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Baltimore Life Expectancy May Depend On Neighborhood

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Baltimore City residents are living a little bit longer than they used to, but they still have some of the lowest life expectancies in the country.  That's according to a new study that looked at life expectancies across the U.S. and compared them to other countries.

Derek Valcourt explains what neighborhood you live in may play a role in how long you live.

"I lift weights," said 81-year-old Rev. DC Washington. 

Washington has his own tricks to living a long life.

"I work crossword puzzles every day to keep my brain active," he said.

His strategies appear to be working.  A new study finds the average man in Baltimore only lives to be 66.7 years old and Baltimore City residents in general are among those with the lowest life expectancies in the country.  That data, along with information from the city Health Department, shows where you live can make a huge difference in how long you can expect to live.

"The difference between neighborhoods with higher economic status and lower economic status is staggering.  There's a 20-year difference in life expectancy in Roland Park and Hollins Market," said Dr. Oxiris Barbot, Baltimore City Health Department.

A map from the city Health Department shows the disparity.  The darker the shaded areas, the shorter the life expectancy.  Part of the problem is that it's harder to find affordable fresh fruits and vegetables in the poor neighborhoods, and much easier to find fast food restaurants.  Another factor: a lot of smokers.  In fact, 35 percent of men in Baltimore City smoke.  That's higher than states like Kentucky or West Virginia, which have the highest smoking rates in the country. 

That's part of why the city launched their Healthy Baltimore 2015 program, a comprehensive strategy trying to tackle all of the root causes for poor health in the city.

"It's not just about dealing with individual behaviors, it's about really tackling this from a more community-wide perspective," Barbot said.

As for Washington, he says longevity runs in his family.

"My grandmother lived to be 105," he said.

Statewide statistics show life expectancies for most Marylanders are up slightly.  The average Marylander is expected to live 72.9 years.  That's about half a year longer than life expectancies back in 2008.

For more information, click here or here to visit the Health Department's website.

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