Age can make us older, wiser and possibly happier — in a 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, older respondents reported having less stress and depression than people in their 20s and 30s. However, aging also ushers in an era of new health considerations.
“As we get older, there are certain conditions we are more at risk for,” said Jasprit Takher, MD, internal medicine specialist at MountainView Hospital.
Whether you’re in tip-top shape, or beginning to feel some signs of age, you should be prepared for the ways your body changes after 65.
Diet, metabolism and supplements
Metabolism slows with every passing decade, and weight loss often becomes increasingly difficult. “All physicians should routinely provide nutritional assessment and counseling to their elderly patients,” Takher said.
Focus on getting a healthy balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats — and increase your fiber intake. It’s recommended that men over 50 consume 30 grams of fiber daily and women of the same age get about 21 grams. If you’re struggling to get the recommended amount of fiber from diet alone, fiber supplements are a great option.
Other supplements to consider
• B-12: Vitamin B-12 deficiencies have been linked to multiple health conditions. Have your B-12 levels checked and begin taking a supplement if you’re low.
• Omega-3 fatty acids: They help your brain, cardiovascular system, skin, joints and more. Take a 1,000 mg supplement daily that includes DHA and EPA (two key long-chain fatty acids, often found in fish oil-based supplements).
• Calcium and vitamin D: Calcium helps maintain bone density, as well as promoting healthy teeth and improving nerve and muscle function. Vitamin D may help reduce chronic pain/inflammation, protects against heart disease and allows calcium to be better absorbed by the body. “We recommend all patients talk to their physician about checking their vitamin D levels because it’s often low in elderly patients,” Takher said.
If you’re already active, keep doing what you’re doing. “Someone who plays tennis several times a week, for example, should not reduce that just because they’re now 65,” Takher said.
Unless you have a reason to slow down, such as an injury or illness, go ahead and maintain your normal routine but don’t push yourself harder than your body can handle. Muscle and cartilage deterioration is a common effect of aging. The older you get, the more difficult it will become to “put on” muscle and the easier it will be to sustain common athletic injuries.
You may also have a slower healing time, so be respectful of your body and its limits.
If you’re not currently active, it’s never too late to start. Regular exercise can improve your health in many ways — it can help lower body weight, prevent chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, and improve memory, cognition and a general sense of well-being.
Talk to your doctor about beginning an exercise routine and ask what he or she recommends for you. A simple daily walk or bike ride may be a great start.
Managing chronic disease and general health
The National Council on Aging reports that 80 percent of older adults have a chronic disease. While managing a chronic disease can be a tall order, staying organized and diligent can help.
Communicate with your doctor and medical team often; create and utilize an ongoing-care plan; seek out additional resources such as specialists, therapists and support groups; organize your daily medicines and stay up to date with your doctor’s appointments.
As you age, it’s important to have regular check-ups and health screenings, whether or not you suffer from a chronic disease. “Screening and preventive medicine is very important for our elderly population,” Takher said.
Unless otherwise recommended by your doctor, most people 65 or older should consider the following:
- Blood pressure every year
- Blood glucose every 3 years
- Cholesterol every 1-5 years
- Eye exams, hearing tests every 1-3 years
- Skin check every year
- Fecal occult blood test every year
- Colonoscopy every 5-10 years (for age 50+)
- Bone density every 1-2 years
- Pap smear every 1-3 years (women)
- Mammogram every 1-2 years (women)
- Prostate exam every 2-4 years (men)
Important vaccinations to get
- Influenza every year
- Herpes zoster (which can help prevent shingles) at least once after turning 60
- Hepatitis A and B depending on your risk factors
- Pneumonia (after age 65)
- Tetanus and pertussis every 10 years
Did you know...
As the immune system declines, immune responses become much less sensitive. While this leaves older people more susceptible to disease and infection, it also decreases allergic responses. If springtime once gave you puffy eyes and a runny nose, this could change in your 60s and 70s.