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What are Arizona’s Three Highest Health Risks?

Everyone in Arizona is tan and in terrific shape, right? Not true. Health is a hot topic in a state where 22 percent of adults do not have health insu...


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Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Visitors who come to Arizona often imagine it as one of the healthiest states in the union. After all, isn't this the place where people come to soak in hot springs and take a sun-soaked "spa vacation"?

It would be difficult to convince people from cold and damp locales that Arizonans face higher risks for certain diseases.

While on the surface it seems like everyone here is tan and in terrific shape, that isn't always the case; particularly in a state where 13 percent of adults do not have health insurance in Arizona.

Preventive care is an important part of staying healthy, and it ultimately helps people avoid certain life-threatening illnesses. Regular blood tests, mammograms, check-ups and EKG tests are vital to maintaining the health of Arizona's aging population. Without these basic services available to them, many lower-income residents fail to keep up with preventive care. One of the best new healthcare reforms from the Affordable Care Act provides many preventive services for free with any healthcare plan, but that assumes that one has a healthcare plan.

The biggest health risks in Arizona

Despite the emphasis on outdoor activities and healthy eating in this state, Arizona adults aged 18-64 are very likely to be overweight or obese. In a 2011 report on Body Mass Index (BMI), 37.9 percent of Arizona adults are overweight (BMI of 25.0 to 29.9) and 24.7 percent are considered obese (BMI of 30.0 to 99.8). These are surprising numbers for such a health-oriented state, but many experts believe this indicates a higher percentage of people living in poverty, who choose to buy less expensive packaged foods because they cannot afford fresh fruits and vegetables.

1. Tobacco use among Arizona citizens

Arizona faces some serious health issues as a result of higher tobacco use, which is known to be the single most preventable cause of death and disease in the U.S. Every year, approximately 480,000 people die prematurely in the United States because of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. Another 8.5 million suffer from serious illnesses resulting from smoking. Studies have shown that for every person who dies because of smoking, at least 20 other people suffer from a serious tobacco-related illness. How has this trend impacted the health of Arizonans? In a 2012 CDC report, a shocking 11.8% to 29.0% of Arizona adults were current smokers, placing Arizona in the top 14th position for smokers.

2. Physical activity, nutrition and obesity in Arizona

Over the past thirty years, the number of overweight and obese citizens has sharply increased for adults and children. Two of the most common causes of this are physical inactivity and unhealthy eating habits. Unfortunately, a person's weight and appearance are not the only negative consequences of obesity. It also increases one's risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers. The CDC's 2012 report on diseases showed that 64.8% of Arizona adults were overweight and 24.3% were obese. That is a huge portion of the population, placing Arizona in the 16th position for most overweight state.

Nutrition and exercise play important roles in these statistics for Arizona and it is common knowledge that being overweight can have a huge impact on your overall health. Changing up some of your habits can be the preventative measure that means the difference between early-onset diabetes and a long, healthy, more fulfilling life.

3. Early detection and health insurance in Arizona

According to the CDC's statistics, 33 percent of Arizona women aged 40 and older had not had a mammogram in the past two years. This number corresponds with the 13 percent of Arizona adults who do not have health insurance, but it is a sad commentary on women's health. For women over 40, mammography has been shown to reduce the mortality rate for breast cancer by up to 25 percent over a ten year period.

Another important screening is a colonoscopy, which is recommended for adults over the age of 50. This screening, also known as a sigmoidoscopy, prevents up to 60 percent of all deaths from colorectal cancer and it is now included in the preventive care services from many insurers. However, the CDC report showed that only 43 percent of Arizona adults over the age of 50 had ever had one.

The lack of health insurance among Arizona adults has been a major contributor to these preventable health outcomes, but the U.S. health care system is rapidly changing. With more residents getting insurance than ever, these preventable diseases can be approached more effectively and hopefully reduce the number of deaths each year.

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