By Wilfredo Abesamis, M.D., Scripps Health
As the first wave of “Baby Boomers” reaches retirement age and becomes eligible for Medicare, attention is being drawn to the health concerns that seem most prevalent among this generation.
About 76 million people were born during the Baby Boom years, which range from 1946 to 1964. Now in their 50s and 60s, Boomers are not only dealing with health issues such as diabetes and heart disease that are common to all adults, but also problems related to aging.
Following are the top 10 health concerns of the Baby Boom generation:
1. Type 2 diabetes
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2011 the percentage of diagnosed type 2 diabetes among people aged 65-74 was more than 13 times that of people younger than 45 years of age. Diabetes increases the risk of serious health problems such as high blood pressure, vision loss, kidney disease, nerve damage, foot problems, amputation and cardiovascular disease. People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke.
Obesity is one of the leading risk factors for diabetes. With lifestyle changes and medical treatment, diabetes and its associated risks can be managed.
- Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women over age 60, and after age 45, the risk of developing it increases significantly. Coronary artery disease, in which the arteries that deliver blood to the heart become narrowed or blocked, is the most common type of heart disease and a main cause of heart attacks.
In the U.S., about one in three adults has high blood pressure. The higher the pressure, the greater the risk or serious cardiovascular problems; with each 20mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure and 10 mmHg diastolic, the risk of stroke and heart attack doubles. After age 50, a systolic blood pressure above 140 mmHg is a greater risk factor for stroke and heart disease than diastolic blood pressure.
You can help can lower your heart disease risk by avoiding tobacco use, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and maintaining a healthy weight through a low-salt, low-fat diet and plenty of exercise. If you’re between ages 45 and 79, ask your doctor if you would benefit from taking aspirin to lower your risk of heart attack.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death among people age 65 and older. Aging brings an increased risk of several types of cancer, including lung, skin colon, breast and prostate cancer. The link between lung cancer and tobacco use wasn’t fully recognized until the 1960s, when the first groups of Boomers were teens and young adults, and many in this generation smoked cigarettes for decades. Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke can help reduce the risk for developing lung cancer. Regular screenings for skin, colon, breast and prostate cancer can catch these diseases early while they are still highly treatable.
Depression affects more than 6.5 million Americans aged 65 or older. Many have struggled with depression throughout their lives, although some may experience it for the first time later in life.