After age 65, practicing healthy habits are just as essential—if not more so—than at other times of life. This is not the time to assume you can coast on previous good practices, nor to assume that your health in the golden years is preordained. The opposite is true. Science indicates there are simple steps you can take every day to live longer, healthier, and happier, well into your seventh decade and beyond. These are things you should stop doing ASAP if you're over age 65, 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.
Taking Daily Aspirin
Experts no longer advise that older people begin taking daily aspirin to prevent a first heart attack. That's according to a new statement by the United States Preventive Task Force, which gives this practice a "D" grade for people over 60, citing the increased risk of bleeding associated with aspirin use. "Based on current evidence, the Task Force recommends against people 60 and older starting to take aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or stroke," said task force vice chair Michael Barry, M.D. "Because the chance of internal bleeding increases with age, the potential harms of aspirin use cancel out the benefits in this age group." (The experts say this doesn't apply if you've had a heart attack and are on an aspirin regimen; if you're currently taking aspirin, ask your healthcare provider for advice before making any changes.)
Studies have found that exercising regularly can literally make your body younger. It can counteract several disorders whose risk increases with age. Exercise improves muscle tone and mass (which can keep your metabolism humming instead of declining with age), decreases bone loss (reducing the risk of osteoporosis, which increases after 50), and even boosts brain health by lowering your risk of dementia. Conversely, being sedentary raises your risk of a range of health conditions that can shorten your life, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise) each week, including two sessions of strength training.
Eating an Unhealthy Diet
In research published in PLOS Medicine, researchers found you can extend your life up to 13 years by swapping a Western diet (heavy in processed foods and red meat) with an "optimized diet" emphasizing fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts. The scientists found that people who do this at age 20 can add more than a decade to their lives, but even starting the healthier diet at age 60 was found to lengthen life by nine and eight years for men and women, respectively.
Drinking Too Much
Over 65, drinking the same quantities of alcohol that you did as a younger person can be dangerous. As we age, acohol affects us differently. Older people are more sensitive to alcohol, making them more prone to injury from falls or dangerous drug interactions. And overimbibing raises your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease at any age. To stay healthy, experts advise avoiding alcohol or drinking only in moderation, meaning no more than one alcoholic beverage per day for women or two daily drinks for men.
Neglecting Your Sense of Purpose
A 2019 study published in the journal JAMA found an association between maintaining a strong sense of purpose in life and a lower risk of dying from any cause after age 50. When scientists followed 7,000 adults older than 50 for five years, they found that those who scored their lives lowest in purpose were twice as likely to have died than those who scored it the highest. (One thing that can help: Socializing regularly; scientists say that staying socially connected and avoiding loneliness has strong heart and brain benefits.) And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.