When we reach our 60, we can often find ourselves standing at a crossroads with our health.
Two very different paths stand before us.
Lifestyle decisions in this decade can determine whether we continue to age well and maintain vitality, strength and mental acuity, or see our health rapidly decline.
Here we look at the three biggest health risks we face in our 60s, and how we can take control of our wellbeing.
One of the most notable risks associated with ageing is sarcopenia – an age-related decline in muscle mass and strength, and from our early 60s through our 70s, the risk increases by nearly fourfold.
With reduced muscle mass comes impaired physical function, reduced strength, poorer coordination and increased risk of trips and falls.
Also, sarcopenia may lead to false negatives in obesity diagnoses, this is because a patient may appear to fall within a healthy BMI range even though their body composition has deteriorated (e.g., less muscle and more body fat). This could leave you at risk of various obesity-related diseases such as type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Many factors contribute to the development of sarcopenia, however physical inactivity and diet are the most common.
Being physically active and consuming a healthy diet high in protein can offset the effects of sarcopenia and allow us to regain lost muscle and strength.
Research shows that individuals who perform little to no physical activity have a 55% increased risk for sarcopenia compared to physically active individuals.
Osteoporosis is common alongside sarcopenia in the ageing body and increases our risk for fractures significantly.
An estimated 50% of women and 20% of men over 50 will suffer from an osteoporosis-related fracture, with the likelihood increasing as each decade passes.
Our bones are a dynamic organ that continuously breaks down and reforms every day. As we get older, this risk of osteoporosis can result in falls and serious injuries, such as hip fractures.
Prevention is far better than a cure; as many as 60% of elderly people report never regaining independence in their daily life after a hip fracture. These kinds of injuries are also consistently linked to lower quality of life, shorter life expectancy, higher rates of institutionalisation, and overall worse health outcomes.
So, what can you do now to help keep your bones strong? Research shows that for every hour of physical activity per week (including walking), the risk for hip fracture reduces by 6%. Increase this to 90 minutes of activity, five days a week, and the overall risk reduces by 55%!
And if you’re not resistance training, you should be. Of all types of exercise, progressive strength training is the most impactful in reducing the risk for all types of fractures by improving strength, increasing muscle mass and reducing the risk of trips and falls.
The benefits of exercise as we age go far beyond physical strength and healthy weight maintenance.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and dementia are two neurodegenerative diseases strongly associated with age.
As we age there are significant structural and functional changes that occur that can lead to mental and physical disability, resulting in symptoms such as feeling confused, being forgetful, having difficulty concentrating, and struggling with daily activities.
So, what does exercise have to do with this? Physical inactivity is a key driver of this cognitive decline.
Evidence shows that those who perform regular physical activity are less likely to be diagnosed with dementia and AD, and increasing physical activity may decrease the risks by 28% and 45% respectively.
Performing physical activity can also improve and reduce the severity of symptoms in those already suffering by improving blood flow to the brain and stimulating the brain in a way that prevents the breakdown of important structures.
Some may say that you “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” but there is no reason anyone cannot make positive changes to their health and fitness, at any age.
Although dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are strongly associated with age and can severely affect mental function and wellbeing – exercise and diet are incredibly effective tools for both prevention and treatment.
So, if you feel like your 60s is too late for you to get in shape, you couldn’t be more wrong! In fact, it becomes even more critical to stay on top of our exercise, diet and lifestyle to help us live longer, reduce our risk of disease and injury, and improve our quality of life.
Ultimate Performance client Sybil found a ‘fountain of youth’ training with us at the age of 68.
Arthritis was taking its toll and her high blood pressure and cholesterol were a worry.
As she headed towards 70, it felt like her best years were behind her.
Starting a holistic program at U.P. with a focus on weight training and personalised nutrition has been utterly transformative for her lifestyle and health.
Dropping 8kg and three dress sizes was just the start. Arthritic pain in her hip and knee vanished in a matter of weeks and her blood pressure and cholesterol have normalised to the point she no longer needs medication.