As we get older, we're sometimes faced with health challenges that are beyond our control. That's rarely been more clear than during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the healthcare difficulties it's presented. But it's also true that many health challenges in the later years can be self-inflicted, and making a few simple changes can improve the length and quality of our lives. These are seven health habits to stop after age 60, according to experts. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Using Over-the-Counter Medication Casually
As we age, careful use of over-the-counter medications becomes increasingly important. Just because they're available over the counter doesn't mean they're safe for everyone. Experts say some OTC medications can cause blood pressure, heart or stomach problems, along with risky interactions with certain prescription medications. It's a good idea to tell your doctor about all medications you take, and consult them before beginning anything new.
Drinking to Excess
Binge drinking among people over 60 is booming, particularly among women, and it's got experts worried. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 20 percent of people age 60 to 64, and 11 percent of people over 65, report binge drinking, defined as more than five drinks for men, and four drinks for women, in about two hours. Excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer and heart disease at any age, but it's especially dangerous as we mature—older people are more sensitive to alcohol, which can lead to dangerous drug interactions or injury from accidents or falls. To stay healthy, drink moderately: No more than one alcoholic beverage per day for women, and two for men.
When it comes to quitting tobacco, it really is never too late. Even people who quit smoking between the ages of 65 to 69 can add one to four years to their lives, experts say. Conversely, continuing to smoke after 60 raises your risk of chronic health conditions that increasingly affect older people, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and cancer. In fact, cigarette smoking is still the No. 1 preventable cause of death.
Being Socially Isolated
Studies have found that being lonely can have negative health effects similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and may increase older adults' risk of developing dementia by 50%. Do everything you can to stay socially connected: Socialize regularly with friends and loved ones, join activity or support groups, or volunteer. Studies have found that mentoring younger people is particularly beneficial for brain health.
Being Depressed About Aging
Accentuating the positive can have a real impact on health as you grow older, particularly on the brain. Research done at Yale University found that people who had positive self-perceptions about growing older lived 7.5 years longer and had lower rates of Alzheimer's disease better than people with more negative views.
Skipping Your Vaccinations
The COVID vaccine and booster are on everyone's mind, but they're especially important for older people, who are at greater risk of being hospitalized or dying from respiratory illnesses of any kind. Talk to your doctor about all the other routine vaccinations recommended for people over 60, including flu, pneumonia, whooping cough and shingles. The CDC says every adult should get an annual flu vaccine, especially people over 60.The CDC also recommends two pneumococcal pneumonia vaccines for people 65 and older, and two doses of shingles vaccine for people over 50.
Experts say that exercising regularly can literally fight the negative effects of aging—it improves muscle tone and mass, decreases bone loss, improves memory, increases metabolism and improves sleep. Conversely, being sedentary raises your risk of a range of health conditions that can shorten your life: obesity, type 2 diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease, just to name a few.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise) each week. Some examples of moderate-intensity exercise include brisk walking, dancing or gardening; vigorous exercise includes running, swimming, hiking or biking. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.