Heart disease remains America’s top killer – and the second-highest cause of death of the baby boom generation. Over time, according to National Institutes of Health figures, at least one in three Americans will develop cardiovascular problems.
For male baby boomers in particular, the heart attack risk past age 50 can be high.
Think Bill Clinton, who underwent quadruple bypass surgery at age 58 in 2004 and another procedure in 2010, and broadcaster Tim Russert, who died of a massive heart attack at 58 in 2008. Or singer Davy Jones, dead in early 2012 at 66.
Even so, research suggests that baby boomers don’t take cardiovascular disease as seriously as they should. The age-related illnesses that boomers fear most are cancer – which is the leading cause of death among boomers – and dementia, not heart attack or strokes, according to a recent AP-LifeGoesStrong.com survey.
“This cardiovascular story is way overlooked,” said Dr. David Roberts, medical director of the Sutter Heart and Vascular Institute in Sacramento, California. “The focus for the past 10 years has been on raising women’s awareness, and that’s great.
“But as a group, cardiovascular disease has always affected men earlier and in greater numbers.”
Medical advances of the past four decades – in particular, the development of effective medications to control cholesterol and hypertension – have decreased Americans’ incidence of death from heart disease by half.
At the same time, both for better and for worse, lifestyles have changed.
Medical experts know that baby boomers are less likely to smoke than their parents’ generation and more likely to go to the doctor on a regular basis. But boomers are also less likely to exercise, in part because of their sedentary jobs, and far more likely to be overweight or obese.