Sunday, May 16, 2010

Boomers Focusing on Health Care

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Taking care of our health has become a national obsession. A large part of it has to do with the mind-frame of the Baby Boomers. By now we are all aware of this huge bulge in the population called the Baby Boomer Generation. “Boomers” are that group of people born between 1946 and 1964. They are the largest generation in all of human history, and it does not look like following generations are going to have the same impact Boomers have had on world and national culture. The boomers have affected culture at every decade of their lives, and without a doubt, you can attribute our current health consciousness to the Boomers as well.
Looking at history: in the 1960's we experienced lots of elementary school construction; teachers were in huge demand, and class sizes were growing in leaps and bounds. TV shows for children became popular, like Howdy Doodie and Captain Kangaroo. Cartoons became the Saturday morning television staple. Then when the Boomers hit their teens, we were in the middle of the Viet Nam War, kids that were not fighting, were protesting. Music took a major turn: the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Doors, etc. changed music forever. Then in the late 70's we saw the rise of the DINKs: double-income no kids. Life was about making money and lots of it. The Boomers were working age, and saving and home buying became the trend. Finally, in the 80's when we thought the boomers had given up on children, women started having children in their late 30's as their biological clocks started ticking. Today the leading edge of the baby boomer generation is hitting retirement age, and preserving ones health and youth are the national obsessions.
Now we take supplements, all our food has nutritional labels; we watch our cholesterol and fat intake. We frown on smoking, and while we may not do it, we think about exercise. But are we missing the forest for the trees! You can take the physical benefits from quitting smoking, taking vitamins and supplements, sipping green tea, and everything else and add it up, and it will not come close to the benefits that you get from reducing stress from your life.
In a nutshell, stress is physiological condition (not an emotion), it activates the HPA system in your body (the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands) similar to the flight or fight response, it alters our body chemistry by releasing hormones and neurochemicals designed to preserve our bodies in an emergency. It is a survival mechanism. As such, it is not supposed to be "ON" all of the time. However, when we are constantly in stressful situations that is exactly what we are doing. The danger in this is, if the HPA system is active for too long, the same mechanism for survival starts tearing the body down. In fact, the last 20 years of research has found that long-term stress practically doubles your chance for heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, along with increasing the incidence of catching colds, flu's, even pneumonia. Now, add every autoimmune illness you can think of (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, fibromyalgia, etc.).
Therefore, if you want to extend your life, and stay healthy long into your later years, exercise and healthy diets are not enough. You had better start throwing some effort into turning the HPA system "OFF"!
Do you like to read? Do you enjoy music? Have you been putting off joining or going to the gym? Gardening is a great stress reducer, or just taking a 20-minute walk in the evening will be so refreshing. Right now, before you do anything else, take a hard look at what's disturbing you. Identify what causes YOUR stress, and then learn what you need to do to get rid of it. If you are a caregiver for a parent that is chronically ill, you can start at, if you have work issues or anxiety attacks check out Or if you have an inkling of what you need to do, DO IT. Half of all caregivers die before the caring for. Strokes are double for people with high blood pressure. I think it is a safe bet that you not only want to live a long time, but you want that time to be quality and healthy time.

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