Alabama ranks high among unhealthiest states

It is no surprise obesity and other health-related issues are common throughout the U.S. However, according to the website WalletHub, Alabama is one of the worst.

WalletHub recently conducted a survey ranking Alabama as the seventh fattest state of 2017.

Factors contributing to the ranking include Alabama having the third highest percentage of obese adults, second highest percentage of adults with Type 2 diabetes and highest percentage of adults with high cholesterol.

Lee Renfroe, associate professor of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, said the ranking is not surprising, as health problems are already common in Alabama and the rest of the Southern U.S.

“We’ve been having overweight and obesity issues in the South for many years, and, unfortunately, we’ve been seeing them rise consistently from year to year for the most part,” she said.

She said chronic diseases are becoming more common for children, including Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 results in the body’s immune system destroying insulin-releasing cells, while Type 2 causes the body to not be able to properly use insulin.

Around 30 million Americans have diabetes, while 84 million have prediabetes, a precursor to diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Renfroe said one reason Alabama has become unhealthier is because of the decrease in farming, which had people staying active by working in the fields.

Florence is lacking in health food stores, but instead offers several places to buy fast food, said senior Ben Abroms.

“The amount of fast food places that are convenient makes it easier for people to get more unhealthy foods,” he said.

Abroms said Southern cooking is another contributor to Alabama’s health problems.

“I’m not saying that we should just get rid of Southern cooking culture, because that’s Alabama, but I think we need to start looking at the bigger picture and seeing what (is) healthy and what (is) not,” he said.

Sophomore Summer Patrick said eating healthy requires watching one’s diet rather than eliminating all of one’s favorite foods.

“It’s really important to pay attention to what you put in your body,” she said. “It’s not that you have to eat salads every day. A lot of people think that’s what health is, but it’s really not.”

Renfroe said when starting to diet, a small change to one’s eating habits every week can make a noticeable difference. She said she also believes physical and health education courses should become more important in school systems.

“The habits that (college students) have now will be or not be their chronic diseases in the future,” she said. “Now is the time to change your behaviors and focus on creating a healthy lifestyle and continuing that.”