Survey says Americans exercise a lot and live longer but not necessarily healthiest

NY and San Fran highest life expectancies

 The biggest survey of American health in the past fifteen years finds we're exercising more and living longer -- but we are not necessarily healthier.

A new survey on American health finds some u-s cities, like New York and San Francisco, have among the highest life expectancies in the world.

Other areas -- mostly in the south -- are compared to third world countries.

Lee Goldman, M.D. - Cardiologist and Dean, Columbia University Medical Center says,

" In our least healthy counties we look like Bangladesh."

Experts say it is a problem of excess. Americans in the poorest parts of the country are consuming too much food, salt, and tobacco -- and as a consequence -- men in these areas tend to die in their mid-sixties.

Christopher Murray, M.D. - University of Washington says,

" It turns out that we spend the most on healthcare, but our outcomes as measured by life expectancy are mediocre."

While the rates of physical activity are up in two-thirds of the country -- exercise can not erase the effects of bad diet.

Obesity rates continue to climb, and doctors say we need to focus on eating healthier foods -- like fruit, vegetables and whole grains.

" There are health benefits from the makeup of diet that are above and beyond the total calories that you take in." says Murray

The U- S ranks best in the world for stroke care and treatment of certain cancers.

But even though people are living longer -- they're doing so with chronic conditions like diabetes, Alzheimer's and depression.

" People who used to die suddenly in their 50's or 60's are now living longer with a whole variety of chronic diseases that we didn't worry about so much before." says Goldman

And men are closing the life expectancy gap on women -- in 1985 men died an average seven years younger than women.

Now that number stands at four-and-a-half -- but not because men are healthier..

It's because more women are obese and smoke.

Most women in the u-s now live to eighty-one years old, and men live to seventy-six. that's a roughly three year improvement from 1985.

The researchers say they're hoping to learn what the counties that saw improvements in physical activity and life expectancy are doing, so they can share their methods with poor performing areas.

One of the proposals to improve health starts with the school system. experts say improving nutrition in schools will help establish lifelong healthy habits.

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