More than 1 million Tennesseans became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination this week as the state moved to phase 1C, vaccines for individuals 16 years old or older with certain health conditions that put them at higher risk for complications from the virus.

Tennesseans have long struggled with these chronic conditions, like diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 35.9% of Tennessee adults are overweight while 31.2% are considered obese. Among adolescents, 15.4% of Tennesseans are overweight and 16.9% are considered obese. 

The American Diabetes Association estimates that about 15% of Tennessee adults have diabetes while 1.7 million have prediabetes. 

The state also reported nearly 1.3 million cases of hypertension among adults in 2015, earning the state a spot among the top ten states for hypertension in the country. 

These conditions are among those shown to increase risks for severe illness or death from COVID-19, but these health conditions also impact so many other measures of public health. High blood pressure is linked to diabetes and obesity as well as smoking, physical inactivity and excessive drinking. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee’s Better Tennessee found in 2017 that 24% of Tennessee adults smoke tobacco and 37% don’t get enough exercise or physical activity.

After the pandemic is over, these health conditions will continue to persist in our state. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Tennessee, followed by cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease. A 2017 report by the Sycamore Institute found diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease cost Tennesseans about $5.3 billion in medical care, lost productivity and premature death. 

But little lifestyle changes can make a big impact on your individual health and the health of our communities. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Move more during the day. Quit smoking. Skip late-night snacks. Replace high-calorie sweets for more filling, healthy options. 

Healthier Tennessee offers a wealth of resources on little things you can do today to have a healthier tomorrow. Visit for more information and tools available to help you improve your health.

Crossville Chronicle

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