Insights & Actions for Healthy Living
Healthiest & Unhealthiest States — What You Can Do for Your Health

Healthiest & Unhealthiest States — What You Can Do for Your Health

Is the state in which you live helping you stay healthy or perhaps contributing to your inability to be healthier?

Did you realize that within each state there are services and amenities that can improve your health?

The opposite is also true – lack of the very same services and amenities can negatively impact your health outcomes.

We are all trying to become healthier but you may be surprised that mortality rates in specific areas of the US are on the rise. Is the health pendulum beginning to swing back?

More importantly, in which state do you live? Is it helping or harming you?

Latest Health Rankings Report

The United Health Foundation released America’s Health Rankings – A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities was recently released with information that can impact our health.

 This report is derived from the World Health Organizations definition of health:

 “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

They investigated thirty-five measures in four categories to make their determinations about the health of states across America. The four categories are behaviors, community & environment, policy, and clinical care.

Key Findings

There were several areas of health concern of which we should be aware so the we can be sure our own habits will be successful to overcome some of these statistics.

In all states of the union, the rate of premature death (the number of years of potential life lost before age 75) increased for the third straight year and is up 3% since 2015, after having fallen by 20% since 1990.

In addition to premature death, the rate of death from cardiovascular and overdose drug events increased. This trend is evident even in states that are traditionally the healthiest especially the rise in drug deaths.

Another item of note is the disparity of healthcare providers across the country. The availability of primary doctors, dentists, and mental health providers varies greatly from state to state.

Not surprisingly, obesity has increased across the country in all age groups but especially in certain states, among certain populations and socioeconomic groups, such as less educated, lower income, and specific ethnicities. Obesity is the leading preventable cause of illness and death related to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer, and hypertension. Physical inactivity plays an important role in obesity and it continues to rise according to the report.

Personal behaviors that can be negative to our well-being were also tracked and found to be on the rise, including binge drinking, lack of sleep, insufficient intake of fruit (adults only eat an average of 1.3 fruits each day and less than 18% eat the recommended daily amount), and inadequate vegetable intake (adults only eat an average of 1.9 vegetables per day, less than 14% get the daily recommended amount).

Food safety was also measured in the report as it relates to disease and death. They found that 1.2 million Salmonella infections occur annually across the US, with 1 million illnesses resulting from contaminated food.

Some good news from the report includes a decrease in smoking in all 50 states, a reduction in preventable hospitalizations, lower levels of air pollution and fewer people without health insurance.

5 Healthiest States

5 Least Healthy States

What Can You Do To Be Healthier in an Unhealthy State?

If you live in one of the five states that present the greatest opportunity to improve the health of their citizens (that is, the bottom five), you can change your own health status by adopting some healthier habits.

Let’s face it, even those living in the bottom twenty states — or all fifty for that matter — can make positive lifestyle changes that will improve their health and quality of life.

Most of us know where our habits let us down but need a little motivation to make and keep an action plan for health. Finally, realizing how our behaviors influence our ability to be well, live life to the fullest, enjoy our family, avoid the doctor or hospital, reduce our healthcare costs, and fully enjoy every day should give us the kick in the pants we need to make meaningful changes for our well-being.

  1. Get physically active. You don’t have to join a gym or run a marathon to move more each and every day. Find an activity you love – gardening, walking, dancing, biking, swimming, etc., and incorporate it into your daily routine. Put it on your calendar so you plan to make it a priority.
  2. Eat more plants. Fruits and vegetables should fill half our plates and we need to eat a rainbow to get all the nutrients our bodies crave. Add fruits, juices, and vegetables to other foods; add a salad each dinnertime; substitute fruit or raw veggies for your afternoon snack – it shouldn’t be as hard as you think.
  3. Manage your weight! Getting enough physical activity and eating healthy foods without excess will help you reach a healthy weight and avoid obesity.
  4. Seek alternative pain therapies if you are in pain from a chronic condition, try alternates to drugs such as heat, ice, biofeedback, physical therapy, or occupational therapy, positioning devices to reduce body stress points, or talk with your healthcare provider about pain options instead of using opioids and putting yourself at risk.
  5. Get enough quality sleep every night. Practice good sleep hygiene by controlling temperature and humidity in the bedroom, turn off electronic devices, use scented pillows or aromatherapy, replace an older mattress, wear comfortable PJ’s, avoid caffeine and excessive fluids near bedtime, go to bed the same time every day and wake up at the same time, darken the room with blinds or curtains, and avoid taking sleep aids. Getting restorative sleep for the correct amount of time will help you be your best.
  6. Practice food safety in the home kitchen and when you are out. Wash hands often. Store food properly, especially leftovers. Prevent cross contamination in your own kitchen. Know who is preparing your food and if they are safe food handlers.
  7. Drink enough fluids (without added sugar). Water is an essential nutrient. Limit alcoholic beverages.
  8. Seek preventive health care including seeing the physician, eye doctor and dentist regularly. Get your prescribed health screenings and immunizations.

Practicing healthy habits because we know they will allow us to put life in our years and not just years in our life is important for all of us.

Choosing a healthy lifestyle pays benefits in excess of the energy expended to achieve them!


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