A sold sign in front of a path leading up to a pair of lungs taking the place of a house.

COPD and the Best Places to Live in the United States

I’ll be 65 on my next birthday. I’m already retired and I have a number of friends who are beginning to file their retirement papers and do all those things one needs to do to be prepared for the inevitable. At the top of the list for many, including myself and my wife is the question: “Where do we want to live?”

Where should you retire?

We have a little time to decide. Our youngest is a junior at college (we got a late start - lol) so we have a few years. But many of our friends have second residences in Florida, Arizona, and other states. Friends of ours just recently retired to Portugal!

Good air quality is important

We’re also very conscious of where and how you live greatly impacts the severity of COPD symptoms. Good air quality is extremely important.

I’m not a “Florida-guy.” I just don’t look that good in shorts and loud shirts. And I’d never make it through that humidity.

Right now, we live in northern New Jersey. The air here can be wonderful, especially in the early spring and fall. Winters are frigid at times but the air is usually clear and I enjoy fall and winter best probably because of the lack of that crippling humidity.

Quality of life

I’ve been researching “quality of life” for a while now. There are a number of elements that go into the decision-making of where you want to spend (probably) the rest of your life.

I’ve looked at a number of websites and other reference material that examine the quality of life issues for cities in the United States. Some like the American Lung Association’s (ALA) “State of the Air Report for 2016, make specific references to COPD, asthma, and other breathing difficulties.1

Cities that had no days in the unhealthy level for ozone or short-term particle pollution according to the ALA:

  • Bellingham, WA
  • Brunswick, GA
  • Dothan–Enterprise–Ozark, AL
  • Gadsden, AL
  • McAllen–Edinburg, TX
  • Monroe–Ruston–Bastrop, LA
  • Montgomery, AL
  • Tuscaloosa, AL

Four cities had no days in the unhealthy level in 2018 for ozone or short-term particle pollution and were on the ALA list of the cleanest cities for year-round particle pollution:

  • Burlington–South Burlington, VT
  • Elmira–Corning, NY
  • Honolulu, HI
  • Salinas, CA

Cities that had no days in the unhealthy level for short-term particle pollution and were on the list of the cleanest cities for year-round particle pollution:

  • Albany–Schenectady, NY
  • Bangor, ME
  • Cheyenne, WY
  • Duluth, MN–WI
  • Farmington, NM
  • Grand Island, NE
  • Houma–Thibodaux, LA
  • Pittsfield, MA
  • Rapid City–Spearfish, SD
  • Redding–Red Bluff, CA
  • Sierra Vista–Douglas, AZ
  • Syracuse–Auburn, NY
  • Wilmington, NC

The cleanest air cities

The ALA's list of the cleanest air cities is as follows:

  • Farmington, New Mexico
  • Cheyenne, Wyoming
  • Casper, Wyoming
  • Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, Hawaii
  • Urban Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Bismarck, North Dakota
  • Elmira-Corning, New York
  • Salinas, California
  • Redding-Red Bluff, California

The the worst air quality cities for 2016 include:

  • Bakersfield, CA (total population 874,589, COPD patients 27,545)
  • Fresno–Madera, CA (total population 1,120,522, COPD patients 37,066)
  • Visalia–Porterville–Hanford, CA (total population 608,467, COPD patients 18,893)
  • Modesto–Merced, CA (total population 798,350, COPD patients 26,914)
  • Fairbanks, AK (total population 99,357, COPD patients 2,938)
  • Salt Lake City–Provo-Orem, UT(total population 2,423,912, COPD patients 59,401)
  • Logan, UT—ID (total population 131,364, COPD patients 3,153)
  • San Francisco–Oakland, CA (total population 8,607,423, COPD patients 330,069)
  • Los Angeles–Long Beach, CA (total population 18,550,288, COPD patients 670,009)

I don’t know a lot about most of these cities but I was certainly surprised by Fairbanks, Alaska and Salt Lake City, Utah. I would have imagined both these places to have pristine air to breathe, especially Fairbanks because of the cold air. But apparently not.

The best places to live

U.S. News & World Report just released its third annual ranking of America’s Best Places to live based on a number of other elements than just clean air.2 Their criteria include affordability, job prospects, and quality of life.

And they are more concerned with a younger population, “millennials” who are probably just starting families and careers.

"Relocating to a new part of the country is a common occurrence for millennials, who have largely emerged in the professional world ready to move for the right job, regardless of where it takes them," U.S. News & World Report real estate editor Devon Thorsby said in the study.3

The impact of where you live

But, the report also mentions that where you live can have a great impact on your health as you can imagine.

Here are the best places to live in the United States in 2018 according to the Report:

  • Denver, Colorado
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Fayetteville, Arkansas
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Huntsville, Alabama
  • Washington, D.C
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Seattle, Washington

According to this study, millennials “led the way in reducing smoking among Americans." Now that’s great news.

A Gallup study done in relation to Best Places states that the percentage of Americans who smoke in 2018 has declined to 17.8 percent, its lowest percentage ever measured by Gallup.4

For comparison, Gallup polls in the 1950s showed that 45 percent of American adults reported they were smokers.

So, the bottom line is, I think we’ll stay put for a while. We like it here in the Northeast. The fall is breathtaking sometimes. Now if we could only get rid of that dang humidity...

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