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A woman in your 70s? What you need to know and do for your overall health

Experts cover the key issues, from diet and exercise, to ‘inflamm-ageing’ and loneliness

Áilín Quinlan talks to the experts about the big issues for 70-somethings, who face everything from inflammation, to loneliness and bereavement.


The 70s is a period when "inflamm-ageing" becomes a problem for many people, says consultant nutritionist Gaye Godkin.

This is a form of ageing in the body which produces more of the inflammatory proteins – which in turn causes long-term inflammation and makes you more prone to all chronic illness, she explains.

“To avoid inflamm-ageing and for good muscle health, eat dairy products and folate-rich foods, as well as omega-three fish – sardines, mackerel and salmon,” Godkin advises.


Another issue which may arise around this time is neurodegeneration, or degeneration of the nervous system. To counteract this, Godkin suggests incorporating plenty of Vitamin B in the diet: “Vitamin B can be found in foods such as pork, nuts, seeds, chicken and wholegrains. At this stage it’s also advisable to take Vitamin B, plus a Folate supplement to prevent neurodegeneration. It’s also important to exercise physically every day for 60 minutes a day,” she says.

Potential health issues

Cognitive function can become an issue for women in their 70s because they may not be eating properly, warns Cork GP and lifestyle medicine expert Dr Fiona O’Reilly. Poor nutrition can result from a loss of motivation to eat following the loss of a spouse or partner, the side-effects of some medication or simply a woman’s inability to get to the shops as easily as she once did.

“Take a Vitamin B12 supplement which is a good aid to memory,” O’Reilly advises, adding that it’s also important to have your thyroid function checked as this gland plays an important role in memory and concentration.

Other potential health risks can occur if a woman does not have her medication regime checked and tweaked on a regular basis to ensure that it continues to be appropriate for her age and current health status, O’Reilly warns. “Loneliness is a major health risk at this time as it has been linked to depression and general failure to thrive,” she adds.


Sarcopenia or muscle wastage can be an issue now, warns Dr Brian Higgins, Galway GP and TV 3's in-house doctor.

Now is the time to look at strengthening your muscles, he emphasises.

“Weak muscles are a fall risk, which means you could break your wrist, hip or back. The key here is resistance training so think about a regimen of weight-lifting under the supervision of an expert such as a physiotherapist. Also consider taking up Tai Chi, Yoga or Pilates.”

Mental wellbeing

The big emotional problem in this decade can be bereavement, particularly if it involves the loss of a beloved spouse or partner, and this can be devastating, observes Dr Harry Barry, GP, mental-health expert, and best-selling author.

Look after your physical health, he advises, adding that he also strongly emphasises the benefits of having a good social circle around you, as these are more important than ever.

“Bereavement is the big issue here, because women can lose siblings and partners, while physical ill health can impact on their life and mental health.”

Be careful about your alcohol consumption around this time, warns Barry: “Sometimes women in this period of life can start to drink at home and this can impact on their mental health by increasing the risk of depression and dementia.”

Tips for making the most of your decade

“Eat oily fish three times a week. It’s great for brain health,” observes Godkin, who points out that more women have dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than men.

“Oily fish is also very good for the immune system and bone health, and acts as an anti-inflammatory. It’s an excellent source of protein, is easily digested and is also very quick and easy to prepare.”

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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