By: Karen Yontz Center Staff
Close your eyes for a minute and picture a place where you could live your healthiest life. Would the weather be warm and sunny? Would there be a beach or mountains? Would there be an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood? What would you do for fun and fitness? That inspiring, healthy place exists—and it’s a part of the United States too. You probably won’t be surprised to hear it’s Hawaii. The Aloha State has never been ranked lower than 6th in America’s Health Rankings (a study that has been conducted annually since 1990), and last year, it ranked as the Healthiest State in America for the fifth time. By contrast, Wisconsin finds itself in the middle of the pack. So what is it about Hawaii that makes it so healthy?
Let’s start with the obvious—Hawaii is a state known for beautiful weather, gorgeous views, a variety of settings from beaches and ocean to mountains and volcanos and everything in between. This likely encourages the people of Hawaii to get outside to hike, swim, surf, bike or play a game of volleyball on the beach. Approximately 24% of Hawaii’s population is obese, as opposed to the national average of 39.8%. Hawaii also has a lower incidence of air pollution which may contribute to the lower number of physically inactive people, especially those who like to get outside for their activities.
Hawaii also has one of the lowest rates of death from cardiovascular disease (208.1 per 100,000 people; slightly higher than the national average of 198.8). This is an interesting statistic when you consider Hawaiian food. Much of what we mainlanders consider Hawaiian food isn’t really authentic (you can’t just throw pineapple into chicken and that makes it Hawaiian). Many truly authentic Hawaiian foods like kahlua pork and cha siu chicken are high in salt and are frequently served with starchy sides like white rice (and lots of it). However, many Hawaiians eat an abundance of fresh seafood which contributes to heart health. They also consume a lot of fresh fruit like the pineapple, guava, papaya and avocado that grows on the islands. In addition to creating a balanced, heart-healthy diet, the overall population of Hawaii has some of the lowest rates of smoking in the United States. Since this is the number one modifiable risk factor for heart disease, Hawaiians are doing their hearts a huge favor.
Hawaii’s health score is bolstered too by their ranking as one of the happiest states. Between the sunny weather and the abundance of activities available to residents, it’s easy to see how people can report being so happy. But one can also look to statistics like low violent crime, low uninsured rates and low rates of health disparity to keep a population healthy and happy. It certainly seems that unless you are someone who really loves snow and cold weather, Hawaii is a locale that would keep you both happy and healthy.
If you’ve ever wondered what the heart-healthy Hawaiian lifestyle might look like, visit The Karen Yontz Center’s Go Red Open House on Friday, February 7, 2020 from 10:00AM-2:00PM. There will be Hawaiian food, activities, giveaways and more. There’s no better way to bring a little ‘Aloha’ spirit to your heart-healthy lifestyle in the new year.