NBC’s former anchorman, Tom Brokaw wrote in his 1998 book The Greatest Generation, “It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.” He rightly said so because they had lived through the great depression and fought and won battles in European and the Pacific WW II theaters against an evil axis of Nazis, Italian fascists and Japanese warlords.
Seeing what I do now as I continue practicing medicine at the age of 75, I believe that I am now part of what may ultimately be called “The Oldest Generation” of the 21st century. Life expectancy in the year 1901 was 48 for men and 51 for women. In 2011 the life expectancy for all US citizens, regardless of gender was an average of 78 years. The fastest-growing segment of the total population is the oldest —those 80 and over. Their growth rate is twice that of those 65 and over and almost 4-times that for the total population. In the United States, this group now represents 10% of the senior population and has been estimated to expand from 5.7 million in 2010 to over 19 million by 2050. I seriously doubt that for two major reasons; personal indifference to health of younger people and the negative influence of government bureaucrats in healthcare.
First, the growing numbers of obese children and grandchildren of the baby boomer generation portends serious health problems for a large percentage of Americans that will surely affect their longevity. The percentage of overweight children in the United States is growing at an alarming rate, with 1 out of 3 kids now considered overweight or obese. Too many kids are spending less time exercising and more time in front of the television set, a personal computer or a video-game console. Their busy, hard working parents have less free time to prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals, deferring instead to the quick and easy solution of the fast food industry. Many of these kids have learned their poor nutritional habits from their parents, who are morbidly obese and whose lives will also be cut short by serious illnesses. Morbidly obese persons are at risk for hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease causing heart attacks, strokes and loss of limbs, deep vein thrombosis, post-operative complications, restrictive lung disease, asthma, skin infections, sleep apnea syndrome, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis of the spine, hips, knees, ankles and feet, carpal tunnel syndrome, depression and several cancers. People with many of those conditions, will not live past 75, and they may even pass on before the age of 70. In the next article I will reveal what I consider to be the negative influence of government on a person’s chance to live past 75.