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Manage your health in your 60s

8-minute read

Now that you have reached your 60s, here are some recommendations to help you prevent health conditions that are more common at this age.

Any screening tests you should have will depend on your health. Talk to your doctor about what exactly you need, but most healthy people in their 60s should:

  • have a heart disease risk assessment every 2 years
  • have a blood pressure check every 2 years
  • have their cholesterol and lipids checked every 5 years
  • have a blood glucose test every 3 years
  • have a mammogram every 2 years (women)
  • have regular skin cancer checks
  • have a cervical screening test every 5 years (women)
  • have a check for bowel cancer every 2 years
  • have an osteoporosis risk assessment every year
  • have a flu vaccination every year (over 65)
  • have a dental check-up every year
  • have a regular falls assessment (over 65)
  • have a hearing test every year (over 65)
  • have an eye test every 2 years, and every year on reaching age 65

Healthy lifestyle recommendations

Some risk factors can contribute to certain diseases in your 60s, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and cancer. To help you stay healthy:  

Quit smoking

You can get support to quit smoking from your doctor who may also give you medication, or you can try a service such as Quit Now or Quitline.

Are you at risk?

Find out if you're at risk of heart disease, kidney disease or diabetes in just a few minutes using the healthdirect Risk Checker.

Eat healthily

It is important to have a balanced diet, especially in your 60s, to help maintain muscle strength and stay within a healthy weight range,

You should enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods every day, including fruit and vegetables, grains, lean meats, poultry and fish, as well as milk, yoghurt and cheese. Limit foods containing saturated fat, added salt and sugar, and alcohol.

Limit alcohol

Drink 2 standard drinks or less per day, and no more than 4 alcoholic drinks on any one occasion.

When you are older you have an increased risk of harm from drinking alcohol. If you have a condition that can get worse with alcohol, your doctor may advise you not to drink.

Be physically active

If you are generally fit and have reasonable mobility, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. (Moderate-intensity physical activity is an activity that is energetic and raises your heart rate but doesn't make you too breathless, such as fast walking.)

It is better to do some physical activity in your 60s than none at all. You can start exercising and gradually increase the amount you do and how often you do it.

Choose strength, balance and flexibility exercises as well. These will help you to maintain stronger muscles, bones and reduce your risk of falls, which are all important as you get older.

Staying healthy/preventative activities

The following health problems may become more common as you get older, especially if you have other risk factors. However, there are also some things you can do in your 60s to help prevent these conditions from developing:

Cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) includes heart disease, stroke and blood vessel diseases.

You should have an assessment of CVD risk every 2 years unless your doctor already knows you are high risk. Your doctor may ask you questions and test your blood pressure and cholesterol as well as checking for other health conditions.

You can help prevent CVD by following the healthy lifestyle recommendations above, as well as reducing high blood pressure and cholesterol.

High blood pressure

You should have a blood pressure test every 2 years, or 6–12 months if you have a moderate risk of CVD and 6–12 weeks if your risk is high.

Apart from the above diet and exercise recommendations, other ways to prevent high blood pressure include:

  • maintaining a waist measurement of less than 94cm for men and less than 80cm for women
  • limiting salt to 5mg per day, or 4mg if you have high blood pressure (this tool will help you check the amount of salt in processed food)

Cholesterol and lipids

It’s recommended you have your cholesterol and lipids checked every 5 years with a blood test, or every 1 to 2 years if you have a higher risk of CVD.

You can help maintain a healthy cholesterol level with exercise and a healthy diet.

Type 2 diabetes

In your 60s you should be tested every 3 years to see if you have type 2 diabetes, or every 12 months if you are at increased risk. Your doctor will organise a blood test to check your glucose level.

The above exercise, diet and weight recommendations can help prevent type 2 diabetes.

Stroke

If you are at risk of a stroke your doctor should assess you every 12 months.

The assessment may involve a series of questions and tests for CVD risk factors including atrial fibrillation. Medicines may be available for these conditions if you have them.

Immunisation

The following vaccinations are advised for people in their 60s:

  • herpes zoster (shingles) – once, from 60 years old (available free on the vaccination schedule from ages 70 to 79)
  • influenza – each year, from 65 years old (available free on the vaccination schedule)
  • pneumococcal – once, from 65 years old (available free on the vaccination schedule)

Kidney disease

Kidney disease should be assessed every 1 to 2 years if you are at high risk.  Risk factors can be similar to CVD or could involve an injury to your kidney. 

Your doctor may ask you a series of questions as well as checking your blood pressure and doing a urine test. You may need to take medicine to lower your blood pressure if it is high.

Breast cancer

A mammogram is recommended every 2 years for women at lower risk from breast cancer Women at higher risk may have an individual program developed by their doctor.

You should be familiar with the look and feel of your breasts and should see your doctor straight away if you see or feel any unusual changes.

Skin cancer

If you are in your 60s, your doctor may check your skin even if you have an appointment for another reason. If you are at high risk for skin cancer you should have a complete skin check every 6 to 12 months.

Ensure that you ‘slip, slop, slap, seek and slide’ to protect your skin from future sun damage.

Cervical cancer

To test for cervical cancer, women should have a cervical screening test 2 years after their last Pap test. After that, if your result is normal you will only need to have the cervical screening test every 5 years.

This test has replaced the previous Pap test and is more accurate. However, it feels the same as a Pap test.

Colorectal (bowel or colon) cancer

Every 2 years, it is recommended you have a test for bowel cancer using a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT), even if you have no symptoms or family history of bowel cancer.

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program will send you a free FOBT every 4 years. In 2020, this will occur every 2 years. With the FOBT you can take a sample of your faeces (poo) yourself.

Depending on your results, your doctor may recommend that you have a colonoscopy.

Osteoporosis and fracture

Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose minerals and become more brittle, putting them at risk of fractures.

Your doctor may ask you screening questions every 12 months to assess your risk. If you are high risk or experience a fracture following a small bump or fall, this should be investigated further. This involves a simple scan with a machine, taking around 10 to 15 minutes.

To help prevent osteoporosis, ensure you have 1,300mg of calcium per day (if you are a woman) while men should consume 1,000mg per day. You should also follow the healthy diet and exercise recommendations above. Getting enough vitamin D, without risk of skin cancer is also advised.

Tooth decay and gum disease

You can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease by:

  • brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • spitting out the toothpaste, not rinsing
  • using dental floss
  • limiting foods and drinks high in acid and sugar
  • visiting a dentist every 12 months, or more if required

Falls

When you are over 65, your doctor may assess your risk for falls every year, or every 6 months if you’ve already had a fall.

You can help prevent falls by following the nutrition and exercise advice above. If needed, your doctor may also give you special exercises to reduce your risk of falling, as well as reviewing any medicines that could make you unsteady.

Vision and hearing

From 65, you should have a hearing test each year, and if you and your doctor think you need it, an eye test.

Dementia

Your doctor may suggest that you are assessed once you are over 65 if you have a higher risk, or show symptoms of dementia.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2018

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