By Beth Piraino, MD
A study published this week showed that Baby Boomers have more diabetes and hypertension, which is very likely due to the increase in obesity and a decrease in exercise compared to the previous generation. Since diabetes and hypertension are by far the leading causes of kidney disease, this explains in large part the explosion of kidney disease in our population.
As a Baby Boomer myself, I found this concerning but unfortunately not surprising. I think about my mother who grew up on a farm and remained physically active into her 80’s with gardening and walking and an occasional visit to ‘Silver Sneakers.’ She weighed about the same at her death at 87 years at 123 pounds than when she was young. Because of hypertension she was careful to follow a low sodium diet and take her meds. An excellent cook, she never overate.
In contrast we Baby Boomers seem to be attached to our cars, driving everywhere, even when we could walk. Often cities are built in such a fashion to make it difficult to walk, or even dangerous. There may be no sidewalk or cross walks for busy highways. Bikes have to compete with large cars with the result that accidents in which bikers are hit by cars are not infrequent. It almost becomes a chore to exercise, with this to confined to gyms rather than a part of our daily life. Many of us frequently eat at restaurants or pick up fast food, most of it high in salt and calories with too big of servings. The increase in the size of plates is emblematic of this problem of portion size. I inherited a set of Christmas dishes from my mother-in-law, and when I bought four more to have a larger set, the new plates were 50% larger than the older plates.
The good news is that we smoke less, leading to less emphysema and heart disease. The decrease in smoking is related to a clear regulations about labeling cigarette packages with the dangers of smoking, prohibiting smoking in public places and use of tobacco money to inform the public of the negative consequences of smoking. Some such similar approach could be taken with salt and fat. Marking fast food and restaurant food with the sodium and fat and caloric content would be a start and has already been implemented in some parts of the country. There are apps for our smart phones that will help us monitor our food intake and our activity level. We can become as healthy as our parents and influence the generations to follow if we want to do so.
Dr. Beth Piraino is the President of the National Kidney Foundation