Even if you still feel like a spring chicken (and good for you if you do!), your 60-something body is undoubtedly a bit different from the one of your 30s. Your knees may be getting creaky, you may be needing to take a few more trips to the bathroom at night, and foods that you used to eat with abandon may be causing you some … shall we say, digestive distress.
But that doesn’t mean life as you know it is over! It just means you need to treat that beautiful body of yours with a bit more kindness, a bit more attention. It also means adopting a positive attitude toward aging and staying healthy after 60.
As it turns out, your attitude toward getting older can have some pretty profound effects on your overall health, according to research from Yale University. One study found that having positive self-perceptions about aging can bring “significantly longer survival” when compared with people who have negative ideas about getting older.1 That’s right: Having a good attitude about aging might extend your life by more than seven years, the researchers found.
In addition to maintaining a positive attitude about aging, there are other steps you can take to stay healthy and robust throughout your sixth decade and beyond. Here are six.
6 Tips For Staying Healthy After 60
1. Take care of your heart
Even though an older heart can pump approximately the same volume of blood with each beat as a younger one, that doesn’t mean you should take your heart health for granted.2 Consider this statistic: More than one in three adult women have some type of cardiovascular disease, the American Heart Association (AHA) reports.3Even more sobering: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).4
As staggering as those statistics are, your risk for heart disease is lower if you’ve maintained a healthy lifestyle up until now — and if you continue to do so after menopause. To keep your heart healthy, the AHA recommends that you:3
- Exercise regularly. Try to get a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity each week; aim for at least 300 minutes weekly if you need to lose weight. Aerobic activities that use larger muscles at low resistance, such as walking, cycling, dancing and swimming, are good choices. For more tips, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Exercise.
- Don’t smoke. It increases your risk of developing blood clots, decreases the flexibility of your arteries and reduces your levels of HDL cholesterol, all of which increase your risk of heart disease.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. Limit your intake of sugary foods and beverages while emphasizing fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts.
In addition, the AHA recommends becoming — and staying — aware of the numbers that affect your heart health. These are the numbers you want:
- Blood pressure: Less than 120/805
- Body mass index: Between 18.6 to 24.96 (Click here to find out your BMI)
- Total cholesterol: Less than 2007
- HDL (good) cholesterol: 50 or higher7
- LDL (bad) cholesterol: Less than 1007
- Triglycerides: Less than 1507
- Waist circumference: Less than 35 inches for women; 40 inches or less for men8
The AHA also recommends regular screenings, including the following. (Note: These are for people with normal numbers; you may need to have more frequent screenings if anything changes.)5
- Blood pressure: At least once a year
- Blood glucose: Every three years
- Cholesterol: Every 4-6 years
Photo by Zinkevych on iStock
2. Keep your mind sharp
Even if you’ve had more than a few instances of wayward car keys, misplaced eyeglasses or odd items found in your refrigerator, rest assured you’re very normal. Mild forgetfulness is to be expected at this point in your life as the transmission of nerve impulses between cells begins to slow; it’s rarely a sign of something serious unless it happens every day. In fact, new brain cells continue to grow well into your 60s, as does the capacity to learn new things.9
What’s more, memory loss is often avoidable. For instance, one study showed that older adults who underwent aerobic exercise training had a larger hippocampus — the part of the brain responsible for memory — at the end of the one-year study period than those who undertook a stretching program.10 Not only did the researchers find that spatial memory was improved in the aerobic group, but the subjects’ hippocampal volume increased by 2%. This type of increase in volume effectively reverses age-related loss by 1-2 years, the researchers state.10
So keep exercising. It will keep your body, your heart and your mind strong.
3. Keep your joints healthy
If it seems as if your joints are getting a bit achier, or if those clicks and pops seem to be increasing, you’re probably not imagining it. Many people start to experience some discomfort in their joints as they get older, particularly the knees. That pain is often caused by osteoarthritis, which involves the cartilage in the joints wearing away.11
If you’re wondering why the knees are so commonly affected, consider this: Your knees absorb a huge amount of pressure with every step: typically 1½ times your body weight, according to Harvard Health.10 That stress, plus the wear and tear of everyday life, takes a toll as the cartilage that acts as a shock absorber starts to deteriorate over time. And if you're overweight, or if you have a history of knee injuries or a family history of osteoarthritis, you may be more prone to this deterioration.
Photo by Witthaya Prasongsin on iStock
Here are tips from the experts at Harvard Health for keeping your knee joints healthy — and, hopefully, pain-free:10
- Strengthen the muscles that support your knees. To help stabilize your knee joints, it’s important to strengthen the muscle groups that support those joints: your quadriceps, hamstrings, hips and core muscles. While a physical therapist can design an exercise program for your specific needs, squats and step-ups are two of the best exercises you can do to strengthen these muscles. Check out our guide to strength training here.
- Lose weight if you need to. Each additional pound you carry adds an extra 4 pounds of pressure to your knee joints. So if you gain 20 pounds, you’ll add 80 extra pounds of pressure to your knees.
- Avoid high-impact activities. Jogging, aerobics classes and other exercises that involve jumping can cause pain. Opt for non-impact exercises instead, such as cycling, brisk walking, swimming or using an elliptical trainer.
4. Don’t forget your bones
As unsettling as the thought may be, if you’re in your 60s, you’ve been losing small amounts of bone mass for years now — especially since menopause.12 In fact, after the age of 50, your body breaks down more bone than it builds, increasing your risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures.11 But the good news is, if you've been active all your life, your bones can stay in fairly good shape throughout your 60s.2
To help keep your bones strong, be sure to do weight-bearing activities regularly, which help stimulate the bones to grow stronger. Examples include climbing stairs, dancing, hiking, jogging, tennis, walking and weight training.11 Also, focus on getting enough bone-building calcium. Good sources include plain nonfat yogurt, nonfat milk, fortified soymilk and tofu.12
Photo by Niclas Illg on Unsplash
Vitamin D is also important for your bones because it helps your body absorb calcium. While few foods naturally contain vitamin D, fish, eggs, and fortified milk are good sources.13 You can also get vitamin D from the sun, but it’s important not to overdo it.
In addition, you should have a bone density scan starting at age 64.14 If you are under 65 but have suffered a fracture or have other risk factors of osteoporosis, you should have a bone density scan as soon as possible.
5. Keep your bladder happy
If trips to the bathroom are keeping you up at night, you’re in good company: Approximately 80% of people in their 60s need to frequent the bathroom at least once per night.2 There are several reasons for this, including structural changes in the urinary system that cause the bladder to hold less urine, a decreased ability to postpone urination and changes to the muscles that control the bladder.15
To help reduce nighttime bathroom trips, try decreasing your fluids after 6 p.m.; also avoid caffeine in the afternoon. And if you're taking diuretics for high blood pressure, ask your doctor if you can take your medication in the morning.2
6. Keep your immune system humming
If you’ve suffered from allergies in the past, you may have noticed that they’ve largely abated, perhaps even disappeared altogether. That’s because your immune system becomes less sensitive with age — and since allergies are the result of an overreactive immune system, they are probably becoming much less common.2
The not-so-good news is that your less-sensitive immune system might make you more susceptible to illness. Plus, your body’s response to vaccines decreases with age, leaving you more vulnerable to illnesses you are vaccinated against, such as the flu and pneumonia.2
In addition to getting your annual flu shot, be sure to follow steps to reduce your risk of getting sick, such as washing your hands often, avoiding contact with people who are ill, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.16 Check out the best foods to boost your immune system.
We truly hope these tips will help you stay healthy after 60 and lead an optimistic, healthy life full of grace and vitality not only today, but for many, many days to come. And remember: You’re not getting older — you’re getting better!
Have you gained a few pounds you’d like to lose? Do you need help balancing a slower metabolism with a healthy, delicious meal plan? Get started with Jenny Craig’s complete weight loss plan today.
Carole Anderson Lucia
Carole is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California who specializes in health and wellness topics. Her work has appeared in Parents, Fit Pregnancy, Mom & Baby, Yahoo News, Viv magazine and Lifescript. She's won several national awards for her work including a National Science Award and two National Health Information awards. A frequent contributor to Jenny Craig’s Blog, Healthy Habits, she enjoys gardening, spending time at the beach and adopting far too many rescue animals in her spare time.
Favorite healthy snack: jicama dipped in homemade hummus
Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, RDN
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: Peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content.
All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources, including peer-reviewed journals. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.
Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig