Congratulations! You got through your 40s and 50s and are now heading into the golden years. The kids are out and many are about to retire or have already retired – which means your stress levels may be lower than ever! However, this “third age” can include a variety of other health problems related to aging. Here are the most common health problems in your 60s, according to experts. Read on – and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these sure signs that you have “long” COVID and may not even know it.
Because teeth do not regenerate, our dental health tends to deteriorate as we age. “Many people may not realize that proper oral hygiene is the gateway to good overall health and poor oral hygiene can lead to serious health problems such as heart problems, respiratory infections, dementia, cancer and more,” emphasizes Keith Krell, DDS, President of the American Association of Endodontists.
The Rx: No matter how old you are, keep an eye on your dental health and get regular checkups and cleanings.
Did you get chickenpox as a child? Shingles is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus in adulthood, explains Matthew Mintz, MD. Most of us who grew up before the chickenpox vaccination had chickenpox and they went away. However, the body never gets rid of the virus; the virus hides in the nerve roots and our immune system holds the virus back there. “As we get older, especially in our 60s and beyond, our immune systems weaken and the virus can travel to the skin via the nerve roots and cause a very painful rash,” says Dr. Mintz. In addition, in some cases, the pain may persist even if the rash goes away with treatment.
The Rx: This is why the new shingles vaccine called Shingrix is recommended for adults over 50. “The vaccine strengthens the immune system and effectively prevents this disease,” says Dr. Mintz.
You made it through menopause … yay! Hormonal shifts, but also the gradual wear and tear of muscles and connective tissue can lead to more “loosening” in the tissue of the pelvic floor, points out fitness and wellness experts Kelly Bryant. “The biggest ones I see are urinary incontinence (especially leaking when running / jumping / sneezing / laughing) and pelvic organ prolapse,” she reveals.
The Rx: Addressing these issues early in life is the easiest way to avoid them in old age, says Bryant. However, once this ship has sailed, there are many non-surgical ways to increase pelvic floor strength and reduce or eliminate these symptoms entirely. “They range from practicing a more effective Kegel (slow, controlled engagement of the entire pelvic floor – not just the urethral sphincter – and slow, controlled release), a better awareness of being in control of the pelvic floor during exercise, and just full, deep diaphragmatic breathing.”
With many people in their 60s suffering from either high cholesterol or high blood pressure, shortness of breath is a common condition that brings them to the doctor’s office, reveals Joyce Oen-Hsiao, MD, Director of Clinical Cardiology at Yale Medicine. “Years of slightly elevated blood pressure (even only at a level of 155/85) and a lack of exercise (because they work so hard) mean that the cardiac arteries and the heart become less flexible – which means that they cannot relax as they used to” “She explains. Since you can’t relax as well, the pressure builds up in your arteries and eventually your heart.
The Rx: The best way to avoid this is to keep your blood pressure under control as soon as you know it is starting to rise. In addition, Dr. Oen-Hsiao recommends doing regular cardiovascular exercise (walking, cycling, running, etc.), and points out that the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise every week. “These two things make the arteries and the heart less rigid,” she says.
For the same reasons, many over 60s experience swelling of the ankles and lower legs. “This is a common problem and is due to stiffening of the cardiac arteries as well as the heart,” emphasizes Dr. Oen-Hsiao.
The Rx: Dr. Oen-Hsiao recommends avoiding salty foods “as this can raise your blood pressure and make your legs swell” in addition to the same measures recommended for those who are breathless. If you are already experiencing symptoms, your doctor may prescribe a diuretic (a water tablet) to help get rid of the accumulated fluid. “Make sure you take this water tablet (along with your blood pressure tablets) as prescribed,” she adds. And remember: the best prevention is to know about your health as early as possible. “Remember to take care of yourself and your body so that you can enjoy your retirement with as few pills as possible!”
Falling asleep and staying asleep can become more difficult as we age, in part because our bodies produce less growth hormone and melatonin, but getting our Zs is just as important as always. Charles Odonkor, MD, a physical therapist with Yale Medicine, points out that people over 60 are often sleep deprived and get less than the recommended 7-9 hours per night. This may be due in part to existing medical problems or stress, but external factors also play a role. “When we watch TV in bed at night, use smartphones, computers, iPads and smart devices, our exposure to artificial lighting at night is increased and this chronically disrupts our body’s natural clock – the circadian rhythm,” he emphasizes. “Exposure to artificial light causes our bodies to release less melatonin, which delays falling asleep and leads to poor sleep quality. If we do this every night, it can lead to chronic lack of sleep, which reduces the anabolic houses required for building muscle strength. It increases catabolic hormones like cortisol linked to stress, weight gain, chronic fatigue, and impaired cognition. “
The Rx: Dr. Odonkor suggests improving your sleeping habits by simply turning off your electronic devices before bed.
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Dr. Siri Smith at True all care points out that aging can degenerate the spine and joints, which is why so many older adults are finding the need for joint replacement surgery.
The Rx: Dr. Smith suggests taking care of your body – be it chiropractic work, physiotherapy or exercise, “all with the aim of relieving pain, restoring function and stopping the degenerative process!”
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As we age, we can lose muscle strength and joint flexibility, which also affects our reaction time. “We are also more likely to have vestibular problems, which means that our deteriorating eyesight and hearing can disturb our balance,” says Dr. Smith. Therefore, the older we get, the more we seem to fall.
The Rx: Strengthen Your Body! “There are many exercises that can specifically help with balance,” says Dr. Smith. “Tai chi is very helpful or just stand on one leg for 30 seconds with your eyes open. If this gets easy, do it with your eyes closed.
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If you experience pain in your legs it could be due to certain medical conditions or medications, or it could be as simple as dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance, emphasizes Dr. Smith. Unfortunately, they can also be very painful and wake us up at night.
The Rx: Staying hydrated and taking a magnesium supplement can help keep calf cramps at bay, emphasizes Dr. Smith. She also suggests speaking to your doctor to find out if any of your medications are causing the pain.
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No, it’s not just your imagination: you’re shrinking. Science has established itself that everyone loses height with age. However, some people shrink more than others due to osteoporosis and spinal degeneration, which is the loss of disc height and joint padding.
“Bad posture can cause back and neck pain because our heavy heads lie forward on our smaller necks,” explains Dr. Smith. In turn, it can affect our breathing as it reduces the space for our heart and lungs. “It makes us look older than we are, and poor posture leads to further degeneration of the spine as it puts additional stress on our bones and muscles that it was not designed for.”
The Rx: Take care of your body. Exercise is a great way to maintain your bone health. And for the healthiest way through this pandemic, don’t miss this one 35 places where you are most likely to get infected with COVID.