Anything that starts with the dreaded initials BMI isn’t going to be good news for Louisiana, including the latest government measure of risks of heart attacks and strokes.
Based on body mass and other indicators, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now has a “heart age” index that is based on the risk factors for heart attacks and strokes.
CDC scientists estimated the average “heart age” of men and women in the states. Risk factors included obesity — always a problem in the land of good food and lots of it — and high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes.
According to these calculations, nearly three out of four adults have a heart that’s older than the rest of their body, and for U.S. men, it’s nearly 8 years greater than their real age. It’s a bit less for women, at 5.5 years.
Louisiana, not surprisingly, is among the states with the worst statistics, behind Mississippi, West Virginia and Kentucky but ahead of Alabama.
Given the rates of smoking and other bad habits, including the overly generous eating that is a hallmark of Louisiana lifestyles, our state’s result is maybe surprisingly good.
But that doesn’t change the fact that unhealthy living catches up with people in the form of heart disease and strokes. America’s No. 1 killer is not gun violence, as one might think from looking at the headlines, but heart disease.
The new report underlines the impact of not just bad habits and overweight adults but those who are clinically obese in Louisiana. The studies by Pennington Biomedical Research Center on obesity, and thus the risk of diabetes, among children in Louisiana ought to be frightening to anyone interested in the future health and well-being of our state’s young people.
Then, though, those young people grow up with elevated health risks almost across the board. A lack of exercise and poor diets contribute to health care costs, even without the added risks associated with smoking.
What’s the good news? The CDC said the heart age is declining as more people are treated for hypertension or other conditions. Louisiana’s issues of health care access, though, are clearly going to pose obstacles for the working poor who are often likely to forgo visits to doctors until treatable conditions become worse.
If in Louisiana we cultivate healthier lifestyles and still enjoy great food, that will go a long way, but for many people, medical access is going to be a high hurdle to dealing with statistics like these from the CDC.