Top 7 Health Concerns for Boomers

The health and aging issues of baby boomers are quite different than those faced by previous generations.

For one thing, innovative medical advances are controlling diseases better, enabling boomers to live longer, fuller lives.

Still, like their parents and grandparents before them, many boomers face age-related chronic diseases.

The good news, says family medicine specialist Christina Zarate Kolp, MD, is that many of these conditions, if addressed early, can be minimized and/or treated.

“The sooner that you address a health concern, the better it can be managed,” she says.

Here, courtesy of Dr. Zarate Kolp, are the top seven health concerns for boomers, and how to best avoid them:

  1. Cardiovascular disease. The older you get, the higher your risk of developing one or more types of cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, clogged arteries and high cholesterol, which can lead to heart attacks, strokes and/or other health problems. Studies suggest that by 2030, 40.5 percent of Americans will have some form of cardiovascular disease. Many of the factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease are preventable, Dr. Zarate Kolp says. In addition to practicing heart-healthy habits and wellness, she recommends boomers have regular check-ups, know their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers and, if needed, take medicine to control their risks.
  2. Overweight and obesity. These conditions are rampant throughout our society, she says, and can lead to numerous disabilities and chronic diseases. “Our idea of obesity is of someone who is morbidly obese, but we like to begin intervention sooner,” Dr. Zarate Kolp says. That intervention begins in patients who are overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9. This can prevent development of obesity and reduce the risk factors for many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart attack, stroke and sleep apnea. A BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese.
  3. Diabetes. Many boomers who are overweight and aren't physically active risk developing Type 2 diabetes. If you have diabetes, you face numerous health problems that could affect your kidneys, nerves, feet and eyes, as well as an increased risk for heart disease.
    Like many age-related diseases, you can minimize the impact of diabetes through lifestyle and diet.
  4. Cancer. Certain screenings, such as a skin cancer check, mammogram, pap smear, colonoscopy or prostate exam, can help save or extend your life. For boomers, this is especially important since research shows that nearly 90 percent of all cancers are diagnosed in people ages 50 and older. “Cancer screenings are important to prevent and/or reduce the mortality rate of some types of cancer,” she says.
  5. Caregiver stress. Many baby boomers find themselves taking care of children and aging parents. Sometimes, this feeling of being caught in the middle leads to depression and anxiety, Dr. Zarate Kolp says. She recommends talking to your primary care physician for resources to help you.
  6. Hepatitis C. Baby boomers born between 1945 through 1965 are five times more likely than other adults to be infected with this virus. A blood test is used to find out whether you have Hepatitis C. If you test positive, treatments can help cure you. “People infected with the Hepatitis C virus may not even know they have it,” she says. “If you have it, it can cause a lot of damage, including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death.”
  7. Respiratory diseases. Baby boomers suffer from various respiratory problems, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, which often causes conditions such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Depending on the type of respiratory disease, medications can help control the symptoms.

Christina Zarate Kolp, MD is a family medicine specialist at University Hospitals Amherst Primary Care. You can request an appointment with Dr. Zarate Kolp or any other University Hospitals doctor online.

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