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Baby Boomers Increasingly Disabled, Obese

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, November 13, 2009 1:53 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Obesity, Elder Health, Heart Attack, Stroke, BMI, National Institute on Aging

People in their 60s are showing higher rates of disability than previous generations.
80-year-olds fared better in terms of disability trends

Rising Disabilities Among 60 Yr Olds “Disturbing”

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IMAGE SOURCE: ©iStockphoto/ elder exercise/ author: LeggNet

Whether they want to or not, baby boomers are rapidly becoming the elders of our time, but their future health-wise may not be as rosy as past generations.

Researchers have found that Americans entering their 70s are experiencing more disabilities than generations of the past.

The research, out of UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, compared data from two large national health and nutrition surveys, one from 1988 to 1994, and the other from 1999 to 2004. The good news involved people in their 80s and older who had improvements in disability rates over time, especially in women.

Disability rates were measured by how well someone can perform daily activities – walking up stairs or one-quarter mile without stopping for rest, getting in and out of bed, managing their money, and household chores.

Among people in their 70s there was no change in disability rates. However among those in their 60s, the disability rates rose, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The study is funded by the National Institute on Aging and published in the January 2010 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Lead researcher, Teresa E. Seeman, professor of medicine and epidemiology, calls the results “disturbing” and blames a rise in obesity as a cause of disability.

“Normal weight individuals do not show a trend of increasing disabilities,” she says, adding that more obese people are seen today.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the last 20 years in the U.S. Only one state, Colorado, has a prevalence of obesity less than 20 percent. Obesity is measured by BMI, body mass index.

As rates of obesity climb, so do rates of diabetes, heart attack and strokes, adding even more burden to the already stretched health care system.

But all is not lost. Seeman says even older Americans can learn new tricks.

What Consumers Can Do

The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week, even if that is broken up into two 15 minute sessions.

The University of Florida’s Institute on Aging has just received a $29.5 million grant to determine whether specific physical activity can stave off disability. Typically the older population is excluded from large research trials.

Strength training and more fiber in the diet are also lifestyle changes that make a difference. For example, instead of orange juice, eat an orange and get the fiber. Substitute whole grain bread for white toast, the group recommends.

Seeman says, "Even in older age, people have an amazing ability to change behavior and for that to change health risk," she said.

"If we don't do anything, we're going to face an older population that is bigger and much more disabled." #


1 Comment

Anonymous User
Posted by John K.
Monday, November 16, 2009 6:01 PM EST

Seniors today are a product of their lifestyles. They don't have to be out of shape, they can turn their lives around...but shouldn't wait for tomorrow to change. Now is the time. Put down that desert, stop eating that red meat, eat fish(not farm raised),eat vegetables(organic), plenty of spring water. Most importantly get out and walk, jog, swim(if you have ailments)...but mainly get off your butts and stop making excuses. If you don't take care of your health, than where are you going to live Amen!

Comments for this article are closed.

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