Nothing but a Number: Healthy Aging from Your 50s to Your 80s

Welcome to part 2 of my healthy gaining article! As you may recall, I previously talked about how Americans are living longer, outlasting previous generations by a decade or more! So if we are living longer, enjoying good quality of life for longer is even more important. We can’t stop aging, but we do have some control over how we age.

While each decade is different, a few simple measures universally apply. Good nutrition and exercise, consistent skin care, and age-appropriate screenings and exams all contribute to healthy aging.

Your 50s
The definition of middle age is shifting. And middle age can be an exciting time. With children out on their own, empty-nesters may find themselves with more time and freedom than they’ve had in decades. Take advantage of having more time by taking care of you. Start by talking to your doctors about which screenings (new and continued) you need and how often.

  • Keep on Keeping Fit
    Men and women both start to lose muscle and gain fat around middle age. For women, menopause can accelerate that process. Eating right and exercising for at least 30 minutes 5 to 7 days of the week can help you maintain a body weight that’s right for you.

    Both women and men should keep the weight up for strength training to help prevent bone loss. Joint trouble may also start in your 50s. Injuries from overuse and osteoarthritis can be to blame. Talk with your doctor about a diet and exercise plan geared toward your health needs.
  • The Caretakers
    Many middle-age people find themselves caring for aging parents. This can cause fatigue and stress. What’s more, the demands of caregiving cause many to let their own health slide. Before you start to feel overwhelmed, investigate caregiver resources and support groups. And talk with a doctor if you feel sad, tired or anxious for more than two weeks. You could be dealing with depression.

Your 60s
The golden age of retirement is upon you. Most Americans typically retire between the ages of 60 and 66. With your work years behind you, it’s important to keep physically and mentally active.

  • When Nature Calls
    About 80 percent of people in their 60s need to go to the bathroom at least once a night. To keep from interrupting your sleep, try decreasing fluids after 6 p.m. and avoiding caffeine after lunch. Are you constantly going to the bathroom? You may have an overactive bladder, a condition caused by bladder muscles that contract sporadically. Kegel exercises, medications and bladder training can help. Talk to your doctor for help! Healthy REM cycles are vital for continued health.
  • Quick Wit
    The growth of new brain cells, called neurogenesis, continues well into your 60s, along with the capacity to learn new things. You can improve and maintain your brain health by getting regular mental stimulation, social interaction and physical activity. Research has shown that adults who exercise regularly have a bigger hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning), which helps keep the mind sharp.
  • Hear Me Out
    Age-related hearing loss becomes more common in the 60s, mostly because of degenerative changes in the ear canal, eardrum and other structures of the ear. About 45 percent of 60-somethings experience some hearing loss. After age 60, the ability to hear high-frequency tones also lessen s. Get hearing screenings and see if getting tested for hearing aids is right for you.
  • Keep an Eye on It
    Having trouble with dry eye? Medication can help create more tears. And omega-3 fatty acids — found in fish such as tuna and salmon as well as fish oil supplements — may help tear quality. People in their 60s typically need three times as much light to read as those in their 20s. And the risk of macular degeneration increases for those over 60. Fish oil and a diet rich in antioxidants can also help prevent this condition .

Your 70s
The 1970s were the called the “me” decade. Think of your 70s as the “happiness” decade. Studies show that people in their 70s are consistently happy and satisfied with their lives.

  • Heart Healthy
    An older heart can pump about the same volume of blood with each beat as a younger one can. But heart disease accounts for more than 20 percent of all deaths among men and women ages 65 to 74.

    Advances in the treatment of heart disease have led to a decline in the death rate from heart disease in the past decade. One way to improve your odds? Keep moving. Just 150 minutes of moderately intense activity a week lowers your chance of developing coronary artery disease by 14 percent, compared with people who are not physically active.

    A skipped beat or a racing heart could be atrial fibrillation, a type of heart arrhythmia that becomes more common with age. Since it can increase the risk of stroke, mention it to your doctor.
  • Not-So-Strong Bones
    About 1 in 3 women between the ages of 75 and 85 has osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease. Osteoporosis leads to an increased risk of fractures of the hip and spine. Although worn joints may benefit from anti-inflammatory drugs and activity, surgery may be needed as cartilage loss begins to increase.

Your 80s

  • Having Fun = a Healthier Brain
    After the age of 85, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s increases to nearly 50 percent. Research has shown that loneliness is a risk factor for or cognitive decline and dementia.

    Ongoing research at Rush University in Chicago has shown a strong link between spending time with others and a healthier brain. So go to that party, join some friends for coffee, or call your sister to catch up. It will be good for your brain.

    Other research has shown that not just any social interaction will do. It needs to be positive, life-affirming social interaction. Negative social experiences, being excluded from group outings, for example, can actually speed cognitive decline. Not surprisingly, researchers also found that depression speeds cognitive decline.

And now you have it- good health for the ages. What some changes that you’ve made to keep you healthy as you age?

Last update: 10/2/2017

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