5 health habits experts say you need in your 60s

This decade can be a real transitional time in your life — with grown kids, and retirement looming — so don’t let poor health keep you from enjoying it. We asked local health experts to weigh in on five ways to stay healthy in your 60s.

Stay mentally active

Your 60s are when you start to feel the consequences of bad habits, said Brian Kelly, director of neurology at Aria Health.

Neurologically speaking, it’s a very important decade, as the risk for stroke and neurodegenerative diseases increases.

Risk factors like high fasting blood sugar, high blood pressure, and a large waistline can create the perfect storm for vascular conditions. Make sure you are scheduling annual checkups with your primary doctor.

This decade is also the time that some people might also develop early onset of Alzheimer’s or movement disorders like Parkinson’s and Huntingdon’s diseases, Kelly warned.

“We all have occasional moments of forgetfulness, but when repetitive and reoccurring you should get a deeper neurological evaluation,” Kelly said.

Drink a lot of water and eat a balanced diet

Did you know that your body’s water content decreases as you age? Chronic dehydration can cause serious damage to your organs so be vigilant — that means drinking water even when you’re not thirsty. Just don’t overdo it, as overhydration can come with its own host of problems.

Also, talk to your doctor about vitamin deficiencies and whether you need supplementation. Vitamin B deficiency caused by malabsorption can mimic the symptoms of dementia, Kelly said.

Get your hearing checked annually

One in three people between the ages of 65 and 75 have hearing loss resulting from a combination of the aging process, problems with loud noise exposure, medical conditions and genetics, said Larry Feiner, an ear, nose and throat specialist with the Valley Forge Facial Plastics Division of Pinnacle ENT Associates.

Nicole Balliet, an audiologist with Pinnacle, said the best prevention is to protect your ears from loud noises, manage your chronic diseases and live as healthy a lifestyle as possible.

Seeking treatment early is crucial in dealing with hearing loss.

“Sometimes it takes a while for patients to seek treatment and they start to experience cognitive decline and dementia and may feel isolated and withdraw socially,” Balliet said.

Make time for an annual screening with an ENT specialist or certified audiologist.

Wear sunscreen every day

You probably only think of sunscreen during the summertime, but according to Mary B. Toporcer, a dermatologist affiliated with Doylestown Hospital, you should be wearing it daily on all exposed skin no matter the season. She also advises getting yearly skin checks.

One in five people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime and one in 70 adults will develop invasive malignant melanoma, Toporcer said.

“Malignant melanoma is the most rapidly rising preventable cancer in the U.S. today,” Toporcer. “If you wear sunscreen every day you cut the risk of melanoma by 50 percent.”

Stay connected to others

Although the retirement age in the U.S. is gradually increasing, most people still retire sometime in their 60s. Retirement can be a blessing, but it can also put you at risk of isolation — from friends, family or community.

To combat this risk, Sharon Congleton, a health promotion nurse consultant at the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, recommends setting up daily challenges. Every day, make an effort to get out of the house. Walk the neighborhood, visit with family and friends, take a class or volunteer for a cause that you feel passionate about.

“Getting older doesn’t have to be negative,” Congleton said. “It is what we put into it. Be willing to do what will keep you engaged and promote your health.”

This is the fifth installment in series on healthy living tips for every age group. Have a suggestion? Contact us at health@philly.com.

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