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One in three grandparents wishes they started exercising 20 years ago

Nov 12 2014

Aetna recently teamed up with on a survey to find out first-hand what healthy means to more than 5,000 members. We discovered a strong focus on connections between the past and the future.

While we joke that grandchildren are the rewards for raising our kids well, my wife and I know that our granddaughters are precious gifts. As they grow, I often find myself thinking about steps I am taking to remain healthy, active and a large part of their lives. According to a recent survey of more than 5,000 members, I’m not alone. The majority of respondents age 50 to 68 do not view themselves as “seniors;” they prefer the term “Boomers.” And like me, more than half are still working.

The reality is, however, we also require care and maintenance. As a physician and medical director for Aetna’s Medicare programs, I know that one of the keys to aging well and staying healthy are all those daily choices we make around nutritious eating and exercise. But for a generation known for its gusto, almost 40 percent of the grandparents we surveyed said that exercise is their hardest habit to form, and one in three wishes they had started 20 years ago. Sadly but not surprising, one in three reported having high cholesterol and more than 40 percent reported having high blood pressure.

Fortunately most of the health challenges faced by the grandparents surveyed can be impacted through small day-to-day changes and regular check-ups. I see the positive results grandparents like me can achieve when we take a few simple steps. It’s never too late to make large and small changes that can give us many more years of good health:

  • Quit smoking. Many resources are available to help you quit.
  • Keep active. Do something to keep fit each day—something you enjoy that maintains strength, balance and flexibility and promotes cardiovascular health.
  • Eat well. Combined with physical activity, eating nutritious foods in the right amounts can help keep you healthy.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Get to your healthy body mass index and stay there by eating right and keeping active.
  • See your doctor regularly. And follow her advice; this includes faithfully taking any maintenance medications your doctor recommends.

Our grandchildren are excellent motivators for staying healthy, and many of us – over 40 percent — would advise them to stay active as well. Fortunately, the mobile technology available to us and our grandchildren today can play a role in maintaining health and staying active. Nearly half of the respondents surveyed agree, and they believe fitness-related mobile applications and the like can positively influence the future of their grandchildren’s health.

Whenever I see my grandchildren, I think about the famous Robert Browning quote, “Grow old with me, the best is yet to be.” Take advantage of the opportunity this Open Enrollment presents to make sure you are doing everything you can – from your lifestyle, to working with your doctor, to making sure you have the health coverage you need — so you can maintain your health for yourself and your family and ensure the best years ahead.