Enjoy your golden years, get healthy

A huge majority of boomers reported not eating enough vegetables and fruit

Heart and Stroke Foundation

Canadian baby boomers have big aspirations for their golden years, but their current lifestyle choices could keep them from making these dreams a reality. The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s 2013 Report on the Health of Canadians titled Reality Check warns that without immediate action, baby boomers may spend their last years in sickness, disability and immobility.

Although Canadians are living longer, according to Statistics Canada, on average, there’s a 10-year gap between how long we live, and how long we live in health. This gap is mainly due to heart disease, stroke and other chronic conditions.

A new Heart and Stroke Foundation poll found that while almost 80 per cent of Canadian boomers think their doctors would rate them as healthy, their self-reported lifestyle choices show otherwise.

A huge majority of boomers reported not eating enough vegetables and fruit (85 per cent), more than 40 per cent are not getting enough physical activity each week, one in five (21 per cent) smoke, and one in 10 (11 per cent) are heavy drinkers. While the large majority of boomers said they feel stressed at least sometimes, almost 30 per cent flag they are often or always stressed.

Despite these lifestyle habits, more than a quarter of Canadian baby boomers don’t feel concerned about how healthy they will be later in life. And a shocking three quarters (74 per cent) don’t know that they can reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke by up to 80 per cent with lifestyle modifications.

“The lifestyle choices that Canadian boomers are making directly contribute to living the last 10 years of their lives in sickness. This should cause boomers a lot of concern,” says Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Dr. Beth Abramson. “The good news is that if lifestyle changes are made now, many Canadians can considerably reduce the effects of heart disease and stroke. It is possible for us to take charge of our heart health, reduce hospitalizations and immobility, significantly improving the quality of our lives.”

Brian Campkin knows first-hand what it feels like to have a close call. Six years ago, at the age of 46, after feeling terrible shortness of breath on the tennis court, Brian was diagnosed with blocked arteries and underwent life-saving triple bypass surgery.

“I was stopped in my tracks. Literally. I had to face the fact that I wasn’t healthy – and that was a shock, but it really shouldn’t have been,” says Campkin. “I didn’t take care of myself and I was a slave to some of life’s common stressors. I put everything else in my life before my health. I actually set myself on a path to sickness.”

Since then, Brian has made it his mission to turn his life around. “I’ve taken control of my health and made a lot of healthy choices like changing my diet, so I can have the quality life I want in the future. I’ve lost 20 pounds and feel better than ever,” Campkin adds.