by Michelle Y. Llamas
BOOMERS AND SENIORS are the largest growing segment of the population, and by 2030 there will be 72.1 million people ages 65 and older. Statistics also show that baby boomers will live longer lives, too – on average 22 years longer for men and 25 years longer for women.
In fact, first generation of boomers, including such famous names as Bill Clinton, Steven Spielberg and Susan Sarandon, was born in 1946, and most of them are still alive.
Boomers and seniors today are more health conscious than generations before them, but there are still a number of health risks to watch out for. Here are five of them, along with some tips for caregivers.
1. Heart Disease
Heart disease is a growing concern in the United States, and it is the No. 1 killer of people older than 60. The risk for heart problems such stroke, heart attack and atrial fibrillation (abnormal heart beat) is increased with age. Stroke is the No. 3 killer of people over 65.
While there are medications that can reduce the risk of stroke, such as the blood thinner Pradaxa, these drugs may cause additional health conditions that can be deadly such bleeding and heart conditions. It is wise for seniors and caregivers to weigh the benefits against the risks of any heart medications.
2. Injured Joints and Weak Bones
Boomers and seniors are at high risk for orthopedic problems such as tendinitis, arthritis and bone fractures. Some orthopedic doctors coined the term “boomeritis” to describe these injuries. These problems may come from poor bone health stemming from osteoporosis or simply degenerative osteoarthritis – inflammation of the tissues around joints. Older people are also more likely to slip and fall, fracturing hips.
Treatment for these types of health problems can range from using pain medications such as Tylenol or seeking hip or knee replacement surgery. These treatments provide effective pain relief and can improve quality of life, but boomers, seniors and their caregivers should be aware of any possible complications.
3. Mental Health Disorders
Along with joints and muscles, the brain is also susceptible to more problems that come with age. While depression affects people of all ages, people over age 65 are uniquely affected by it, and dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in particular can be deadly. Alzheimer’s is the 5th leading cause of death in the United States for those over 65, and 5 million Americans age 65 and older are living with the disease.
This disease doesn’t just affect the person suffering from it, but also family members and caregivers. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 15.4 million caregivers provided more than 17.5 billion hours of unpaid care in 2012, and 15 percent of these caregivers were long-distance caregivers.
Alzheimer’s and dementia patients benefit from a caregiving schedule because routine provides consistency and familiarity.
According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 25 percent of adults age 65 and older have diabetes. This disease increases the risk for several other health issues that older adults are already predisposed to such as heart attacks, kidney disease or osteoporosis that may increase the risk of falling and hip fractures.
There are a staggering number of diabetes medications on the market that effectively control blood sugar. Seniors and their caregivers should be aware that some of these drugs are safer than others and new studies suggest that drugs like Byetta and Januvia increase the risk of pancreatic cancer, while Actos has been linked to a high incidence of bladder cancer.
5. The Growing Boomer STD Epidemic
One of the newest (and perhaps most surprising) health risks to face boomers is a growing sexually transmitted disease (STD) epidemic. The rates of STDs among those aged 45 to 65 have tripled in the past decade.
As a result of performance-enhancing drugs like Viagra and Cialis, older Americans are staying sexually active longer. Many older men and women are also divorced, putting them back into the dating scene. Unlike younger generations, however, this segment of the population is also less aware of the dangers of unprotected sex. STD tests are not just for young people.
Some experts say that Americans may live longer, but not healthier lives. However according to Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News’ chief health and medical editor, it is not too late to turn the tide.
He offers some simple advice.
“You can start to make a difference in your risk for all of these by making small changes in what you eat and how you move,” Besser said in an ABC News editorial. “It may not be easy, but it’s very simple: Start small, achieve success, and build from there.”
Bio: Michelle Y. Llamas is a publisher writer and researcher. She hosts Drugwatch Radio, a health podcast, and writes about drugs and medical devices for Drugwatch.com.
Moisee, K. (2013, February 5). Baby boomers living longer, not healthier. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2013/02/05/baby-boomers-living-longer-not-healthier/
Department of Health and Human Services. (2013, May 8). Aging statistics. Retrieved from http://www.aoa.gov/Aging_Statistics/
Scott, P. S. (2013). Sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll – and 5 surprising new boomer health risks. MSN Healthy Living. Retrieved from http://healthyliving.msn.com/health-wellness/sex-drugs-rock-n-roll-and-5-surprising-new-boomer-health-risks?pageart=2
Russell, D., de Benedictis, T. & Saisan, J. (2013, May). Dementia and Alzheimer’s care. Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/elder/alzheimers_disease_dementias_caring_caregivers.htm