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Third Annual State of Aging and Health in America Report

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Merck Institute of Aging & Health (MIAH) today jointly released (11/22/04) the third annual State of Aging and Health in America Report, which focuses on promoting healthy behaviors among Americans 65 and older. These behaviors include eating a healthy diet, controlling weight and, most important, physical activity.

The new report, which also features input from the Gerontological Society of America, says that despite the proven health benefits of physical activity, one-third of older adults are not taking part in any leisure-time physical activities.

Additionally, two-thirds of older adults are not eating the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

And nearly one-fifth of older adults are obese, which is defined as at least 30 pounds above recommended weight.

The report also notes that promoting a healthier lifestyle among older Americans is the single most important factor in maintaining both physical and mental wellness.

"In order to ensure that our aging population does all it can to stay healthy and independent, and to reduce risk of disabilities, we as a nation must do more to translate knowledge about healthy behaviors into action," said Dr. Patricia P. Barry, Executive Director of MIAH.

The CDC/MIAH report also ranks health status, health behaviors and the use of preventive services among older Americans at both the national and state levels.

Under the most recent state "report card," which shows whether individual states are meeting federal targets for various health indicators, no state met all the federal targets.

Based on the number of federal targets met, Hawaii was the healthiest state for older Americans, while Kentucky was the least healthy.

Only two states, Hawaii and Minnesota, met the federal target for leisure- time physical activity. And not one state met the federal target for eating five fruits and vegetables a day.

However, 37 states met the federal target for receiving the pneumonia vaccine, compared to only one state in 2002. All states are now meeting the federal target for colorectal cancer screening.

"The report clearly shows that while most older Americans are receiving some preventive services, the majority are not engaging in healthy behaviors which could reduce their risk for disability and illness. We must address this gap with sustained attention and significant action," said Dr. Terrie Fox Wetle, President of the Gerontological Society of America.

The State of Aging & Health is the signature publication of MIAH and presents a snapshot of the entire health and aging landscape in the United States or another region of the world.

MIAH is a non-profit organization, funded by the Merck Company Foundation, and located in Washington, DC. The organization is dedicated to improving the health and independence of older adults around the world through information and education, and it is especially concerned with the education of primary care physicians in geriatrics. The Institute currently funds projects in the United States, Europe and Latin America.

The CDC is recognized as the lead federal agency for protecting the health and safety of Americans. CDC serves as the national focus for developing and applying disease prevention and control measures, environmental health actions, and health promotion and education activities. Located in Atlanta, GA, the CDC is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Julie L. Gerberding is the Director of the CDC.

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