A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

As COVID subsidies come to an end, Kentuckians encouraged to focus on healthy lifestyle changes

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

The “Raise Your Guard” Campaign is encouraging Kentuckians to be more physically active, minimize stress, load up on fruits and vegetables, and practice other healthy behaviors as the pandemic wanes.

Data shows rates of diabetes, obesity and heart disease have risen over the past few years – especially among the state’s Black residents.

After finding out he had high blood pressure, Bowling Green resident Harlan Holmes went from a sedentary lifestyle to running marathons. (Photo courtesy Harlan Holmes, via PNS)

At age 25, Bowling Green resident Harlan Holmes found out he had high blood pressure. He said the diagnosis scared him, and he began running, eventually training for a local marathon.

“I was never athletic in school,” said Holmes. “I didn’t start running until my 20s or exercising, doing anything. My career, it’s more of a sedentary lifestyle, in information technology.”

Kentucky is one of just five states where more than 30% of residents report being physically inactive, according to 2022 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Raise Your Guard is a partnership between the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Holmes now regularly completes marathons and he said endurance running has become a way of life.

“It does a lot for my mental health as well as my physical health,” said Holmes. “I like to run early in the morning because it shows me, hey, I can accomplish difficult things, I can take on any challenges.”

Ben Chandler – CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky – said now is the time for residents to take action to stay healthy, and be in better condition to fight the next virus, whether that’s the flu or a new COVID variant.

“We have chronic conditions here in Kentucky, like diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, those sorts of things,” said Chandler. “But they have actually gotten worse as a result of the pandemic. And we feel like we need to point that out and encourage people to do the things that they need to do to be healthy.”

Other “Raise Your Guard” recommendations include quitting smoking or vaping, scheduling preventive checkups, and staying up to date on immunizations.

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