A troubling increase in diabetes and obesity rates among middle-aged Louisiana residents doesn’t bode well for the future of a state that remains the least healthy for seniors.
From 1999 to 2014, the prevalence of diabetes in Louisiana among those ages 50 to 64 jumped from 11.5 percent to 17.8 percent, the 2016 United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings Senior Report shows.
The obesity rate for the state’s middle-aged residents swelled from 33.3 percent to 39.3 percent.
Those sorts of statistics help explain why organizers felt so strongly that a diabetes and obesity center was one of the first projects the Baton Rouge Health District should tackle, said Suzy Sonnier, the district’s executive director.
“At each point when I would talk to people, health care providers and others who had been involved in the planning process … they all saw this as a critical issue in our own community,” Sonnier said.
The stakeholders believe that with an innovative and collaborative approach, the center could make a big difference regionally and possibly even nationally, Sonnier said. Health care costs related to those conditions in Baton Rouge are estimated at more than $1.5 billion a year.
Obesity-related health costs for the country could reach $630 billion by 2030, according to a 2013 report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The growing rates of obesity and diabetes and massive growth in the senior population over the next 15 years will “significantly affect” the health and quality of life for those over 65, the United Health report says. The combination also will add to the strain on the Medicare program and the health care system.
The report looked at 35 measures of senior health.
In Louisiana, 32 percent of those 65 and older were obese. Only Michigan and Ohio had higher rates of obesity among seniors. Hawaii had the lowest rate at 14.1 percent.
Louisiana ranked No. 45 in the percentage of inactive seniors, those who reported no physical activity other than their regular job in the past 30 days. In Louisiana, 37.3 percent of seniors were physically inactive. Colorado ranked best in the category, with 22.7 percent of seniors inactive.
In Louisiana, 11.6 percent of seniors were regular smokers, ranking the state No. 46. Only Kentucky, Nevada, Tennessee and West Virginia had a higher percentage of smokers. Utah was lowest at 4.5 percent.
On the plus side, Louisiana seniors ranked 12th in percentage of flu vaccinations; had the third-lowest rate of falls; and ranked eighth in readily available home health workers.
Follow Ted Griggs on Twitter, @tedgriggsbr.