Obese and Sedentary: How Does Your State Rank?

Americans are living longer then ever before but over a quarter of us are inactive and obese, leading to increased levels of diabetes and other chronic conditions, according to a new report by the United Health Foundation.

Both type 2 diabetes and obesity increase the risk of cancer. Although cancer deaths have declined since 1990 with the help of medical advances, the unhealthy lifestyle habits seen throughout our country suggests that more people will be living longer with a chronic illness or be at increased risk of being diagnosed with cancer.

The 2012 America’s Health Rankings pulled data from government and other sources to gather 24 health measures state by state. You can see the report and how your state ranks here.

For the sixth year in a row, Vermont topped the list for the healthiest state – yet even here, 24 to 30 percent of its residents are obese. Hawaii is ranked as the second healthiest state, followed by New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Minnesota. The five least healthy states are South Carolina, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Mississippi and Louisiana, which tied for the 49th slot.

The report found that more than one in four US adults are obese (28 percent or 66 million adults) — more than the entire population of the United Kingdom, it notes. Obesity links to increased risk of seven different cancers, including post menopausal breast and colorectal.

Another finding that bodes ill for Americans’ health is our sedentary lifestyle. The percentage of sedentary adults ranges from 36 percent of the adult population in Mississippi to 16.5 percent in Colorado. The national median is 26.2 percent.

The report defined sedentary lifestyle as those adults who report doing no physical activity or exercise other than their regular job in the last 30 days.

Regular physical activity decreases the risk of cancer both directly and indirectly, by helping with weight control. Emerging evidence also suggests that standing, walking or moving more throughout the day can decrease the risk of markers linked with cancer, as well as heart disease.

The percentage of adults with diabetes ranges from 12 percent in Mississippi to 7 percent in Colorado. In 2010, a consensus report stated that diabetes, primarily type 2, is associated with an increased risk for certain cancers, including liver, breast, and endometrium.

The rankings of our nation’s health go back over 20 years, and there are powerful images of how these health measures have changed over time.

If you want to find out what steps people with type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, or anyone trying to prevent both cancer and diabetes can do, Karen Collins offers some advice.


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