Tips for Staying Healthy in Your 60s

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Ahhhh, our golden years—retirement, early bird dinners, senior discounts, endless hours to enjoy our grandchildren, garden and golf game...for some, maybe, but more often than not these days, life in our 60s is very different than we imagined it would be. Compared to earlier generations:

  • Our parents are living longer, often depending on us as caregivers.
  • Our children are living at home longer and returning home to live more often (sometimes called the "boomerang generation").
  • Our retirement age is going up—to age 67 for full social security benefits in those born after 1960.

Common concerns for people in their 60s include declining physical and mental health, financial issues and dependence on others. But there's much to savor about being in your 60s too—especially if you've made healthy lifestyle choices throughout your life. And even if you haven't, start taking care of yourself now, and set your sights on good health in the years ahead.

Health Concerns in Your 60s

It's true: aging increases the risk for certain health problems, including heart disease (atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke), arthritis, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis (bone loss), some cancers, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, enlarged prostate in men), incontinence and others. However, there are several things you can do to help reduce these risks.

  1. Learn about the warning signs for serious medical conditions like heart attack and stroke. (Did you know, for example, that women and men often experience different heart attack symptoms?)
  2. Talk to your doctor if you notice any changes in, or have any questions or concerns about, your health.
  3. Follow your health care providers' recommendations for examinations, screening procedures, diagnostic tests and preventative measures.

Staying Healthy in Your 60s

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Steps you can take to improve your health in your 60s:

  • First, quit smoking. Quitting is the most beneficial thing you can do for your health, even if you’ve been a smoker for many years. Don't give up—many smokers have to try several times before they're able to stop smoking for good. Talk to your health care provider—there are a number of treatment options and resources available to help.
  • Protect your heart. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women. According to the American Heart Association, most heart attacks in women occur in the 10 years after menopause. To reduce your heart disease risk, know your blood pressure, total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides, fasting blood glucose, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference and keep them within a healthy range.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Overweight and obesity can have a greater impact on our health—and on how we feel—as we get older. It's often more difficult to lose weight with age—our metabolism slows down and muscle is replaced by fat—so it's important to eat right and keep an eye on portion sizes.
  • Exercise regularly. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. (Be sure to talk to your health care provider before beginning an exercise program.) It's important to find the right type of exercise for your body and choose an activity you enjoy doing, whether you've always been active or are just getting started. Walking, swimming, water aerobics, bowling, dancing, light weight training and resistance training can be good choices.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so only in moderation—no more than one drink per day for women and two for men. Talk to your health care provider about all medications you take—over-the-counter and prescription—as well as any herbs or dietary supplements you use. Take all medication as directed, follow information on drug labels carefully, and do not use illegal substances.
  • Eat healthy. Good nutrition is an important diet goal as you get older. Limit processed foods and those that are high in fat and/or sugar. Aim to eat a wide variety of foods, including:
    • Fruits and vegetables (4-5 servings per day)
    • Fiber-rich, whole grains (3 servings per day)
    • Non- or low-fat dairy products (2 or 3 servings per day)
    • Lean meats and proteins, such as skinless chicken, fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, trout, herring), legumes, nuts and seeds. Women in their 60s should get about 46 g of protein per day and men about 56 g.
  • See your health care provider regularly for check-ups, health screenings and diagnostic tests, and immunizations. Recommendations vary and are affected by several factors, including overall health. General guidelines for people in their 60s include:
    • Annual flu vaccine
    • Blood pressure screening—at least once every year or as recommended
    • Bone density test—at age 60 or 65, as recommended
    • Clinical breast exam and mammogram (in women)—every year or as recommended
    • Colonoscopy—every 10 years beginning at age 50 or as recommended
    • Dental exam—every 6 months or as recommended
    • Digital rectal exam and fecal occult blood test—every year or as recommended
    • Eye exam (the risk for glaucoma, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration increase with age)—every year or as recommended
    • Fasting blood glucose test—at least every 3 years or as recommended
    • Hepatitis vaccines—as recommended by your health care provider
    • Pap test (in women)—every 3 to 5 years or as recommended, at least until age 65
    • Pelvic exam (in women)—every year or as recommended
    • Pneumonia vaccine—at age 65 or as recommended)
    • PSA tests for prostate cancer (in men)—talk with your health care provider about current recommendations
    • Shingles (herpes zoster) vaccine—at age 60 (or older if not vaccinated at 60)
    • Testicular exam (in men)—every year or as recommended
    • Tetanus shot—every 10 years
    • Thyroid test—every 5 years or as recommended
    • Yearly skin exam to detect skin cancer

Additional Tips for Healthy Living in Your 60s

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  • Contact your health care provider if you notice changes in or have concerns about your cognitive function or mental health, especially if you are experiencing memory loss or confusion; are being abused— physically, verbally or emotionally; are unable to take care of yourself; or are feeling depressed, anxious or overwhelmed.
  • Always wear a seat belt with lap/shoulder straps whenever you're in a car. Never ride with an impaired driver or drive yourself if you are not feeling well.
  • Make sure you have a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home and in every bedroom. Check them regularly, or have someone else check them for you, to make sure they're functioning properly.
  • If you have a firearm in your home, make sure it’s stored safety.
  • Wear a helmet if you ride a bicycle or motorcycle.
  • Practice safer sex and talk to your doctor about STD testing.
  • Set the water heater in your home no higher than 120-130°F
  • Learn CPR.
  • Take steps to reduce your risk for falls—in your home and when you're out.
  • Put "ICE" (in case of emergency in your cell phone contact list in front of the name(s) of family member(s)/friend(s) to call if something happens to you so bystanders or first responders will know who to get in touch with.

Sources: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 24 Aug 2012

Last Modified: 14 Jan 2014