We are no longer seeing high community-spread of COVID-19 in Kentucky, but the pandemic is still impacting the health of the state. Data shows chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease have increased during the pandemic.
There are so many layers to these numbers. In some cases, the COVID-19 virus may be directly to blame for developing a chronic condition. For others, living through the pandemic may be the source. People spent time isolated at home, unable to follow healthy habits like getting preventative care, staying active, and eating well. And unfortunately, should people with chronic conditions contract COVID-19, they are at a greater risk of hospitalization and other side effects.
While Kentuckians have long struggled with chronic diseases, we don’t have to accept this as the status quo. We can take action to help our bodies be in better condition to fight off the next virus — whether that’s a new COVID-19 variant, the flu, or another illness, as well as combat chronic disease.
Small steps make a big difference
There are many ways people can work to become healthier. Immunizations, annual check-ups, and screenings are some of the best ways to do this. Children and adults need protection from vaccine-preventable diseases including measles, shingles, flu, and COVID-19. And preventative check-ups with your health care provider and dentist can catch potential issues in the early stages.
There are also things in our day-to-day lives we need to focus on. Eating well and finding ways to be physically active are very important aspects of overall health. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, quit. Studies also show not getting enough sleep can negatively affect the immune system and is linked with many chronic diseases and conditions. Getting enough sleep and minimizing stress in your life can enhance your physical and mental well-being.
These habits can be easy to overlook. However, they have the ability to make a positive impact on your overall health. You don’t have to be perfect in every area, but if you can make small changes over time, that could be the difference needed to see better health outcomes.
Let’s not allow the pandemic to take anything else from us. For the love of our state, our communities, and ourselves, we need to raise our guards and live healthier.
Ben Chandler is president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on addressing the unmet health needs of Kentuckians. Learn more at Healthy-KY.org.
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