This is the first article of a 4-part series on the role that nutrition plays in the health of Baby Boomers.
Diet has a direct effect on health no matter how young or old you are. However, if you were born between the mid 1940’s and 1960’s, the quality of your diet can have a greater, far-reaching impact than you might realize. Here are some important reasons why baby boomers should make nutrition a priority.
Rising Healthcare Costs
The baby boomer generation is one of the largest, with an estimated 74 million or more people. As this generation ages and moves forward together through retirement and the senior years, healthcare resources are becoming increasingly strained. The risk of cardiovascular disease and other diseases increases with age, and this means medical staff and healthcare systems must cope with a greater number of patients.
This rise also leads to Medicare challenges as baby boomers become eligible for the program and flood the system. Medicare has been a safety net for seniors to offset medical costs by supplementing their existing insurance or, in many cases, acting as their primary medical insurance. The influx of boomers puts an unprecedented toll on Medicare funds.
For boomers, this could mean an increase in out-of-pocket healthcare costs. To cope with these rising costs, it is smart to control what you can through a good diet. Nutrition is a building block to better health. Educating yourself about nutrition’s relationship to disease management and prevention can cut your medical costs by keeping your body healthier and out of the hospital.
Diet and Disease Prevention
Nutrition education is a key to better eating. In the case of eating healthy, what you do not know can hurt you. For example, with age comes changes in nutrient requirements. You need to keep your bones healthy by getting more vitamin D and calcium, and your body might not absorb certain nutrients, such as vitamin B12, as readily as when you were younger.
Aging adults can’t rely on a standard multivitamin to provide all the vitamins and nutrients they need. Malnutrition in seniors often goes undiagnosed, and senior adults need more calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, niacin, folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin E than younger adults.
To prevent or manage serious diseases common to baby boomers, such as diabetes and heart disease, the right nutrition is vital. Examples include adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet for preventing strokes, and limiting carbs to those low on the glycemic index for preventing or managing diabetes. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, research shows that the same dietary strategies that benefit cardiovascular health also benefit brain health. For the sake of your mind and body, you have to pay attention to your nutrition.
In short, what you eat has a direct and lasting impact on your health. The question becomes not if you can afford to eat healthy, but whether you can afford not to eat healthy. The answer is that good nutrition will save you both in terms of health costs and quality of life through your senior years.
Good Nutrition and Aging-in-Place
By staying well-nourished and preventing debilitating diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dementia you can maintain your independence longer and age-in-place at home. Those on a fixed income might be tempted to reach for the cheapest, easiest meals and pay less regard to nutritional content. Beware of boxed, highly-processed foods, which may seem like good deals, but are full of sodium, preservatives, and sugar, yet are low in nutrient value. While it takes some effort to learn healthy meal planning, the health benefits make it worthwhile.
If you lack the time, energy, or ability to fix wholesome meals, remember that help is available. Consulting with nutritionists for advice and receiving healthy home-delivered meals, for example, are two ways to ensure you are getting some vital nutrients every day. No matter how you incorporate better nutrition into your life now and in the immediate future, you can be assured that you will be healthier and be able to enjoy a richer life.