In your steadfast 60s, the good habits you developed in your 40s and 50s are now yielding robust benefits.
But be alert to the possible onset of diseases and conditions that could threaten your health, make you less mobile, or impair your quality of life. Here some of the most common changes women experience:
- Oxygen: Maximal intake—a measure of heart and lung function—is down by as much as one-third on average, compared with age 25.
- Vitamin B12: Likely low, as an age-related decline in stomach acid allows growth of bacteria that feed on B12 in the GI tract.
- Gut: Half of people over age 60 have diverticulosis, a condition that can cause constipation.
- Bladder: Daily urinary incontinence affects 12% of women ages 60 to 64.
- Joints: The hip and other key joints are more likely to develop arthritis.
- Creativity: High, marked by personal freedom, willingness to take risks, and courage to express yourself.
Establish the following 7 preventive habits now and you’ll not only counter these changes—you’ll stay healthier, sharper, more energetic, and more fulfilled for years to come.
1. Walk more, feel better
In one recent study, women in their 70s who walked 3 hours a week for a year boosted their oxygen uptake by 15%. Gains like that can ease almost all the problems you’re more likely to face in this decade—lowering risk of breast, colon, and lung cancers; strengthening bones; sharpening memory; reducing cardiovascular risks; controlling blood sugar; and improving joint function.
Ask your doctor how to get more of key nutrients like vitamin B12. Low levels are linked to increased risk of pernicious anemia, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Also ask about vitamin D: Deficiencies can weaken bone and increase risks of diabetes, high blood pressure, and breast and colon cancers.
Boosting fiber in your diet softens stools and reduces symptoms (and prevents complications) of diverticulosis. Stock up on fibrous foods such as pears, apples, and beans.
Squeeze the muscles that control your urine flow and hold up to 10 seconds, then release. Doing this 10 to 20 times at least 3 times a day can prevent incontinence or reverse it after 6 to 12 weeks.
Learn new skills any way you can—taking courses, joining a book club, trying a new sport, or designing a garden. In a recent study of more than 2,800 older people, those who started exercising their minds more were better at handling daily activities 5 years later than people who were less mentally active.
A greater tolerance for ambiguity, improved ability to manage relationships, and an ability to see the “big picture” can make your 60s a deeply meaningful time. And that feeds back into better brain health: In one recent study, participation in religious practices was directly related to slower progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
In addition to making health- and brain-boosting habits a regular part of your daily routine, don’t neglect these tests:
- Eye exam: Every 2 to 4 years
- Blood pressure: Every 2 years
- Pap test and pelvic exam: Every 1 to 3 years
- Thyroid: Every 5 years
- Mole check: Every year
- Mammogram: Every 1 to 2 years
- Blood glucose: Every 3 years starting at age 45
- Fecal occult blood test: Yearly
- Colonoscopy: Every 10 years
- Sigmoidoscopy: Every 5 years starting at 50 (can skip on colonoscopy years)
- Hearing: Every 3 years
- Eye exam: Every 1 to 2 years
- Bones: Mineral density test at least once after 64