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With age come wisdom and bad knees

THE Associated Press reported recently on the overuse of antibiotics, which most people agree is a national problem - until they get an infection.

The report showed West Virginia has the nation's highest rate of antibiotic prescription rates.

Once again, West Virginia topped a list of bad things.

The do-gooders blamed the usual suspects: diabetes, weight and heart disease.

The point of each of these news reports on these lists is that West Virginians should be ashamed of themselves for being tubs of lard.

I don't buy that.

True, we could eat better, exercise more and watch less TV.

But the quickest way to get West Virginia off the top of all these lists of Human Wrecks would be to build a Time Machine.

We are the third oldest state in the nation with a median age of 40.3 years.

Utah is the youngest state in the nation with a median age of 28.

It is hardly fair to compare the two. Send everyone in West Virginia back in time 12.3 years and then let's see who's healthier.

But we cannot turn back the clock, so we must live with numbers that show that West Virginia leads the nation in cancer death rate, while Utah is last.

When it comes to deaths from heart disease, West Virginia has the sixth highest rate, while Utah ranks 49th.

That is how it should be. We're old. They're young.

Of course, we hear the Grim Reaper gaining on us; we're closer to the end of our three score and 10.

Live healthier?

With age comes wisdom, yes, but also bad knees.

People who walk with canes don't jump. Or jog. Or bicycle.

Age helps explain, in part, the diabetes rate in the state. We lead the league in diabetes. West Virginia is the New York Yankees of diabetes.

Upon closer inspection, maybe those lectures on nutrition and exercise should be directed at Utahns because their diabetes rate among adults is above the national average.

That is not a good start for people that young.

It's not just Utah that has its young and foolish people.

West Virginia leads the nation in the percentage of population on Medicare - 19 percent. Alaska is last at 8 percent.

Perhaps that explains why West Virginia was No. 1 in antibiotic prescriptions and Alaska was No. 50.

Other numbers show that West Virginians are pretty responsible when it comes to their health.

For example, West Virginia ranks 49th in chlamydia.

Alaska is No. 1 in chlamydia. That being the case, maybe they should try to move up in the rankings in antibiotics.

Our state does well in other venereal diseases, ranking 38th in gonorrhea and 47th in syphilis, while Alaska is No. 4 in gonorrhea and 43rd in syphilis.

We could say that the numbers prove that we are morally superior to Alaska, but more likely Alaskans are friskier because their median age is seven years younger than ours.

And a new study published in the journal Obesity raises doubts about our claim to being the fattest state in the nation.

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham checked what people reported as their weight against their actual weight and discovered Southerners are far more honest than Northerners when it comes to disclosing such information.

Researchers declared Minnesota, Kansas and the Dakotas as the fattest region in the land.

I am not saying people in West Virginia should smoke, drink to excess, and sit around the house all day eating bonbons and watching the Kardashians on TV.

We should strive for a healthier life.

But as John Denver sang, life is old here, older than the trees. If we are so darned derelict in our health, how did we make it this far?

Surber's email is


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