Having a happy, active, and healthy life after age 60 depends as much on your health span as it does your lifespan. While many factors are beyond your control (e.g. genetics), simple lifestyle changes and habits can have a positive impact on health at any age, but particularly for the elderly. “In the past, once you got seriously ill, you risked dying. But with today’s therapies, we can keep sick people alive for decades,” says the paleoanthropologist Daniel E. Liebermann, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University. The median life span in the United States is 77 years, while the median health span is 63 years. “We should stop focusing so much on lifespan and focus more on health span.”
So what exactly does that mean? “We lose our health years based on the prevalence of disability,” says Linda GP Schneider, MD. “For people aged 65 to 74, about 18 percent have at least one disability. Nearly 25 percent of people ages 75 and older live with some type of disability.” Focusing on healthy habits and eliminating harmful ones is the key to enjoying years of good health, “free from chronic disease and the disability of aging.” “It might sound like common sense, but maintaining a healthy, balanced diet with moderate and regular exercise and not smoking and drinking alcohol is the surest way to promote your health and limit the onset of most diseases,” says Tim Peterson, PhD. “The Mediterranean diet has fairly broad support in the literature.”
“Lifestyle changes are hard for everyone”, says Sabra Lewsey, MD, a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine, “but they’re profoundly important and can make lifesaving improvements to your health.” Here are five habits to avoid after 60, according to experts. Read on and to ensure your health and that of others, do not miss them Sure signs you’ve already had COVID.
Become more and more sedentary
Allowing yourself to slide into an increasingly sedentary lifestyle as you age is terrible for your health—some experts even say sitting is the new smoke. Not moving enough is also linked to premature aging on a cellular level. “A large review of studies published in 2015 in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that even after adjusting for physical activity, sitting for long periods was associated with worse health outcomes including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer”. says Erin Donnelly Michos, MD, MHS. “Sedentary behavior can also increase the risk of death, from heart disease or other medical problems.”
That’s not to say that exercise isn’t important: Making small changes and sticking to them can lead to more movement overall. “You don’t have to go from doing nothing to running marathons”, says Quentin Youmans, MD, cardiology fellow at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “In fact, the greatest benefit comes from doing nothing to get something done. Simply start by dedicating yourself to doing some activity every day to get your body moving.” Even 30 minutes a day can make a difference. “We found that women who sat longer did not have shorter telomere lengths if they exercised at least 30 minutes a day, the recommended national guideline.” says Aladdin Shadyab, PhD. “Discussions about the benefits of exercise should start when we’re young, and physical activity should continue to be a part of our daily lives as we get older, even into our 80s.”
Let the weight gain creep in
The “midlife spread” isn’t inevitable as you age: Keeping an eye on your waistline can have a significant impact on your health after age 60. “Have you ever wondered why we tend to gain weight as we get older?” says Diana Licalzi, MS, RD, CDCES. “Or why does it become more difficult to shed the pounds we put on while on vacation or while on vacation? As we get older, we gain an average of one or two pounds a year. That may not seem like a lot, but over time, it can build up and lead to weight gain or even obesity.
Weight-bearing exercises, eating more protein, and staying active are key to supporting muscle and bone health at any age. “Several studies have shown that strength training can play a role in slowing bone loss, and many show that it can even build bone,” says Harvard Health. “This is extremely helpful in helping to offset age-related bone mass decline. Activities that put stress on bones can kick bone-forming cells into action. bone that occur during strength training (as well as weight-bearing aerobic exercise such as walking or running). The result is stronger, denser bones.
Ignore a healthy diet
Whatever your age, a healthy and nutritious diet can prolong your life. Research shows the Mediterranean diet can help with lower rates of heart disease and increased lifespan. “The combination of beans, lentils, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids from fish has been shown to have a positive impact on inflammation, which may be the driving factor in reducing disease risk and improving longevity.” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE.
Another study published Monday in the journal BMJ Intestine found that the Mediterranean diet alters the microbiome of older people (65-79 years), which helps improve brain function and longevity. “Our results support the feasibility of changing habitual diet to modulate the gut microbiota which in turn has the potential to promote healthier aging,” said the study authors.
Let brain function decrease
Many 60-year-olds are either retired or eager to slow down. While this can offer many benefits (such as more time to spend with friends and loved ones), it’s vital that you don’t allow your brain health to decline during this time. Studies show retirement can turn brain to ‘mush’: UK study tracking 3400 civil servants found their short-term memory decreased 40% faster after retirement.
To keep your brain young, it’s crucial to keep learning new things. “Learning is the mechanism for development, no matter how old you are”, Rachel Wu says, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California Riverside. “As we age, our brains become different, but they don’t stop. The brain still works,” says Dr. Laurie Archbald-Pannone, associate professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Virginia and medical director of the geriatric clinic. at the Jefferson Area Board for Aging in Charlottesville, Virginia. “Aging is not a disease. It’s part of the normal process of life. The brain may function differently, but still engaging the brain is really important.”
Isolation from friends and family
Maintaining healthy relationships with friends and family as we age is important for health and happiness. Study after study confirms what we instinctively know: Being part of a community is critical to mental and physical well-being. “Positive relationships can be just as important as nutrition and physical activity to our health and well-being,” says Bonnie Betts, Psy.D. “And, while relationships with others may evolve over time, maintaining a strong social network as we age can contribute to longer, healthier lives.
“In addition to helping provide needed support, establishing and maintaining relationships is also good for your health. Positive relationships can increase happiness and reduce stress, improve self-confidence, and help you cope with traumatic life events. adults with a strong social network have reduced risk of depression, lower blood pressure and tend to maintain a healthier body mass index (BMI).Building new friendships and investing time in maintaining relationships can help you on the highway of life and on your path to better health.