Stop Doing These Things Over 60
The years after 60 are supposed to be the golden ones—a time to slow down and appreciate the fruits of more stressful earlier adulthood. But unhealthy habits from our younger years can follow us into that era, and they can be increasingly dangerous. To make the most of those years, it's especially key to avoid certain patterns that become easy to lapse into with age. We asked experts about the most important things to stop doing after age 60 to protect your health. Here are 10 of the most crucial. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Eating Like You're 20
"After 60, eating like a college student or young adult can be perilous," says Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, a senior dietitian at UCLA Medical Center and author of the book Recipe for Survival. "About that age, our metabolism slows down as we lose muscle mass. Eat smarter, with small declines in overall calorie intake, to stay healthy. A whole-food, minimally processed diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes is the healthiest at any age, but especially post-60 when we've had decades of eating habits that may have increased our risk for chronic disease."
"Everyone needs regular physical exercise, no matter their age," says Dr. Pouya Shafipour, a physician with Paloma Health. "One of the biggest benefits of regular physical exercise is to keep your bones and joints healthy. After age 60, the risk for bone problems like osteoporosis and fractures increases in both men and women. Similarly, stiff joints become more commonplace. With regular weight-bearing activity, you can keep your bones healthy and strong and your joints more mobile and flexible." Experts including the American Heart Association recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly, including two sessions of weight training.
Skipping Water and Fiber
It's easy for older people to become dehydrated. That can have uncomfortable effects. "Many adults in their 60s and beyond do not drink enough water every day, which can lead to problems like dry skin and mucous membranes," says Shafipour. "One of the more frustrating complications of poor hydration is constipation, which can become more common as we age. We need plenty of water in our stool to help it pass smoothly, so when we do not have enough, stools can become harder and bowel movements can become infrequent."
"We also need to make sure we get at least 20-30 grams of fiber in our diet," he adds. "Green leafy vegetables, complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, wild rice, legumes, as well as seeds such as flaxseed, chia seed, and psyllium husk are great sources—to be consumed with a lot of water."
Resting in Response to Pain
"When the elderly feel pain, they tend to rest and stop moving. I tell all of my older patients that the day you stop moving is the day you stop moving," says Tennessee-based physician Dr. Danielle Kelvas. "Arthritis, aches, and pains are normal as we age. Gracefully push past them to keep your joints moving, but never to the point of moderate to severe pain."
Taking These Medications
As we get older, the body processes many things differently, including medication. That can make certain drugs that younger people tolerate well dangerous for older people. Kelvas tells her over-60 patients to avoid taking any medication on the BEERs list, a roundup of medicines that may be inappropriate for older adults, compiled by the American Geriatrics Society.
Skipping Your Annual Eye Exam
People over 60 are at higher risk of developing chronic conditions that can affect the eyes, including as diabetes, glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration. "With all of these conditions, early detection is critical," says VSP Network optometrist Dr. Jennifer Wademan. "As you near your 60s and beyond, it becomes more difficult to spot warning signs of eye health problems because many have no early symptoms. They can develop painlessly, and you may not be aware of changes to your vision until the condition is quite advanced. If you make it a priority to see your optometrist each year, they'll be able to keep track of your vision and health changes over time."
Skipping Prescribed Medications
"Take medications as prescribed by your healthcare provider. I promise, we don't write medications just because we can; we're writing them because we think they will benefit your health in the long run," says Dr. Samantha Cooper, a family medicine physician in Dallas, Texas. "Be honest with your healthcare provider if you're having a side effect or problem with a medication. Bring it up at your next visit. There may be something we can do to help."
Chronic stress wears the body down; it can damage your immune system and increase your risk of serious conditions like heart disease. "The pandemic has shed light on a country of stressed-out and depressed individuals. I have prescribed more antidepressants than ever during these past two pandemic years," says Cooper. "Go on walks, meditate, evaluate your mental health and seek help from a therapist if you need it. There's nothing wrong with seeking help."
Overindulging In Alcohol
The pandemic has caused more and more Americans to drink more—and more. Even before COVID hit, researchers were noticing that people over 60 were increasingly engaging in binge drinking. Consuming too much alcohol is particularly dangerous as we age—the body is more sensitive to alcohol, drinking-related falls can take a greater toll, and alcohol can interact dangerously with medication. Kelvas particularly advises her patients to stop using alcohol to help them fall asleep. If you're experiencing insomnia, CBTI is a healthier, more effective choice.
"As we age, we often tend to stay home more," says Dr. Jacob Hascalovici, a neurologist and chief medical officer of Clearing. "We're dealing with losses, with more pain, with the difficulty of leaving home, or simply with loneliness, isolation, and the hassle of figuring out how to make more friends. The more we self-isolate, however, the more we lose track of the big picture and may start to feel terribly alone. This can really damage our physical health as well and keep us chronically stressed." Chronic stress—and loneliness in particular—has been linked to a higher risk of cancer and dementia, both of which become more common as we age.
"When you feel lonely, stop isolating yourself," advises Kelvas. "Pick up new hobbies, join volunteer groups, and meet new people." Social engagement reduces stress and keeps the brain active, an important step in reducing age-related cognitive decline.
And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.
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