For baby boomers, overcoming vices can go a long way | by Scot Kersgaard

Posted on Fri, Jan 31, 2014

You know you’re a baby boomer if you remember smoking behind the school, seeing Dean Martin get soused on TV and watching McDonalds go from 1 million to billions of burgers served. You also know you’re a baby boomer if you fell into some of these bad habits that have come back to haunt you along the way.

VicesToday’s baby boomers are at the age where cancer and back pain are as common as braces and acne to the teen-ager population, and giving up the bad habits relatively common to their generation can help them heal better from medical treatments and enjoy a higher quality of life in their later years, experts say.

While diet and lifestyle choice play a role in overall health, they also play a role in a person’s ability to recover from major surgery or major health issues and go on to live active lives later, says Dr. Joseph Morreale, a Denver-area back surgeon. His colleague, oncologist Dr. Andrew Nemechek, agreed. “People who take care of themselves, who eat right and get some exercise, are much more likely to do well with cancer treatments or surgery,” says Nemechek.

“You need to meet them where they are and let them talk openly. It doesn’t help to demand that they quit,”

The baby boom generation has a history of substance abuse; many people who grew up in the 60s and 70s tend not to see alcohol and drug use as a big deal, and those beliefs carry over into their views of prescription drugs as well, says Linda Martin, a licensed professional counselor with the Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network.

Martin cited a study by the National Institutes of Health that found people born between 1946 and 1964 were more than twice as likely to have substance-abuse issues than any previous generation. Moreover, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the number of older adults treated for substance abuse went up by 32 percent between 1995 and 2002, with opiate (painkiller) abuse leading the way.

addictionBut it’s never too late to quit, Martin says. According to the American Lung Association, a man who quits smoking at 65 adds one or two years to his life and a woman adds two to four years. Moreover, the ALA says people start getting healthier and feeling better almost immediately, regardless of how old they are when they quit smoking.

Yet overcoming long-held bad habits isn’t easy, Martin says, and those with peers who are hooked can help. “You need to meet them where they are and let them talk openly. It doesn’t help to demand that they quit,” Martin says. Talking with someone may also alleviate one of the causes of substance abuse, she said, which is a feeling of isolation, of not having a strong community.

For substance-abuse help for you or a loved one, visit: or call 303-730-8858.

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