If you were born between 1965 and 1996, you're 25 to 56 years old - the prime of life, supposedly. Your brain, which keeps developing until your mid-20s (or a bit longer) has settled down and rational, constructive thought prevails, but you're not yet at risk for the perils of older age - osteoarthritis, heart attack or memory problems.
An alarming new study reveals that folks those ages - that's Gen X and Gen Y - have significantly poorer physical health, higher levels of unhealthy behaviors such as alcohol use and smoking, and more depression and anxiety than folks their age experienced in previous generations.
The study, published in American Journal of Epidemiology, looked at data on almost 700,000 people and evaluated them in terms of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and diabetes by looking at measures such as waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol level and body mass index, chronic inflammation, low urinary albumin (a marker for inflammation) and creatinine clearance. The researchers found metabolic syndrome, a precursor to heart disease and diabetes, was the health issue that caused the most trouble for white American X-ers and Y-ers. Chronic inflammation was the trigger for health woes among African Americans, especially guys.
In addition, anxiety and depression, as well as heavy drinking, have increased dramatically for white people since the boomers were born. Gen-Xers are especially prone to excess alcohol consumption and use of street drugs, but it is affecting Gen-Yers too. For African Americans, the level of emotional upset increased in baby boomers and has stayed elevated through today. And it looks like all 25- to 56-year-olds are smoking more than older folks.
So what's going on? Well, we know that 87% of Americans are metabolically unhealthy. Obesity afflicts around 40% of U.S. adults and even 17% of 2- to 19-year-olds are obese. So it isn't surprising that middle-aged folks are beset too.
The good news is that if that's you, you have the chance to turn things around -- reclaim your emotional and physical well-being and reduce your risks for premature disability and death. It's not too late to say, "I am worth the effort it takes to be my healthiest self."
Change your outlook. Because anxiety and depression make it harder to feel like eating healthfully or working out, your first order of business is to reclaim a more positive outlook through stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, massage, acupuncture, yoga, walking and, if needed, talk therapy. Adopt a daily routine that mixes up these options to keep you engaged and give it a month to help you get started on a more energetic, optimistic path.
Eat for success. What you eat influences your emotions and your energy level too. Foods that boost inflammation - like added sugars and syrups, and red and processed meats - contribute to the disruption of your gut biome, and that can fuel brain changes and hormone fluctuations that impact emotions. The lack of important nutrients, like B6, B12 and folate, may contribute to depression, advises the Mayo Clinic. Stamina and stick-to-it-ness are essential when you start getting more exercise. You may droop if you're not eating enough lean proteins, fibrous foods and whole grains (good-for-you carbs).
Move more. Once you've improved your outlook and nutrition, you'll be able to stick with a regular exercise routine more easily. Here, too, it's smart to start slow.
- Adopt a walking routine that builds distance, time and intensity over the next weeks.
- Then start strength-building routines. You can get all the help you need at DoctorOz.com; search for "Total Health Take Back Workouts" for beginners.
- Next, add aerobics with cycling, jogging, an exercise class, stair climbing or a high-intensity interval training workout. Search for "45-Minute HIIT Home Workout" by Percell Dugger at DoctorOz.com.
So Gen X and Gen Y, you have this opportunity to change your future and regenerate your good health. You'll reap the rewards for decades to come.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit www.sharecare.com.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.