6 Health Habits to Learn Before Turning 60 by Dr. Patsi Krakoff

By Dr. Patsi Krakoff, author War on Aging

Dr. Patsi Krakoff is a retired psychologist with 30 years’ experience in behaviour modification and health and wellness coaching. She is a life-long writer having been published in Paris, France where she lived for 20 years. She founded Content for Coaches, a writing service providing leadership articles for executive coaches. War on Aging was written with her husband Robert Krakoff to help healthy seniors live longer through better exercise and nutrition. 

6 Health Habits to Learn Before Turning 60

In my 70s, I have become a health nut. I’m always talking about better health habits for seniors. While others my age are remodeling kitchens and becoming gourmet cooks, I talk about the latest trends in diets, cardio workouts and high intensity interval training.

I’m not sure anybody listens anymore, and I don’t mind, as long as they keep inviting me to lunch. I try not to talk too much about nutrition when they do.

I wasn’t always this way. Like other women my age, I spent a lot of my life indulging on junk food and desserts, then yo-yo dieting to keep the weight off. My idea of working out was shopping all three floors of Nordstrom’s with a credit card.

Genes Aren’t Everything

I was lucky in some ways. I was blessed with small bones and a thin frame, meaning I could pass for healthy even when carrying 20 unnecessary pounds. It wasn’t until I turned 50 that I realized I was aging. I woke up in pain with a collapsed disk and an irregular heart rhythm.

The doctors prescribed medications and surgery. They explained, “You’re just getting old. Not to worry.”

I was angry and wanted to prove them wrong, only they were right. A hard look at my family history ruined it: everyone in my immediate family ̶ mother, father, sister ̶ died in their 50s and 60s. I was 64 at the time. It was time to tackle my health.

Behold, the Way Forward

I wasn’t on the Road to Damascus, but I imagined a shining white light pointing in the direction of the gym. I would go forth and sweat. I wasn’t ready to fast, but I’d throw out all junk food.

Today, at 74, I’ve settled into a life of exercise, good nutrition, and a commitment to healthy habits. I no longer struggle to keep these goals; it’s a way of life.

It didn’t happen overnight, it took persistence. I came to terms with aging and the fact that̶̶ like most seniors ̶I don’t have time left to get it right. Life and health are not a dress rehearsal.

Advice to a 50-Year-Old

The other day a friend asked me what she should tell her daughter ̶ who’s turning 50 ̶ and who isn’t taking good care of herself.

The midlife years are especially hard for working parents who are perpetually out of time and energy. But here’s what health habits I wish I had learned earlier in my own life.

  1. Eat for health. Good eating habits will ensure you avoid some of the diseases of aging, or at least slow them down (heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and dementia.) Starting in midlife, your cells don’t perform as well, meaning they become sensitive to the wrong foods and need more of the good stuff: vitamins, proteins and minerals. Cut down on portions and lose excess weight for good. It’s easier to attain a healthy weight in your 40s and 50s than in your 70s.
  2. Increase your exercise. Do more of what you love, be it sports, dance, yoga, Pilates, etc. Be consistent, never give up, even when sick or injured. The body can always do something while rehabbing. Include time for recovery and stretching and balance. The more you develop muscles at 40 and 50, the better you will look and feel at 70. And the easier an exercise habit will be as you turn 60 and 70.
  3. Don’t skimp on sleep. Remember to get 7-9 hours each night. Your brain needs it to preserve memory functions. Insomnia can lead to obesity, heart disease and dementia. The high rates of cognitive impairment in seniors can be diminished by attention to brain health in your 50s and 60s.
  4. Manage stress and emotions: Pay attention to moods and reach out to friends and others when needed. Nearly every 50-year-old has stress from family, relationships, work, and money periodically. Without stress management tools, it’s easy to let anger or sadness take a hold of you. Those tools will be essential to meeting the challenges of old age.
  5. Maintain good relationships and social connections. Stay in touch with loved ones and cultivate close friends. You’ll need them more than ever as you age. Social relationships contribute to good health and mental acuity.
  6. Find a sense of purpose. Don’t let others dictate what you ‘should’ be doing. Find your passion and focus time and energy doing what you love. While we can’t ignore the pressures of making a living and working, cultivate what you enjoy most. Prepare for the day when you will have more time for what you love.

You are never too young to get healthy. Start now in midlife, and you’ll be ahead of the game as you become a senior. You will look and feel ten years younger, and truly enjoy those golden years.


This Week on The Health Hub…Why Do We Sleep? with Dr. Edgar Garcia-Rill

Dr. Edgar Garcia-Rill is Director of the Center for Translational Neuroscience, a NIH-funded Center of Biomedical Research Excellence, a Professor of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences, and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He earned his Ph.D. from McGill University in Montreal in 1973. After postdoctoral training at the Department of Anatomy at the University of California at Los Angeles and the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA he joined the faculty at UAMS in 1978.  Dr. Garcia-Rill has been continuously funded for his research for almost 40 years.  His interests include the control of voluntary movement and locomotion, which involves the study of spinal cord injury as well as motor disorders like Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases.  He does research on the control of arousal and sleep-wake cycles, recently describing a novel mechanism for sleep-wake control, outlined in his 2015 book, “Waking and the Reticular Activating System in Health and Disease”.

He is the co-inventor on six patents and collaborates with Law School faculty on a series of six law reviews generally entitled, “The Law and the Brain: Using science to make legal decisions”.  Dr. Garcia-Rill has served on NIH review panels for 30 years, and was on the Board of Scientific Councilors for the National Institute for Drug Abuse and the National Center for Rehabilitation Research.

Learning points:

  • Why do we sleep?
  • What are the stages of sleep?
  • Are there disorders that manifest in sleep disregulation?

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Every Tuesday from 11am -12pm I host The Health Hub, an interactive, forward thinking talk show on Radio Maria Canada.   Call, tweet or email your questions as together we explore health issues that are relevant to you from new and innovative points of view.

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Tasty Spiced Walnuts

Walnuts are a good source of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to make melatonin.  Melatonin is a hormone that is important for regulating our circadian rhythm, our body’s internal clock that sets our sleep-wake cycle.

Here is a quick, tasty recipe for Spiced Walnuts to help promote a good night’s sleep!


Tasty Spiced Walnuts



Can Poor Quality Sleep Contribute to Weight Gain? You Bet it Can!

So we can all agree that good quality sleep is important right? Well sure it is!  Good quality sleep improves our energy levels. While we sleep it is the key time for our bodies to detoxify and to repair. Sleep helps us to keep our circadian rhythms moving along just tickety-boo. And darn it, a good night’s sleep can just make us happier.

But did you know that another bonus of a good night’s sleep is that it helps us to eat better. Yep a good night’s sleep helps us to make better food choices while we are awake.  This is because sleeping well, on a regular basis, helps to keep the hormones ghrelin and leptin in balance.  Ghrelin is a hormone that increases our appetite and leptin is a hormone that tells our brain that we have had enough to eat.

Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation can decrease plasma levels of leptin and increase plasma levels of ghrelin.  And increased levels of ghrelin due to poor quality sleep can lead to increased portion sizes of food and the increased hunger can cause us to make poor food choices.  I am sure that I don’t need to connect the dots for you.  Poor food choices and larger quantities of them can lead to unwanted weight gain and the cascade of health issues that can result from excess weight.

So what does “partial” sleep deprivation mean?  Well as little as 2 consecutive nights of 4 hours of sleep can do it!  It doesn’t take much does it?

The question then becomes, how do we cultivate good quality sleep?  Well it comes down to habits and routines and a few tips along the way.

Sleep in the dark

Sleeping in the dark helps with the production of the hormone melatonin.  Melatonin is important for regulating our circadian rhythm, our internal clock that helps to regulate our sleep.

Sleep in a cool room

As you drift in to La La Land your body begins to cool down.  Sleeping in a cool environment helps facilitate sleep during this stage.

Go to bed at the same time each night

When you have a consistent bedtime it actually signals to your body that rest is coming.  Back to that internal clock theme.

Shut off electronics

Your brain needs time to wind down before sleep.  Shut your television and electronics off at least a half hour before bedtime to let your brain cool down and get in to a restful state.

Don’t eat close to bedtime

If your body is working hard to digest food it is not in a restful state.  Have your last bite of food at least 2 hours before bedtime ideally though around the 3 hour mark.

The benefits of good quality sleep cannot be overstated and cultivating good bedtime habits is a big piece of your health puzzle.



Metabolic and endocrine effects of sleep deprivation

A single night of sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels and feelings of hunger in normal‐weight healthy men

Association of Sleep Adequacy With More Healthful Food Choices and Positive Workplace Experiences Among Motor Freight Workers

Why is My Metabolism Slow?

You may feel tired, cold or that you’ve gained weight. Maybe your digestion seems a bit more “sluggish”.

You may be convinced that your metabolism is slow.

Why does this happen? Why do metabolic rates slow down?

What can slow my metabolism?

Metabolism includes all of the biochemical reactions in your body that use nutrients and oxygen to create energy. And there are lots of factors that affect how quickly (or slowly) it works, i.e. your “metabolic rate” (which is measured in calories).

But don’t worry – we know that metabolic rate is much more complicated than the old adage “calories in calories out”! In fact it’s so complicated I’m only going to list a few of the common things that can slow it down.

Examples of common reasons why metabolic rates can slow down:

  • low thyroid hormone
  • your history of dieting
  • your size and body composition
  • your activity level
  • lack of sleep

We’ll briefly touch on each one below and I promise to give you better advice than just to “eat less and exercise more”.

Low thyroid hormones

Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolism. When it produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down. The thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) tell the cells in your body when to use more energy and become more metabolically active.   Ideally it should work to keep your metabolism just right. But there are several things that can affect it and throw it off course. Things like autoimmune diseases and mineral deficiencies (e.g. iodine or selenium) for example.

Tip: Talk with your doctor about having your thyroid hormones tested.

Your history of dieting

When people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down. This is because the body senses that food may be scarce and adapts by trying to continue with all the necessary life functions and do it all with less food.

While dieting can lead to a reduction in amount of fat it unfortunately can also lead to a reduction in the amount of muscle you have and more muscle means faster resting metabolic rate.

Tip: Make sure you’re eating enough food to fuel your body without overdoing it.

Your size and body composition

In general, larger people have faster metabolic rates. This is because it takes more energy to fuel a larger body than a smaller one.

However, you already know that gaining weight is rarely the best strategy for increasing your metabolism.

Muscles that actively move and do work need energy. Even muscles at rest burn more calories than fat. This means that the amount of energy your body uses depends partly on the amount of lean muscle mass you have.

Tip: Do some weight training to help increase your muscle mass.

Which leads us to…

Your activity level

Aerobic exercise temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move and do “work” and you can tell because you’re also getting hotter.

Even little things can add up. Walking a bit farther than you usually do, using a standing desk instead of sitting all day, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can all contribute to more activity in your day.

Tip: Incorporate movement into your day. Also, exercise regularly.

Lack of sleep

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate. The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Tip: Try to create a routine that allows at least 7 hours of sleep every night.





Try to incorporate some, or all, of the tips I have include to try and kickstart your metabolism.  I am also including a resource for you called “Top 10 Foods that Boost Metabolism”  to get you started in the kitchen!

Top 10 Foods that Boost Metabolism