If you want to live in a really healthy place, move to Vermont. Once again, the Green Mountain State ranks number one in overall health in the U.S. Other New England states are in the top five: New Hampshire came in second, Connecticut, third, and Massachusetts, fifth (fourth was Hawaii) in the annual health-ranking of the 50 states by the United Health Foundation. At the bottom of the list: Mississippi. Rankings are fun to read, but the overall conclusions of this year’s report are pretty dismal: too many of us still smoke: 17.3 percent of the U.S. population, down just slightly from 17.9 percent last year. And while there were fewer preventable hospitalizations and cardiovascular deaths nationwide, the health assessment that underlies the rankings found that 27.5 percent of the population is obese, up 37.5 percent since 2001 (for the first time, the prevalence of obesity topped 20 percent in all 50 states). Diabetes prevalence was up, too - a 42.6 percent increase since 2001, and the number of children living in poverty continued to rise, 21.5 percent in 2011, a 33.5 percent increase since 2001.
My take? Clearly, as a nation we have urgent health problems, but on an individual level, where you live doesn’t matter as much as how you live. It's up to you to protect and maintain your body's innate capacity for health and healing. If you’re in the habit of making New Year’s resolutions, consider adding one (or all) of these to your list: adopt an anti-inflammatory diet to help head off the chronic inflammation that underlies so many serious diseases; plan snacks ahead of time; relax and reduce stress by learning breathing exercises; consider a personal trainer to get your 2012 fitness program off to a good start; take tea breaks to lower stress and improve your health; and volunteer - it’s more satisfying than donating money. Happy New Year!