New findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show your zip code could be a critical factor for your health and longevity - even more important than your genetic code.
Researchers looked at the country's leading causes of death - heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke and accidents - which, according to the CDC, account for about 900,000 premature deaths every year.
They then compared the numbers of the healthiest states, Vermont, Colorado and Utah, to the other 47 states. And the results showed the most unhealthy region is the Southeast, also known as the stroke belt.
"There is a higher rate of stroke there, probably because of factors like higher rates of obesity, lack of exercise. ... What is the access to medical in these different states? ... What are the prevention and public health strategies in place?"
According to the CDC director: "That's a reflection of the huge impact that healthier policies can have. ... Even if each community identifies just one issue, we can make a big difference in preventable deaths."
"Healthier states were more likely to have things like strict tobacco control policies and communities that encourage exercise by building sidewalks and making school playgrounds open to the public."
Researchers found more than 100,000 deaths per year could be prevented if the more unhealthy states adopted healthier habits and regulations.