life expectancy was found in Collier, Fla. (85.5) and the shortest was in McDowell, W.Va. (74.1).

“There are many counties that have done a tremendous job,” Dr. Ali Mokdad, head of the institute’s U.S. County Performance research team, said in a national telephone conference call on Thursday.

The expected lifespan for women locally and across the country is improving at a much slower rate than that of men, although females continue to have longer average life expectancies. In 661 counties nationwide, the life expectancy stayed the same or decreased for females from 1999 to 2009.

“In many counties here, life expectancies went back for women,” Mokdad said.

Palmisano wasn’t surprised that the average male lifespan is increasing at a faster rate than female life expectancy.

Men today are working in safer environments than previous generations, which helps increase their average lifespan, she said. And women are taking on more stressful jobs, resulting in higher levels of stress-related illnesses.

The full report and interactive tool that allows users to compare average county lifespans with those in other countries is available at www.healthmetricsandevaluation.org.

Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or cpowell@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.