The number of obese "baby boomers" in Canada today is 60 per cent higher than it was just a decade ago, according to a new report by the Heart and Stroke Foundation. In fact, says Queen's epidemiologist Ian Janssen, boomers are in even worse shape than Canadian seniors.
"Rising obesity combined with physical inactivity - less than half of Canada's baby boomers meet physical activity recommendations - is putting boomers at higher risk for a number of chronic health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer," says Dr. Janssen, a professor in the School of Physical and Health Education and member of a national expert think tank on reducing obesity in Canada.
Currently about one in three Canadian baby boomers aged 45 to 59 is obese, as compared to one in four Canadian seniors aged 65 to 74. Ten years ago, one in four boomers was obese.
The percentage of boomers who smoke is also at twice the rate of seniors (21 per cent compared to 11 per cent), another factor associated with serious diseases, notes the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Annual Report on Canadians' Health. In Canada a third of all deaths are caused by heart disease and stroke.
The report predicts that today's baby boomers may become the first generation to see a decline in their health and quality of life. Yet 80 per cent of them think they will enjoy a longer life expectancy than previous generation. And 58% think their weight has little or no effect on their heart health.
What boomers are concerned with, the survey notes, is the ability of our health care system to provide cardiovascular care. With an unhealthy aging population and about a quarter of our medical workforce retiring in the next dozen years, the heart health crunch may become a heart health crisis.
"This report should be a wake-up call to Canadians, especially those in their middle years, that they need to change their activity patterns and eating choices now to prevent chronic disease. No matter what your age, even little changes can have a substantial impact on your health risk, " says Dr. Janssen.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation also calls upon the new federal government to make this issue a priority. "It's clear the time has come for a national strategy to promote healthy living and chronic disease prevention," the report states.