This article originally appeared on Black Health Matters.
When you reach your 60s, all the issues that arose in your 50s become more extreme.
Your yearly well-woman visit is a good time to check in with your doctor about how you’re doing, how you’d like to be doing and what changes you can make to reach your health goals. In addition to talking with your doctor or nurse about your health, you may also need certain vaccines and medical tests. Don’t worry. You won’t need every test every year.
Younger than 65? Right now a yearly well-woman visit won’t cost you anything extra if you already have health insurance. (This could change if the new administration is successful in its attempts to repeal and replace all aspects of the Affordable Care Act.) Most private health plans cover certain preventive care benefits, including a yearly well-woman visit, without charging a copay, coinsurance or making you meet your deductible. If you don’t have insurance, you can still see a doctor or nurse for free or low-cost at a local health center. When you turn 65, Medicare plans must also cover your annual wellness visit and other preventive care services at no cost to you.
It can be difficult to manage your health while living with a chronic condition like diabetes, heart disease or COPD, all of which become more prevalent when you hit your 60s. Take it one day at a time and remember that you have to take care of yourself before you can help care for others.
- Eat healthy. Go to ChooseMyPlate.gov tips to get you started
- Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity (Talk to your doctor about chronic conditions that may limit your movement.)
- Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep, though a full night of sleep may start to elude you as you age. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, talk to your health-care provider.
- Reach and maintain a healthy weight
- Get help to quit or don’t start smoking
- Limit alcohol use to one drink or less each day
- Don’t use illegal drugs or misuse prescription drugs
- Wear a helmet when riding a bike and wear protective gear for other sports
- Wear a seatbelt in cars
- Don’t text while driving
Talk to the doctor about:
- Your weight, diet and physical activity level
- Your tobacco and alcohol use
- Any violence in your life
- Depression and any other mental health concerns
- Preventing falls
- Who will make health-care decisions for you if you are unable to
- Low-dose aspirin
- Tests for blood pressure, cholesterol, colorectal cancer, diabetes, bone mineral density
- Vaccines for flu, pneumococcal pneumonia, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, shingles, thyroid
- Lung cancer
- Osteoporosis (65 and older)
- Dental health
- Eye health
- Pap and HPV (64 and younger)
- Sexually transmitted infections (Screening for STIs is not a regular part of your well-woman visit. Ask for it.)
Protect your heart. According to the American Heart Association, most heart attacks in women occur in the 10 years after menopause. To lower your heart disease risk, keep track of your blood pressure, total cholesterol, fasting blood glucose, weight and waist circumference.
You’ll likely experience drastic changes in density, strength and moisture levels in your hair in your 60s. This might prompt you to cut your locks, though you shouldn’t feel pressured to do so. Whether you decide to wear your hair long or short, invest in a good cut to reduce wear and tear. Age does cause the scalp to tighten, which affects the ability to grow hair. The solution: Apply a hydrating scalp treatment and massage it in to get more blood flowing.
Forget younger-looking skin and focus on healthy skin. That means exfoliation is critical. And you’re never too old to prevent sun damage. Limit sun exposure and invest in a good sunblock. Since our skin tends to become drier (we lose oil glands as we age), dry skin is a common challenge. Wash your face every night before bed, but not with soap, which pulls away the natural oils necessary to keep your skin healthy. You don’t have to give up those hot baths you love, but you’ll want to slather on moisturizer as soon as you climb out, while your skin is still damp.
Practice safer sex. Mama may take longer to get revved up, but that doesn’t mean her sex life is stuck in park! If you’ve been out of the dating game for a long time, talk to your doctor about condoms and sexually transmitted infections.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.