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Wealth is Health: Poorest States Trend Highest for Obesity, Cancer, and Poor Dental Health

As Americans, we’re competitive people. It’s in our blood. Speaking of blood and competition, a recently released infographic breaks down state by state statistics in categories like obesity, dental health, STDs, cancer rates, and several other quaint reminders of life’s frailty. Thanks to the Top Masters in Health Care—who meticulously compiled the data—you can now see how much better your state is compared to the other union territories! Naturally, we are most concerned with the obesity and health related numbers, and after a quick look, we noticed a disturbing trend. The statistical data suggested that obesity, loss of teeth and cancer were all closely correlated. How could this be?

The Bible Belt seems to have added a few more notches. Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana are perennially some of the most obese states, and that proved true here. They were the 51st, 49th, and 48th most obese states, respectively, with West Virginia being the second heaviest at position 50 (The infographic included D.C.). All four states were also top ten offenders in the worst teeth and cancer death categories. Poor dental health is associated with a slew of other ailments, from chronic migraines to nausea and vomiting. Obesity can lead to aches, pains, cardiovascular disease and various cancers; afterall, obesity is the leading killer in the US. But what do obesity and cancer have to do with poor teeth, and vice versa?

The simple answer is poverty. In consulting with our resident nutrition expert Mary Hartley, RD, she said, “Poverty is the common factor. Poor people are exposed to the most toxins, through carcinogens and food and occupational hazards associated with manual labor.” (Think coal mining in West Virginia.)

She noted that the states in question were considerably impoverished and under-educated, and since unhealthy food is generally cheaper than healthier options, less fortunate people spend a lifetime ingesting harmful preservatives and other unsavory chemicals. “When you’re poor you have to eat cheap food,” said Mary.

She explained the loss of teeth connection in four words: “Dental work is expensive.”

Her theory is backed up by the United States Census. Under median household income and median income per capita, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and West Virginia were all ranked in the bottom ten. Colorado, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Hawaii were far and away the healthiest states on the infographic. A quick look at the U.S. Census revealed those states to be in the top 15 median household income and per capita income. This helps to confirm that health is associated with wealth. When you can’t afford decent food and don’t have access to educational materials on healthy living, conditions like obesity, poor dental health, and cancer will inevitably occur.

Mary was quick to point out that these ailments don’t happen overnight. “You don’t die right away. Cancer is a long term process. These hazardous things accumulate in [your body] throughout a lifetime,” she said. These alarming revelations make programs like school lunch reform and Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign increasingly important. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be expensive. Teaching children about the benefits of physical activity and a balanced diet is a significant factor in improving the numbers detailed on the infographic.

Also Read:

New County Rankings: Vermont is Healthiest, Mississippi Least Healthy 

Oregon has Least Obese Children, Mississippi has Most 

Pizza Hut Now Delivering a New Whole Wheat Pizza to Meet School Lunch Nutrition Guidelines

September 6th, 2013

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