Chief Medical Officer for United Health Care discusses 10-year annual senior health rankings in WV

WEST VIRGINIA (WOAY) – According to the CDC, West Virginians’ can expect to live an average of 74.4 years, a reflection of the quality of life in the state as well as some of the poorest health rates and risks in the country.

Based on a recent report from the United Health Foundation, West Virginia’s senior citizens are among the most vulnerable when it comes to such health-related downfalls.

Chief Medical Officer with United Health Care, Dr. Rhonda Randall says that her biggest concern seen in the report is the lack of getting out of the house for an average senior citizen in the Mountain State.

“Seniors in West Virginia get one of the lowest rates of exercise and physical activity in our nation, and that’s really important in maintaining your independence as you age to continue to get some physical activity,” Randall says.

The American Health Ranking Senior Report comes from a decade’s worth of information that contains 62 different health-related areas. The report found that West Virginia ranked 47th overall in the nation for the health of seniors.

In addition to having one of the highest-ranking rates of physical inactivity, smoking among the senior citizen population was another high-ranking health risk found in the report. Drug-related deaths were also on the rise between 2018 to 2020.

While such bad health trends posed to be problematic before the pandemic, Covid helped to skyrocket those rates even further.

“Covid really had the biggest affect around our mental health and West Virginia is no exception to that,” she says. “We saw nationally, in addition to more overall mortality rates go up we saw suicide among seniors, we saw drug overdose deaths among seniors since the 10 years in this report.”

The good news– these health problems seem to be within people’s control, says Dr. Randall. She says the most important step is to acknowledge that as people age their health becomes more vulnerable.

Some further good news– West Virginia seniors had one of the lowest rates of excessive drinking in the nation.

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