13 Ways You're Ruining Your Body After 60, Say Experts
Avoid these health mistakes as you age.
As we age, our health needs change. In other words, what worked when we were younger may have a detrimental impact on our body and mind later in life. What health habits are the most damaging? Newsful surveyed some of the top experts in the country, who revealed some of the worst ways you can ruin your body in your senior years. Read on for 13 ways you're ruining your body after 60.
Darren P. Mareiniss, MD, FACEP, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Sidney Kimmel Medical College – Thomas Jefferson University, notes that one of the biggest mistakes is ignoring concerning symptoms like unintended weight loss, blood in the stool, chest pain, lower extremity edema or shortness of breath, which can lead to serious maladies going undiagnosed. Don't let these simmer or fear you're a hypochondriac; at your age, get them checked out, he advises.
Dr. Mareiniss points out that you should always pay attention to your sleep. "Symptoms like daytime drowsiness or significant snoring can indicate sleep apnea. Appropriate interventions like CPAP can avoid long-term consequences like right heart failure and pulmonary hypertension," he says. "Poor sleep patterns can lead to increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, and even heart attacks."
Smoking, drinking, and drug use is always bad, but even worse after 60. "Habits like smoking, daily drinking, and drug abuse continue to present issues in older age," explains Dr. Mareiniss. For drinkers, they may become cirrhotic, have alcohol dependence issues, or experience withdrawal if they attempt to stop drinking suddenly. Smokers have the potential to develop COPD, cancer, hypertension, coronary artery disease, stroke, and kidney disease. "Beyond these effects, smoking cigarettes increases the risk of essentially every type of cancer, not just lung cancer. So, smoking cessation is one of the smartest things you can do to improve your health and avoid cancer," he says.
Watching what you eat and exercising is key to healthy aging. "Obesity is also a major issue that can have health consequences in this age group. It contributes to type II diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and atherosclerosis," Dr. Mareiniss points out. "Exercise, eat healthy, and avoid obesity. Also, isometric exercises can help avoid calcium/bone loss and prevent osteoporosis."
Get your COVID-19 vaccine ASAP to protect your health, urges Dr. Mareiniss. "People above 60 are at the highest risk of death if they contract COVID-19," he points out. "So, if you would like to avoid ruining your body, you should get vaccinated. Working in the ED, I am amazed at how many high-risk elderly people are still not vaccinated. Failing to vaccinate is a key way you will ruin your body after 60."
For people above 60, failing to take medication and dietary indiscretion can result in avoidable hospitalizations, Dr. Mareiniss reveals. "Many people above 60 have chronic medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation that require daily medications. Diabetics often require insulin, people with heart failure may require diuretics, and individuals with PE or atrial fibrillation may require anticoagulation. Failing to take medication can lead to avoidable hospitalization, morbidity, and even death." He adds that diabetics and people with heart failure often need to follow restrictive diets. "Heart failure often requires a low sodium diet, and diabetics need to avoid excessive sugars/carbohydrates," he continues. "Failure to observe these restrictions can land them in the hospital with acute exacerbations of their conditions. These are avoidable ways people ruin their bodies."
Kellyann Petrucci, a naturopathic doctor and the author of Dr. Kellyann's Bone Broth Diet, maintains that the biggest mistake people make later in life is shorting themselves on healthy fats, eating too little protein, and drinking too many smoothies. She suggests amping up your intake of olive oil, coconut oil, and pastured butter, which are not only good for your body but also your skin. Also, amping up protein will help build muscle. (She suggests 60 to 100 grams per day.) Juice smoothies are full of sugar, which can jack up your blood sugar and put you at extra risk for metabolic syndrome or even diabetes. "If you're a fan of smoothies, add a healthy dose of protein-rich collagen to each one, and stick to no more than one serving of fruit per smoothie," she says.
Dr. Petrucci explains that lifting weights isn't just for young people. "You can build strong muscles at any age, and the best way to do this is by doing resistance training (lifting weights or using your body's weight in exercises like planks and pushups) every other day. Just start with light weights, and don't overdo it," she says.
According to Dr. Petrucci, good balance is a "use it or lose it" skill, "and as you age, it's also a life-or-death skill because falls can be dangerous or even deadly," she points out. "Make it a regular habit to do activities that improve your balance, such as yoga, Tai Chi, or ballet."
Saying "I'm too old" is a surefire way to ruin your body in your later years of life. "One of the biggest keys to staying physically strong in your sixties is to have the right mindset," Dr. Petrucci points out. "Not trying new adventures or learning new things is the fastest way to age your mind and body. So erase the words 'I can't' from your vocabulary, and keep challenging yourself to be the best 'you' that you can be—at any age."
Jessica Mazzucco, NYC Certified Fitness Trainer, warns that when it comes to exercising later in life, too much of a good thing is possible. "We all know that exercising regularly can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and keep you active as you age. The key to exercise over 60 is to focus on starting slow and to constantly improve over time. If you haven't been active in a while, you should build up your exercise routine little by little," she explains. For example, try increasing your time on the treadmill by two minutes every day, or try performing one to two more sit-ups than you did last time. "If you try to accomplish too much too quickly, you can place strain on your joints and muscles, put yourself at risk for injury, and suffer from exercise burnout."
Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, NYC Neuropsychologist and Faculty Member at Columbia University, explains that exercising your mind is just as important as your body. "Your brain is a muscle that needs to be kept active. Don't let it go to mush by not using it," she says. If you are not working or are not in school, there are things you can do to flex your brain power and keep your brain sharp. "Playing brain games like bridge, advanced crossword puzzles, sudoku, and chess can keep the brain active and improve brain function," she suggests.
Gbolahan Okubadejo, MD, NYC Area Spinal and Orthopedic Surgeon, urges you not to ignore any back pain you are experiencing. "You may think that bed rest will make your body heal faster and that by resting in bed, you will be back on your feet in no time," he says. However, contrary to popular belief, bed rest slows the healing time for back pain, and the back will actually take longer to heal if you remain inactive. "Lying down can even make the pain worse. Try swimming, light cycling, or walking to stay active and bounce back from your back pain. If your back pain is intolerable and very severe, you should see a doctor."