How Boomers Are Redefining Aging
Posted 2/5/2016 by UHBlog
For baby boomers – those folks born between 1946 and 1964 – midlife doesn’t look anything like it did in generations past.
“Ten thousand people a day are turning 65 in the United States,” says internal medicine specialist Roy Buchinsky, MD. “Baby boomers are living longer than their parents and grandparents ever lived. In 1910, life expectancy was 45 years. In 1970, it was 73. Today, it’s 79.”
Dr. Buchinsky attributes the increased longevity to advances in technology and medicine – including improved screening methods, surgical procedures, devices and medications – as well as better access to health information. Still, living a longer life doesn’t necessarily mean enjoying a better quality life. That’s why he encourages boomers to take ownership of their health.
“About 30 percent of our health and wellness is genetic and about 70 percent is due to lifestyle,” he says. “Thinking there’s nothing you can do about the rest of your life is not true.”
Even boomers dealing with the consequences of earlier lifestyle choices have options for improving their quality of life, he says. For example, treatments are available to help people overcome narcotics dependency and new medications are available for those who acquired Hepatitis C through intravenous drug use, unprotected sex or tattooing.
Dr. Buchinsky outlines what some baby boomers are doing to ensure their midlife and later years will be as happy and healthy as possible:
- Screening – Boomers are getting their mammograms and pap smears (for women), prostate tests (for men) and colonoscopies. They’re also checking their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood-sugar levels.
“Getting appropriate testing allows you to determine if something is going on in your body, so you can take steps to live a healthier life,” he says. “Some of these tests can detect cancer at an early stage, so if you develop it, we can treat it at stage zero.”
- Vaccinating – Boomers are arming themselves against pneumonia, influenza and shingles.
- Going green – They’re filling their plates with fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and rounding out their diet with healthy proteins – like salmon and skinless poultry – and healthy fats, such as olive oil and avocados.
Even if they’ve eaten processed food for decades, concentrating on these foods now can help prevent or reverse obesity, diabetes, hypertension and other conditions.
- Moving – Boomers are spending less time watching TV and instead spending their time walking, dancing with their partner or taking a Pilates class. Exercising just 30 minutes a day five days a week greatly improves physical and mental well-being. Dr. Buchinsky advises devoting three 20-minute sessions to strength training (using bands, light weights and/or body weight) and the remainder to cardio activity, such as jogging, skating and/or biking.
- Quitting smoking – It’s never too late to kick the habit. Just one year after taking a last puff, the risk of developing heart disease is half that of a current smoker.
- Chilling – Some boomers are caring for an ill partner or parent, they’re suddenly single or their kids have moved out (or back in!). There’s no escaping stress, but folks are managing it through yoga, deep breathing, meditation, exercise, prayer, reading or gardening.
- Engaging – Boomers are becoming active in their place of worship, taking up running, playing mahjong or starting book clubs.
“There’s unity in community,” Dr. Buchinsky says. “Connect with people because loneliness and isolation can cause depression, which is one of the biggest causes of early death in this age group.”
- Using their noodle – Developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is among baby boomers’ biggest concerns. There’s no magic potion to stave off a memory-impairing illness, but folks may be able to slow its onset by eating well, exercising and staying sharp by reading, doing Sudoku or solving crossword puzzles.
“What’s smart for the heart is good for the brain,” he says.
Roy Buchinsky, MD is an internal medicine specialist and the director of wellness at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can
request an appointment with Dr. Buchinsky or any other University Hospitals doctor online.