Vermont Named Healthiest U.S. State; Louisiana Deemed Unhealthiest
Vermont is the healthiest U.S. state, while Louisiana is the least healthy, according to the 19th annual America's Health Rankings report, issued by the United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association, and the Partnership for Prevention advocacy group. The rankings are based on 22 health measures, including factors that affect a population's future health and ones that measure health outcomes that have already occurred. It was the second year in a row that Vermont earned the healthiest distinction. The next healthiest states were Hawaii (second place), New Hampshire (third), Minnesota (fourth), and Utah (fifth). Mississippi, which ranked as the unhealthiest state last year, came in 49th this year; above Mississippi were South Carolina (48th), Tennessee (47th), and Texas (46th).
The report also says that attempts to improve the health of Americans are not making notable progress. About 1 in 4 Americans is considered obese, putting them at risk for such health problems as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
In November, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz reported on a better way to screen for heart disease and named six statin-free approaches to reducing inflammation. Last month, Nancy Shute listed five ways to prevent diabetes in your teenage child.
Generic Drugs: Cheaper, Yes. Same Quality? Maybe Not
Generic drugs are significantly cheaper and, according to the Food and Drug Administration, are bioequivalent to the drugs they are patterned after. No surprise, therefore, that an analysis of 47 articles comparing brand and generic cardiovascular drugs, just published by researchers at Harvard in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed similar clinical results. The findings were comforting, but, as the researchers noted, these were short-term evaluations, and many of the studies were supported by generic drug companies. Dr. Bernadine Healy reports.
The comparisons raise another uncertainty that was barely a consideration a decade ago: Unlike most patented and many brand-name drugs, the generics are far more likely to be made in factories in parts of the world like India that have cheap labor and overhead, as U.S. News's Nancy Shute has reported. China—which has suffered a string of manufacturing scandals, including one involving contaminated heparin that led to serious and deadly allergic reactions in the United States—is gearing up to become a major producer of generic drugs and is expected to offer even lower prices.
Earlier this year, U.S. News listed four ways to avoid dangerous drug errors and, following the death of actor Heath Ledger from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs, offered medication safety tips. Last year, Nancy Shute reported that shoddy and fraudulent pharmaceutical products are a growing threat.
"Health" Foods Often Higher in Sodium
A new finding from Consumer Reports reveals that high amounts of sodium are packed into some so-called health foods, such as fat-free salad dressings and "heart smart" tomato sauces. By raising blood pressure, too much salt can make you more susceptible to heart attack, kidney disease, and stroke, Deborah Kotz reports. It may also boost your chances of asthma, kidney stones, osteoporosis, and stomach cancer. While some salt is good for us, she says, we should step up efforts to avoid overdosing, which means looking beyond the health claims on the label and actually reading the sodium content.
In April, U.S. News's Katherine Hobson reported on four old-fashioned diets that promote health and described the Mediterranean diet, Asian diet, Latin American diet, and vegetarian diets. In October, she listed eight fixes nutritionists want on food labels.
—January W. Payne
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