New study shows Dane County residents live longer than national average

New study shows Dane County residents...

MADISON, Wis. - Do you want to live a long, healthy life? Well, you're living in the right place. 

A new nationwide study, conducted by the University of Washington, shows the average American lives 79.8 years. Residents in Dane County live an average of 81.15 years, which is nearly two years longer than the national average. 

So the question is, why?

Doctors who study geriatrics and genetics agree, there's more than one factor to a long and healthy life.

"You've got genes and then you've got environment and then you've got lifestyle and then the interactions between them," said Dr. Steven Barczi, a geriatric specialist with UW Health. "Activity level, diet, certainly socioeconomic factors, you know if one is living in an impoverished area, there's all kinds of compromises that happen. Marital status influences longevity and how the network of friendships people maintain can influence this indirectly too."

Two people who know this all too well are 70-year-old Dr. Zorba Paster and state Sen. Fred Risser, who at 90 is the longest-service politician in American history.

Risser said he attributes his longevity to three things.

"First of all I was born with good genes. Second, I got through my first 90 years without any life-threatening accidents or illnesses. And thirdly, and most importantly, without a doubt, the only reason I'm here is I have a fantastic, wonderful wife," Risser said.

"You never smoked. You exercise all the time because you're walking around. You don't take the elevator and you've got a good wife. You know, a good happy wife, happy life," Paster said.

Paster isn't surprised people in the Upper Midwest live longer than others in other parts of the country.

"Minnesota and Wisconsin are among the two longest-living states. (Is) genetics involved with that or is it just too cold to die?" Paster said, laughing. "Genetics definitely play a role, maybe too cold to die plays a role. Part of that is I think the social situation. I think people here are happy to live here. They have good friends. They have good family. That plays a role."

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