Black Hawk ranks among state's unhealthiest counties - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Black Hawk ranks among state's unhealthiest counties

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BLACK HAWK COUNTY (KWWL) -

A new report finds people living in Black Hawk County are some of the unhealthiest in the state.  The findings come in research from the University of Wisconsin in a county-by-county report released Wednesday about the health of Iowans.  Northeast Iowa fared better than southern Iowa, which was found to have the most unhealthy residents.  Delaware County ranked number one in a study for "health outcomes" which looks at the length and quality of life.  But Black Hawk County didn't fare so well, ranking 70th out of Iowa's 99 counties.

The Cedar Valley is home to a wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities, including more than 100 miles of paved hiking and biking trails.  Health experts insist that Black Hawk County alone could significantly improve its health ratings if people would simply take advantage of that.

Three women pedaled away on the ellipticals at Covenant Wellness Center in Waterloo Wednesday.  They're taking an active approach to their lives in an effort to be healthier.  But a new report finds fewer people in Black Hawk County are making those attempts to stay fit.

"I think looking at the numbers, it shows we could do better," said Mary Steffensmeier, registered dietitian and diabetes educator at Covenant's Wellness Center.

But health experts insist that it doesn't take much physical activity to make a big difference in our overall health. 

"You know just 20 minutes a day of just getting up and walking outside, 4 to 5 times a week, is ample to get that heart rate healthy and to lose weight," said Sheri Purdy, Covenant Wellness and Rehab manager.

In addition to exercising more, eating better is also important to improving health.  Most often, people complain about not being able to afford healthy foods.  It may take a little effort, but clipping coupons and looking for deals can help you save some cash on fresh foods.  And cutting back on processed foods makes a big difference, too.

"We just need to utilize our local foods, incorporate them into our meals, use the foods that are in our backyards to make meals and we'll be a lot healthier," Steffensmeier said.

Also to make our community healthier, folks also need to kick some bad habits.  The study found residents of Black Hawk County had higher use of both alcohol and tobacco.

Items considered "health factors" also play a role in the rankings, including access to healthcare, income, education, and community safety.  To improve those numbers, experts again say it's all about using the resources that are available.  Health fairs and classes are frequently offered around the community for little to no cost.  And an informed public is more likely to take action toward becoming healthier.

Of all the facts researchers considered in this study, Black Hawk County fared best—ranking 13th—in the category of clinical care, meaning that residents have good access to quality healthcare.

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