Maryland, DC Have the Healthiest Brains in the US

Local residents took the top two spots in this year’s ranking of America’s healthiest noggins

By: Melissa Romero

Map courtesy of America's Brain Health Index

Thanks to their high consumption of docosahexaenoic acid-rich foods, people in Maryland and the District of Columbia have the healthiest brains, according to the 2011 America’s Brain Health Index, a collaboration between life’sDHA and The National Center for Creative Aging.

The measure ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia on a 100-point system based on 21 factors, including diet, physical and mental health, and social well being. Maryland moved up to the number-one slot, bumping DC to second from 2009.

Although Maryland didn’t rank first in any single category, the evaluation found that its residents are healthy consumers of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that is a crucial structural component of the human brain and retina, thanks to their high consumption of fish. In addition, the state’s Alzheimer’s disease-related deaths have decreased over the years.

Maryland lost points in the social well being category, due to its low level of religious or spiritual activities. While its overall ranking of physical health stayed at 11th, the state also has a high rate of diabetes and gestational diabetes, and its rank of cardiovascular disease deaths fell from 29th to 32nd.

DC residents ranked first in reading for personal interest, moving up from the second spot in 2009. They also ranked first in fruit and vegetable consumption, as well as ranking high in the number of insured. However, DC has a high rate of cardiovascular disease-related deaths, and it fell from 22nd to 49th on the list of religious or spiritual activities. It also has had some problems when it comes to getting enough sleep, falling from first in 2009 to 18th this year.

Virginia moved up five spots to 22nd on the list this year. “While Virginians nourish their minds through diets filled with fruits and vegetables they also need to work on engaging their minds by playing more brain-teaser games,” the index’s authors concluded.

Delaware had the biggest gain of 13-plus points, while Arizona had the largest loss, getting knocked down 10 points.

To come up with the rankings, researchers compared all 51 geographies to the national average, set at 100. After weighing the importance of each factor to brain health, an overall score was calculated for each geographical area.

For more information on the brain health index, visit the Beautiful Minds Web site