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Study: sedate seniors lack proper diet, exercise.

Older Americans are aware of the benefits of a healthy diet and a more active lifestyle. Yet, they're still eating too much and not exercising enough. That could mean an influx of people with health problems when the time comes for long term care, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Merck Institute of Aging & Health.

The associations' third annual report, "The State of Aging and Health in America," stated that one-third of adults older than 65 are not taking part in any leisure-time physical activities. Two-thirds of older adults are not eating the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. And, 20 percent of older adults are considered obese--at least 30 pounds above their recommended weight.

The most important factor in maintaining good physical and mental health among seniors is to promote a healthier lifestyle, according to the report.

Unfortunately, that message doesn't always get through to older Americans, said Patricia Barry, executive director of the Merck Institute of Aging & Health in Washington, D.C.

"We believe this report poses one simple question: Are older adults doing all they can to enjoy the best possible health? Unfortunately, the answer is no," Barry said. "Adults are getting the message about the Importance of preventive care. But we must all ensure that they also get the message about the importance of healthy behaviors."

Otherwise, she continued, the words of famed ragtime musician and composer Eubie Blake--who lived a mere 100 years--might come back to haunt today's seniors: "If I had known how long I was going to live, I would've taken better care of myself."

The study also offered a report card on whether states (including Washington, D.C., for this study) are meeting federal goals for health status, health behavior and the use of preventative services among older Americans. None of them met all 15 federal targets, but several states did rank in the top five nationwide on achieving most of their goals.

Hawaii ranked in the top five in nine of 15 areas, followed by Minnesota with eight of 15, Colorado with five of 15, and District of Columbia and Oregon, each with four of 15.
Highs and Lows

The best- and worst-ranked states in The State of
Aging and Health in America's report card on
healthy aging among seniors:

Indicator Worst-ranked Best-ranked
 state state

Fewest physically unhealthy days West Virginia Hawaii
Least frequent mental distress Kentucky Iowa
Least amount of complete tooth loss Kentucky California,
Lowest percentage of disability Kentucky Hawaii
No leisurely physical Tennessee Hawaii
 activity in past month
Eating 5+ fruits and vegetables daily Louisian Virginia
Percent of obese seniors Michigan Hawaii
Percent of seniors currently smoking Kentucky Utah
Gave flu vaccine to seniors in 2002 Florida Minnesota
Ever had pneumonia vaccine District North Dakota
 of Columbia
Gave mammograms in past 2001-02 Oklahoma Rhode Island
Ever had sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy Nebraska Minnesota
Up to date on preventive Missouri Minnesota
Up to date on preventive Louisiana Minnesota
Percent with cholesterol Idaho District
 checked since 2001 of Columbia

Source: Centers for Orsease Control and Prevention,
Merck Institute of Aging & Health
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Research
Author:Naditz, Alan
Publication:Contemporary Long Term Care
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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