As a Boomer doctor, I'm fascinated by the cultural and epidemiologic differences in the generations. My parents’ generation (post-Depression World War II survivors) is typically characterized as stoic, savers, devoted to the success of their children, self-sacrificers. Boomers are self-absorbed, impatient, and big consumers. We did, after all, borrow more than we had … and contributed to the credit crash.
So I was interested recently to read a review on the impact of obesity and knee osteoarthritis on the morbidity and mortality of the Boomers. The National Institutes of Health, based on the U.S. Census, obesity data, and prevalence data of osteoarthritis, recently projected among the population of persons aged 50 to 84. The result: there will be a loss of 86 million quality-adjusted life years to obesity, knee osteoarthritis, or both.[img_assist|nid=736|title=Obesity chart|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=442|height=367]
I recognize that that age group includes more than just Boomers, but we are the biggest piece of it. Of course, the relationship between obesity and knee osteoarthritis is that obesity exacerbates knee arthritis. Of those lost quality-adjusted life years, 12 percent were due to the knee osteoarthritis and 88 percent to the obesity. The model predicts that if obesity prevalence could be reduced to levels in United States seen 10 years ago, it would prevent 178,000 cases of coronary heart disease, 890,000 cases of diabetes and 111,000 total knee replacements! In addition it would increase the quantity of life by over 6 million years in this population.
The authors note that patients are more receptive to health information when it is framed in terms of potential gains, and when those gains are depicted in persons of their own race and sex. The rationale for publishing this article is to equip physicians and public health officials with useful information to convey to the public the rationale for behavior change.
The magnitude of the impact of obesity and arthritis on the quality of life of boomers really astonishes me. The other astonishing metric this research highlights is the degree of weight loss that would prevent all that morbidity and mortality. In order to prevent 178,000 cases of coronary heart disease, 890,000 diabetes cases, and 111,000 total knee replacements, people in that age range of 50 to 84 would need to lose an average of 3.75 pounds. 4 pounds! I could do that! It's time for another salad and a good long walk. Local cardiologist Jim Kirchoffer says the secret to good health is four words: “Move more. Eat less.”He’s right. This article shows how big that effect can be.
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