What Boomers Worry About

What Boomers Worry About

07.27.11 | By

A recent AP LifeGoesStrong.com poll found that baby boomers' (born between 1946 and 1964) health concerns are focused mostly on possible cancers and memory loss. Obviously, these are important concerns for everyone as they age. However, climbing obesity rates combined with lack of appropriate exercise and diet suggest that boomers should be just as concerned about developing diabetes and its complications.

The poll is an interesting snapshot about generational attitudes and life-style choices. But it also demonstrates something of a disconnect with boomers less concerned about potential health problems like diabetes or heart disease (the top cause of premature death wound up number three on the list of potential health concerns).

U.S. life expectancy has continued to increase in recent decades. One reason is that many once-deadly conditions - like diabetes and heart disease - can be better managed as chronic conditions. Not only have medicines to treat these conditions improved but ongoing research into new and innovative medicines provides hope for continued progress in the fight against a whole host of diseases.

At the same time, we can't get away from the fact that active prevention is an even better health strategy than managing long-term chronic diseases. Certainly, appropriate medicines can help play a role in disease prevention, but life-style choices - diet and exercise - are pivotal. The poll I mentioned at the outset, for example, found that boomers as a group reported getting less exercise, particularly strength training, than the pool of all adults.

Finally, while we all need to be aware of the risk chronic diseases pose to our own health, chronic diseases also represent a growing public health challenge. For example, our ability to control growing healthcare costs. Today, treating patients with manageable and avoidable chronic diseases costs around 75 cents of every healthcare dollar spent. Certainly, as the policy platform of organizations like the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease makes clear, there is much we can do structurally throughout our healthcare system to improve prevention and limit costs through early intervention. But we must also do a better job - especially us boomers - in being more responsible for our own health.

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