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High Obesity, Opioids Rank Tennessee As Nation’s 3rd Unhealthiest State

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
High Obesity, Opioids Rank Tennessee As Nation’s 3rd Unhealthiest State

Tennessee ranks as the nation’s third unhealthiest state, with the highest rate of opioid misuse.

According to a new Forbes study, Tennessee also ranks top five in obesity, tobacco use, and overdoses. Tennessee Medical Association CEO Russ Miller said being proactive about health is the key to flipping the script.

“You have to partner with your healthcare professionals and not sit back and think that you can’t have an investment in your own good health, and expect that there’s just going to be a pill to fix everything for you,” Miller said. “I think that kind of attitude has gotten us to where we are.”

Miller said the sedentary lifestyle that leads to this seems to come naturally in the south. In fact, four of the five unhealthiest states were southern. Miller encouraged Tennesseans to get off of the couch and do something before it is too late.

Miller said Tennessee falls right in the middle of what is often referred to as the “Fried Chicken Belt.” He said many of the health concerns in the region stem from the lifestyle that people have grown up with that were passed down through generations.

Miller said keeping health in check and avoiding the need to lean on prescription pills can prevent eventual misuse of that medication.

“You can have an addictive slice of our population,” Miller said. “If you can’t get the pills legally, you’ll get them illegally. If that dries up, you’ll move on to other types of illicit drugs, alcohol, or other dangerous activities in general. There’s just a certain segment that is always wanting to seek that out, there are others that have been unwittingly addicted.”

Miller did say, however, that he believes things are getting better.

“You see here in Tennessee, our demographic start to change,” Miller said. “We’re getting more infiltration from people outside of Tennessee. We’re starting to see population age decrease which can also change your demographics of your health statistics.”

He said a younger population is typically a more active one. Miller said increased access to health care and health insurance coupled with better health habits trickling through family trees, Tennessee can become healthier with each passing year.

The study ranks only West Virginia and Mississippi unhealthier than the Volunteer State.


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