Steven Tyler’s Baby Boomer Feet

By: Dr. Gary Prant DPM
Arbor Foot Health Center

Steven Tyler has ugly, painful feet. Sure he’s 64 and near the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation (1946-1964) but is he typical of his generation?

It’s a stretch to say a rock star, the lead singer of Aerosmith, is in any way typical!
Steven Tyler is suffering from a painful foot condition known as a Mortons Neuroma. Tyler says: “My feet have been my best friend for the last 40 years, I’ve just been a dancing fool on stage, and after a while you just kind of wear them out.”

He had so much pain after the surgery that he developed a problem with the painkiller medication. His foot pain is limiting what he can do. So are Steven Tyler’s feet in any way a warning for his generation?

According to a recent article in JAMA Internal Medicine, “The perception is that the baby boomers are very active — they are, you know, climbing up mountains, and they are a very healthy bunch,” says Dr. Dana King, a professor in the department of family medicine at the West Virginia University School of Medicine. “We actually see people that are burdened with diabetes, hypertension, obesity, [and] who are taking an awful lot of medication.”

So King and his colleagues mined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a big federal survey, to compare baby boomers — those who are now in their late 40s to 60s — with people from two decades ago who were in that age bracket.

There were some surprises, says King, who, along with his colleagues, reports the results in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Baby boomers are healthier in some important ways. They are much less likely to smoke, have emphysema or get heart attacks. But in lots of other ways, the picture’s not so great.

“The proportion of people with diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity [is] increasing. And perhaps even more disturbing, the proportion of people who are disabled increased substantially,” King says.

Double the percentage of baby boomers, as compared with the previous generation, needs a cane or a walker to get around. And even more have problems so bad that they can’t work.

“Only 13 percent of people said they were in excellent health compared with 33 percent a generation ago, and twice as many said they were in poor health,” King says. “And that’s by their own admission.”

King says the reasons are pretty clear: big increases in obesity and big decreases in exercise.

“About half of people 20 years ago said they exercised regularly, which meant three times a week, and that rate now is only about 18 percent,” he says. “That’s an astonishing change in just one generation.”

The impact could be far-reaching if millions of baby boomers are already in such bad shape just as they’re starting to grow old.

“The implications for health care costs in the next decade are astounding,” King says. “The baby boomers are going into those high medical-use years in much worse condition than their forefathers.”

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