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Our Opinion: Minnesotans are staying fit

Kudos to Minnesotans. We might be a state where people feel like they get cooped up all winter due to the cold and snow, but apparently we do a good job of staying fit compared to people in most other states.

Minnesota placed sixth in the 2014 report of America’s Health Rankings, presented by United Health Foundation. Not too shabby.

However, looking at just ranking, the bad news would be that last year, Minnesota placed third in the country. In truth, it’s not so bad. The state’s weighted score ended up being the same. It’s just that a handful of other states improved their scores.

Hawaii placed first in the 2014 report. Then came Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Utah. Iowa, our neighbor to the south, came in at 24th. North Dakota was ninth, and South Dakota was 18th.

It is the 25th anniversary of the rankings. It’s worth noting Iowa was sixth back in 1990. It has fallen so far largely because physical inactivity and obesity have risen. Wisconsin was seventh in 1990. It’s problems are due to a nasty smoking habit and an increase in violent crimes. Minnesota was first back in 1990 and has hit first place on the rankings several times since. It has never dropped below sixth.

Minnesota benefits from a low rate of drug-related deaths, a low prevalence of diabetes and general good physical health of its people. It has the lowest death rate from cardiovascular disease — heart attacks and strokes — in the country, at 184.7 deaths per 100,000 people.

The report said immunization coverage increased in Minnesota this past year by 12 percent for children aged 19 to 35 months. That means there are about 74 percent of Minnesota children who get their shots.

Even though drug deaths are low in our state, they did go up this past year by 15 percent. They are now at 8.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

Preventable hospitalizations among Medicare beneficiaries decreased by 33 percent over the past 10 years.

Premature death decreased by 5 percent over the past two years to 5,358 years lost per 100,000 people. Premature death is when people die before reaching an expected age, like when we see a 40-something person in the obituaries. America’s Health Rankings measures using years lost, rather than deaths. Minnesota has the second lowest rate of premature death in the United States.

Since 1990, infant mortality decreased in Minnesota by 45 percent. It is now at 4.9 deaths per 1,000 live births.

We are troubled to read that the U.S. obesity rate has more than doubled since 1990, going from 11.6 percent of adults then to 29.4 percent now. Minnesota is at 25.5 percent, the 10th lowest. Also, the diabetes rate in America was at 4.4 percent in 1990 and now it is 9.6 percent. Minnesota’s rate is 7.4 percent, the fourth lowest.

The best lesson learned from all these numbers is that is vitally important to stay active year-round.