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Kentucky ranks 48th for senior health

State’s seniors are least active in nation

By Dr. Guy Shrake
UnitedHealthcare of Kentucky

(July 10, 2014) — Seniors in Kentucky face more health challenges than seniors in most other states nationwide. Kentucky ranked 48th in the nation for senior health this year, according to the second edition of United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings Senior Report.

seniorNationwide, seniors are showing encouraging gains in key health measures and taking steps to improve their own health.

But not in Kentucky.

Underscoring the state’s troubling ranking, more than 38 percent of older adults in the state are physically inactive — reporting doing no physical activity or exercise (such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening or walking) other than work in the previous 30 days — making commonwealth seniors the least active in the nation. More than 12 percent of Kentucky seniors are smokers; only Nevada has more older adults who smoke. And the elderly obesity rate is among the highest in the country, with more than 170,000 obese adults age 65 and older.

Still, it’s not all bad news for the Bluegrass state. Strengths include a low percentage of low-care nursing home residents, at 7.1 percent (10th nationally); a low prevalence of chronic drinking, 2.1 percent (5th); and a low prevalence of arthritis pain.

More of us are living longer, making it crucial to address these challenges. By 2030 older adults will be about 20 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationally, more than 35 percent of seniors have four or more chronic conditions, while more than 25 percent of seniors are obese and 28 percent are physically inactive. Only 60 percent of seniors received a flu vaccine in the past 12 months.

The full report is available online at americashealthrankings.org/senior, along with state-by-state rankings and a full resource library with websites and articles offering information and actions we can take to address a myriad of health problems.