Schuylkill County’s Poor Health: What we can do about it, part one.

Last week, the County Health Statistics were released for the United States. This report reviewed a number of health influencing factors for every county in every state, and ranked counties accordingly. In Pennsylvania Schuylkill County was ranked 60 out of 67 in both categories. That may sound like bad news, but as I thought about the issue, I realized there we all have an opportunity to turn things around for the better.

Although medical insurance coverage and access to doctors are cited as something affecting our health, that’s not really the issue. Of course the sick and injured must have access to high quality health care, but the majority of people out there can and should do something about their own health.

First, it starts with recognizing the need for change. Many people out there feel good, so they don’t see the need to do anything different from they are doing now. However, underneath the surface their health may be declining and putting them at risk for a variety of diseases. There are several indicators that health may be on the decline, but here’s a few that can be measured cheaply and easily, and many done without even going to the doctor (although this does not replace a visit to your doctor for a regular check up).

Here’s a few quick measures that you can do right now. Body Mass Index (BMI) can be calculated by plugging in your height and weight into a BMI chart (chart can be found at http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/). Those with a BMI over 25 is overweight and over 30 is obese. Another measurement is waist to hip ratio (WTH). This can be calculated by measuring your waist at your belly button and your hip at its widest point. Divide the first number by the second. 0.9 or less for men and 0.7 for women is considered healthy. Or, as a quick alternative to the WTH, television’s Dr. Oz promotes measuring your height and your waist at the belly button. If your waist is one half your height or less, then you’re in the healthy range. With any of these measurements, if you fall outside of the range, you’re at a significantly higher risk for a variety of lifestyle related diseases such as diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Make no mistake about it, do not take these simple measurements lightly. They are every bit as important as the results of blood tests and other advanced medical tests. They are fairly accurate at predicting future health issues.

With these simple measurements, everyone can check their current health risk status. If outside of the normal values, don’t get depressed or worried. These numbers, and subsequent health risks, change quickly once you begin to incorporate healthy behaviors.

As I mentioned in a previous post, our major obstacles to better health in Schuylkill County is ignorance and apathy. People may not know how to measure their own health status and know that something is wrong. Take the minute or two and perform some of the measurements above. See where you stand. As they said on GI Joe during my cartoon watching years, “Knowing is half the battle.” Ace and Bazooka weren’t kidding either. If you don’t know you have a problem, how are you going to work towards fixing it?

Check out part two coming up in a few days. We’ll continue this conversation about what we all can do about our county’s poor health statistics. Not what others can do for us, but what we can do about it.

(Dr. Touchinsky is a chiropractor in Orwigsburg, Schuylkill County . In addition to treating people for neck pain and back pain, he focuses on helping people overcome a variety of health issues through healthy lifestyle and nutritional counseling. If you have an issue you’d like help with or would like a second opinion, call the office at 570-366-2613 to set up an appointment.)

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