Growing older in America isn’t what it used to be. For aging baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964 during the post-Second World War baby boom, they’re working into their late 60s and 70s – long past the customary retirement age. The question is: What does this mean for boomer health issues?
Data from the National Institute on Aging’s Health and Retirement Study shows that people are ready to retire in their early to mid-60s, but retirement trends are changing, with older adults increasingly interested in part-time opportunities and other activities to stay busy and productive with age. Essentially, baby boomers are expecting to work longer, making for a reversal in the century-long trend toward earlier retirement. Compared with 1992, in 2004, a substantially larger proportion of people in their early to mid-50s expected to work after 65.
The structure and availability of pensions strongly influence the decision about when to retire, of course. People are living much longer, with the average life expectancy now at 78.8 years, and need to balance their financial resources – and boomer health issues – to afford those senior years.
When it comes to baby boomer health trends, the outlook isn’t particularly rosy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just released a landmark report on the health of America’s baby boom generation, with the news that many are facing chronic illness. Nearly half of people ages 55 to 64 are taking a prescription heart drug and about one in five are dealing with diabetes. Obesity rates are also a concern.
While prescription drug use is high for boomers, the report found the overall death rate in this age group has gone down over the past decade. Cancer death rates are now higher than those for heart disease, the report found. Experts suggest the new findings show that interventions focusing on heart health are beginning to pay off.
The shift from treatment to prevention has its benefits – and that’s what boomer health care has to focus on now: Healthy living tips so we can continue to be active and productive with age. Let’s start with diet, a top concern in an era of microwaveable and convenience foods.
Most people over 60 require fewer calories than younger adults because their lifestyles become more sedentary. But their requirements for vitamins and minerals remain the same, which can lead to older people becoming deficient in certain nutrients.
To add to the deficit, the absorption of vitamins and minerals is harder in an older person’s body and the medication taken by many over 60 can further hinder the absorption of these nutrients. Good food choices are extremely important for boomer health care.
Women are at increasing risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, depression and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and type 2 diabetes as they age. Nutrition is key to prevention! Here are 5 foods to make part of your healthy eating plan:
1. Hard-boiled eggs: Eggs are having a foodie moment! Eggs are high in zinc, which is vital for the immune system and strong nails, hair and skin health.
2. Pistachios: Here’s to great snacking. Switch out chips and crackers for some unsalted pistachios. These nuts are terrific for promoting good cholesterol which plays a role in heart health.
3. Broccoli: Women need calcium for bone health and vitamin D to help absorb calcium effectively. Broccoli is a superstar vegetable that contains both. Eat more broccoli.
4. Bananas: Get your potassium daily by adding a banana to your diet, which naturally helps lower blood pressure.
5. Dark chocolate: Just two squares, please! This health food contains free-radical fighting antioxidants and caffeine, a natural stimulant to boost your mood and concentration.
For men in their 60s, prostate health, heart disease and stroke, and type 2 diabetes are common concerns. Here’s what you should be eating for boomer health care:
1. Tomatoes: Delicious raw in salad or gazpacho, or cooked in a delicious tomato sauce for pasta, tomatoes have lycopene, which can help support prostate health.
2. Green tea: Switch out your morning coffee with green tea on occasion. The compounds found in green tea are great for prostate and heart health, along with boosting immunity.
3. Salmon: Men like their steaks on the barbecue, but try grilling some fresh salmon this summer. Wild salmon is loaded with protein and the two blockbuster omega 3s – DHA and EPA – that make us happy, smart and pain-free. As the body can’t make omega-3 fatty acids, the best way to get them is through the food we eat.
4. Blueberries: Fresh fruit can conquer your craving for sweets while providing antioxidants and fiber. Blueberries, noted for brain health and diabetes prevention, are a great option because as the recommended portion sizes are typically generous, you end up feeling satisfied.
5. Beans: Beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber that keep you feeling full and help with blood sugar control. Experiment with the wide variety of beans from flat beans to chick peas to fava beans.
Boomer health issues are those chronic diseases that take their toll on an aging body. But to keep your brain and body healthy, you need to start eating right and get active and engaged. Here are the top strategies for healthy living after 60 beyond diet:
Exercise. Studies show that regular exercise has a huge impact on our health, helping with bone density, cardiovascular health and mental ability. Researchers at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center found the more active we can be, the more we can support our brain health and keep our minds clear in our senior years. They looked at 167 participants with an average age of 80 who wore movement monitors to track their exercise and non-exercise activity over a period of 11 days.
Participants’ ability to move was also examined, and MRI scans of the brain were used to assess the volume of white matter hyperintensities (WMH) – small areas of brain damage – typically found in an older person. WMH’s have long been associated with impaired motor functioning, and show up in activities like walking. Findings showed that brain damage was more pronounced among the least active participants.
Social connections. Participate in group activity or exercise and double the health rewards! Researchers from the University of East Anglia determined that regular group walking can be a catalyst for adopting other health behaviors, so the spinoff for general wellness has incredible potential.
For their analysis, the researchers looked at 42 studies with data from 1,843 participants in more than 14 countries. Some of these participants had health problems, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity or Parkinson’s disease.
Some of the participants joined regular walking groups which walked outdoors for less than one hour each time. The researchers then assessed the effects the group walking had on their health.
It’s impressive. The walking group participants experienced significant reductions in blood pressure, resting heart rate and cholesterol, not to mention body fat and body mass index (BMI). All these factors play into your risk for heart disease and stroke. They also showed improved lung power, general fitness, and lower levels of depression.
Clearly, there’s good science behind healthy living tips for the over-60 set which address boomer health issues. If you’re working into your late 60s or later, as trends suggest you may, you need to keep your health on your side. Here’s to living a full and active life in your senior years!
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