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A woman in your 60s? What you need to do now for your overall health

Tackling the big issues for 60-somethings, from joint pain to heart health

Nutrition and alcohol

Joint health becomes an issue for many women when they reach their 60s, says consultant nutritionist Gaye Godkin.

Cut out biscuits, cakes and processed foods, she advises, as these promote inflammation in the body.

And lose weight – losing one pound of weight takes four pounds off your joints, Godkin explains.

Here’s what you need: “A diet high in beta carotene is important to counteract inflammation – eat plenty of carrots, green vegetables, butternut squash and sweet potato.


“Anti-inflammatory foods such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, tinned salmon, sardines and mackerel are very good at this time of life,” she says.

“Reduce your meat intake to three days a week and avoid processed meats.

“Drink two litres of water or herbal tea to ensure your skin is hydrated, and eat good fats – omega three fish oil, olive oil, nuts, avocado and seeds.”

Fight back against age-related type two diabetes by watching your weight. “If you have fat around the middle you are in trouble – lose weight. Cut out processed foods and reduce your intake of carbohydrate such as bread or pasta. Eat lots of fibre, which is found in vegetables.

“Eat natural yoghurt, every day, not low-fat, and preferably sheep’s milk yoghurt, which is higher in protein and suitable for those who cannot take cow’s milk.”

Godkin also recommends that women in this age group incorporate appropriate weight-lifting exercise into their fitness regime to counteract the possibility of developing sarcopenia or muscle wastage.

Joint pain may also become an issue now, so tailor your exercise to what is appropriate to your body

Heart health can become a significant issue for women in their 60s, warns Dr Brian Higgins, Galway GP and TV3's inhouse doctor.

Look after your heart health with the sort of exercise that gets your heart rate up, he advises. “Take 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly, which ensures you are slightly out of breath. This can be cycling, swimming or walking.

“Joint pain may also become an issue now, so tailor your exercise to what is appropriate to your body. If you’re in very good health, walk, jog or run, but if you have knee pain, you may find that swimming or cycling is more appropriate.”

Potential health issues

Bone health is a major issue at this point in your life, says Cork GP and lifestyle medicine expert, Dr Fiona O’Reilly.

“One of oestrogen’s many functions is to bind calcium to the bones. However, as a result of the loss of oestrogen from the body due to menopause, the calcium levels in the bone fall, resulting in an increased risk of osteoporosis or thinning of the bones,” she explains.

O’Reilly recommends having a Dexa scan every two years to determine the level of bone density.

“In the case of osteoporosis, an appropriate treatment regime can be set up in consultation with your GP,” she says.

Another health problem experienced by many women in their 60s is bladder infection, says O’Reilly. “Oestrogen maintains the lining of the urethra, which is the opening of the bladder.

“The loss of oestrogen means that this lining becomes thin and is more susceptible to infection.

“The absence of oestrogen in the body also contributes to a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles which can cause prolapse of the bladder and can lead to infection,” she says, adding that you should see your doctor if you suspect you have a problem.

In this decade many women can become more vulnerable to flu and pneumonia, so it’s very important to avail both of the annual flu vaccine and the five yearly pneumococcal vaccine, warns O’Reilly.

The upheaval of retirement can also be a big risk as many people are not prepared for the change this brings into their lives

Over this decade, a significant emotional problem can emerge – loneliness.

Dr Harry Barry, GP, mental health expert and best-selling author, said: "Your children have now permanently left home, and may even have moved abroad, and be in solid relationships," he explains, adding that the 60s is also a time of retirement.

“The upheaval of retirement can also be a big risk as many people are not prepared for the change this brings into their lives.

“They go from having a reliable social circle at work and having a place to go every morning, to being at home.

“Some people can become depressed or anxious and there can be a drop in mood because they feel they are no longer of importance.

“Women feel the absence of their children, along with the fact that they are now no longer working, so their traditional objects of focus have vanished.”

This is an important time to work on your social relationships, says Barry, who advises joining a community group like the local Tidy Towns Committee and expanding your social circle.

Another problem for this age group, he says, can be the expectation that grandparents will care for their grandchildren.

Older people who may be living near their children can find themselves becoming overwhelmed in terms of childcare.

“Grandparents can become de facto parents and many are tired and find it quite stressful.

“The expectation that the grandparents will become the de facto parents, that in other words, they are ‘meant’ to mind small children creates huge pressure for older people,” warns Barry.

Tip for making the most of your decade

Women in their 60s are post-menopause and have a higher risk of heart disease, so look after your heart with 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily, advises Dr Brian Higgins.

“This is exercise during which you can talk but not sing.”

Health & Fitness advice through the Decades
- Women in their 20s
- Men in their 20s
- Women in their 30s
- Men in their 30s
- Women in their 40s
- Men in their 40s
- Women in their 50s
- Men in their 50s
- Women in their 60s
- Men in their 60s

- Women in their 70s
- Men in their 70s

- Women in their 80s
- Men in their 80s

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