Turn Back the Clock

Healthy choices lower your risk of cardiovascular disease

Baby boomers aren’t making enough healthy choices

It makes sense that people who adopt healthy lifestyle habits earlier in life would improve their health and well-being. But do people who adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors later in life benefit as well? Researchers from the University of South Carolina addressed this idea using data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Healthy lifestyle habits included eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, exercising at least 2.5 hours per week, maintaining a body mass index between 18.5 and 30, and not smoking. The study included data from 15,708 participants aged 45-54. At baseline, 1,344 (8.5 percent) of the 15,708 participants engaged in all four healthy lifestyle habits. Over the next six years, 970 participants adopted all four healthy lifestyle habits. Over the following four years, the 970 individuals who had adopted four healthy lifestyle habits had a 40 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality and a 35 percent lower risk of a cardiovascular disease event than participants who persisted with three or fewer healthy habits. Thus, people who adopt healthy lifestyle habits later in life may still enjoy improved health.

With all the attention that’s been given to the benefit of adopting healthy lifestyle choices, you’d think that the rate at which Americans actually adopt healthy lifestyle choices would be rising. Researchers at the University of South Carolina used data from the National Health and Evaluation Survey from 1988-1994 and 2001-2006 to find out. The researchers discovered that adherence to healthy lifestyle habits decreased from 1988 to 2006. The proportion of US adults who adhered to five healthy habits (quality diet, regular exercise, normal body weight, moderate alcohol consumption, not smoking) declined from 15 percent to 8 percent. Of special concern: People with chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, did not adhere to healthy habits any more frequently than other people. Adding insult to injury was the fact that the percentage of American adults with those chronic conditions increased over the study period. These patterns bode ill for the future of Americans’ health and well-being, not to mention to solvency of the US medical care system.

The aging of the huge baby boomer generation in the US portends major increases in medical care needs and expenses. Impacts may be even greater given that baby boomers exhibits poorer health than members of the previous generation. Researchers at in West Virginia analyzed data from the National Health and Examination Survey from 1988-1994 (previous generation) and 2007-2010 (baby boomer generation). Participants in both generations had an average age of 54 years. Baby boomers had lower self-reported health, greater use of a walking assist device, and were more likely to report no physical activity than members of the previous generation. Hypertension, hypercholesterolemia (excessive blood cholesterol), diabetes, and obesity were all significantly higher for baby boomers than participants in the previous generation. On the positive side, baby boomers showed lower rates of smoking, emphysema, and myocardial infarction than the previous generation. Overall, baby boomers appear to be less healthy than the previous generation. Will baby boomer wake up and start embracing healthy lifestyle choices before its too late?

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment