3 baby boomer health truths

3 Baby Boomer Health Truths

Baby boomers is the name give to people born in the post-World War II years of 1946 to 1964 - a group now between the ages of about 50 to 70. With aging comes increasing health concerns for this generation of more than 70 million Americans.

A Journal of the American Medical Association report showed that while medical advantages have led to an increased life expectancy in their lifetime, baby boomers have a greater incidence of many chronic conditions as compared to the generation that came before them. According to Virtua family doctor and geriatric expert – and baby boomer herself – Mary Campagnolo, MD, here are the three biggest health matters that should be on every boomer’s mind.

Obesity

Almost 40 percent of baby boomers are obese, up from about 29 percent of their parents’ generation. “The epidemic of obesity is the primary health concern for baby boomers. We’re the first generation to grow up with fast food and computerized workplaces, which surely have had a hand in this,” says Dr. Campagnolo. “Obesity has implications for increased diabetes risk, hypertension, and high cholesterol, among other health issues.” Shockingly, the report showed that the number of people with high cholesterol more than doubled as compared to the previous generation. Diabetes and hypertension increased as well. “If you’re obese, changing your diet is crucial to improving your health,” says Dr. Campagnolo. She recommends the following:

  • Schedule an appointment with your family physician.
  • Review your diet and food preferences with a registered dietitian.
  • Take a healthy cooking class.
  • Cut back on eating out.
  • Choose whole, natural foods.

“If you lose weight now, it’s still possible to avoid many other health problems,” she notes.

Mobility

"I’ll go to pick up a few things from the store and see people my age or younger using a motorized cart to get around,” says Dr. Campagnolo. “At least they’re performing activities of daily living independently, and there’s assistance for them, but this shouldn’t be expected or accepted.”

The statistics support Dr. Campagnolo’s observations: baby boomers today are more than twice as likely as their parents’ peers to use a cane or walker. “Inactivity and sedentary jobs play a big role in this,” she continues. Arthritis, however, is the biggest cause of limited mobility for baby boomers, and exercise is all the more important for those already affected. Numerous studies have shown that moving arthritic joints will help to stave off additional damage and worsening mobility issues.

Stress

“Something that comes up a lot with my older patients is high stress, especially caregiver stress (the stress associated with caring for aging parents as well as one’s own family/children)” says Dr. Campagnolo. People with high stress, depression, and anxiety tend to have poorer outcomes when it comes to most chronic diseases. Dr. Campagnolo recommends facing the stressors proactively:

  • Learn to meditate or pray.
  • Schedule time daily just for you to do something fun or relaxing.
  • Try a yoga class.
  • Join a social or support group.
  • Volunteer in your community.

“This is especially important for women, who are particularly susceptible to caregiver stress,” she advises. “We need to take a ‘whole person’ approach to improving our health as we age.”

Updated June 6, 2016

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