Baby Boomers and Health…

By Sharon Tillotson

We have a terrific doctor who is a daily contributor to our local news station. I don’t often catch him because I don’t often watch the news. But occasionally I do turn it on so I can see what the weather person has to say about whether I should bring an umbrella or perhaps a sweater when venturing into the great outdoors.    

If I do happen to stumble upon the doc I listen up. He’s quite a character, a baby boomer who has the chops and is very passionate about health. He more often turns his nose up at a newly released study or survey, nicely edifying listeners on the empirical data size and/or interpretation in a humorous and forthright manner.

A while ago I caught him immediately upon hitting the ‘power’ button on the remote. He was wearing his usual grin. (And I suspect jeans and running shoes on his lower body hidden behind a desk). He began as he often does describing a new survey. As he went on with the statistics his voice rose and he became almost apoplectic.

Boomers it seems, are worrying about the wrong things in regards to their health. Or more succinctly they are addressing the wrong things. The survey suggested we worry most about cancer and dementia. Which brings us to the reason for the rise in the doc’s blood pressure:  According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, these are the top killing diseases in the US:

-Heart disease (616,067 deaths)

-Cancer (562,875 deaths)

-Stroke (135,952 deaths)

-Chronic lower respiratory diseases (127,924 deaths)

Unintentional injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and influenza and pneumonia round out the list (the most recent data, which are still preliminary, show a smaller gap between heart disease and cancer deaths).

My youngest daughter, who is a project manager in clinical health, says cancer is a ‘designer’ disease. Please, neither she, I, the writer of the linked article nor the doc is suggesting cancer is anything other than a horrible disease which we must do everything we can to eradicate. My eldest daughter just turned three on Aug.12th.  Yes, it is her third anniversary of a life-saving bone marrow transplant, which she received after contracting Leukemia two years before that and which re-occurred just shy of a year after the first rounds of chemo treatment that all had thought to have ‘cured’ her. We thank God, research and modern medicine for her life every day. It is just that cancer is where most of our research money -and worry – is going, whereas other diseases are not getting the attention they deserve. No one is suggesting taking from the cancer fund and putting it elsewhere. We need to add funding for health issues, period.

The LA Times article goes on to say this:

The advice to prevent heart disease hasn’t changed much. Eating healthy and exercising, not smoking and only drinking in moderation are still the go-to preventive measures—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more here.

And that’s what had the Doc’s plebian striped shirt in a knot. We know a little how to prevent heart disease and strokes (which he lumps together) but we must make the effort ourselves. Folks, he said in a tight voice, (I am paraphrasing as I did not record and do not remember his exact words), get your mammograms and other tests, donate to research, but above all, walk or do other exercise, reduce stress, don’t smoke and drink only moderately. And who knows, he added, it just might prevent some cancers and dementia as well.

So if you worry at all about health issues (and this same doc as most doctors, rates worry as right up there in causes of ill health  - being aware, he says, and taking precautions would do us a lot more good), are you worrying about the right things?

5 responses to “Baby Boomers and Health…

  1. I enjoyed your thought provoking post. Every time the results of a new survey are released, I wonder what’s “bad” now! Eggs and avocados were bad for a while, but now they’re both okay. My mom wouldn’t let me eat bananas when I was young because they were thought to cause polio. I can’t imagine where that wisdom came from! No wonder we don’t know what to believe. I think the doc’s advice is reasonable and makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. My husband used to listen to Dr. Dean O’Dell on the radio and he used to comment on how people would try the most unusual or extreme things to stay healthy but most people would miss the obvious like quitting smoking, exercising moderately, eating just a bit better and not drinking so much alcohol. My neighbor always says “everything in moderation.”
    Sandy N. – I also always wonder what’s “good” now! I started to realize that when I read an article, I have to look for the word “may” as in “may cause…” or “may prevent…”

  3. Lee Sinclair

    The USA Weekend magazine in my Sunday paper had an article titled “What’s left to eat?” The answer they gave was the usual suspects – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy, etc. In other words, nothing quick and easy.

  4. Sandy and Elise, that is so on the mark about the warnings we get about food. Really, here we are with a longer life expectancy than ever before, surpassing the bible’s promise of three score and ten, or fourscore if we are ‘strong’, and looking at the food of nature as if it were our enemy.

    Lee, alas, ain’t that the truth!

  5. adrianakraft

    You are so correct that it “may’ help prevent Alzheimers as well. I’ve just been reading a well-written book by John Ratey, M.D., a psychiatrist on the Harvard faculty. “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” documents exactly how this works and outlines the many additional benefits to be gained from the right amount and concentration of exercise – along with, of course, a well balanced diet.