When we turn 60, our bodies are telling us things we need to know. It’s a critical time, health-wise, for everyone, no matter your race, gender or ethnic group.
Anyone diagnosed with chronic conditions earlier in life may be confronting the progression of that condition in their 60s. It’s also a time that certain debilitating diseases, such as colon cancer and heart disease, can emerge. Meanwhile, unhealthy behaviors of the past can begin to bubble up, whether it’s too much alcohol, smoking or recreational drug use.
Many people in this age group must confront changes in their careers and consider what their years after retirement will look like. I see many patients who are planning to retire, but there are often additional worries. For instance, more and more people in their 60s not only continue to oversee the lives of their own adult children, but look after their grandchildren, either financially or by babysitting. Not to mention elder care, which also crops up at this age.
It’s important to maintain healthy habits in your 60s in order to stay mentally, emotionally and physically strong. Here are 10 tips for weathering the challenges of what should be a very rewarding decade.
The healthy way to manage stress is by exercise, and it’s an important part of managing weight. In your 60s, you might have to modify the way you exercise. Osteoporosis or health conditions can limit the stress you can put on your body.
I encourage patients to set goals to exceed what they’re currently doing. Are you breaking a sweat? How many days a week are you working out? You need some level of moderate, intensive workout at least 20 minutes a day, five or more days a week. If treadmills are too hard on your knees, try exercising in a pool.
2. Eliminate, reduce unhealthy behaviors
For instance, older adults can experience a variety of problems from drinking alcohol, especially those who take certain medications or have chronic health problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that those over 65 years of age have no more than one drink a day or seven in a week.
Aging can lower the body’s tolerance for alcohol, and it doesn’t help with certain other habits. Continued marijuana use also can impact respiratory conditions.
3. Visit your healthcare provider annually
The 60s can bring on the emergence of chronic diseases. So make sure you receive proper screenings – focus on prevention of cancer and heart disease, tailoring the prevention to your family history.
If you already have a chronic disease, such as diabetes, really focus on managing it in your 60s.
4. Get an annual flu vaccine
One of the best ways to prevent flu is by getting an annual flu shot. Influenza can be dangerous for those in their 60s, so be careful to protect yourself and reduce the risk of passing on the flu or catching it from loved ones and caregivers.
5. Monitor your nutrition
People in their 60s might need to restrict their diets. For instance, if you have hypertension, you’ll have to follow a low-salt diet. There also is a diabetic diet, which limits carbohydrates. Problems with intolerance to wheat can arise, as well.
As always, it’s important to include healthy proteins, vegetables and fruits in your diet, and limit high-calorie snacks and sodas.
6. Get sufficient rest
Sleep hygiene is important, so those in their 60s should strive for seven to eight hours of sleep a night. It’s worth it to check out any sleep disorders you might have, such as sleep apnea
7. Stay connected socially
Having a civic responsibility or a connection to a greater purpose can have a positive impact on health and wellness. That’s particularly true for men. Women do a good job of maintaining social networks, but men don’t do it as well. Loneliness can become a risk factor for depression in older men.
8. Find purpose in life after work
Most people retire in their 60s. Sometimes people miss the daily grind of getting up every workday. Plan to stay active, whether it’s a part-time job, a time-consuming hobby or just playing a favorite sport often.
9. Find ways to reduce caregiver stress
You’ve been busy caring for other people in their lives. When you reach your 60s, it’s time to take care of yourself. Find caregiver support through local chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association, American Cancer Society and JamesCare for Life.
10. Find balance
In our 60s, it’s time to take stock of our lives. Whether we’re caring for aging parents, helping to support children or grandchildren, or continuing to work, it’s important to take time for ourselves. Get enough sleep. Exercise. Explore your inner self. And just enjoy yourself. You deserve it.
Tanya Gure specializes in geriatric medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. She rated in the top 10 percent of physicians in the nation for patient satisfaction in 2017.