How to Stay Healthy Over 50

Staying healthy is always a good idea, whatever age you are, but staying healthy over 50 is even more important for your well being. That's because our bodies gradually start to wear out, making it more difficult to move around, shift excess weight, process our food and recover from illness. When you are over 50, you are more likely to suffer from life threatening diseases such as heart attacks and different types of cancer, as well as osteoporosis. It's essential to find out how to stay healthy and to be proactive in seeking medical help. Here are some of the common conditions that affect men and women over 50, some of the preventive measures you can take and ways to stay healthy for a long time.

Common Conditions
Some conditions affect men and women equally as they get older. For example, most people tend to gain weight in their 50s as their metabolism slows down and their body's ability to process nutrients declines. This increases the risk of developing heart disease and other life changing conditions. High blood pressure can affect your heart, kidneys, brain and blood. Left untreated, this puts you at higher risk of heart attacks.

High cholesterol levels also affect the health of your heart and arteries. Staying healthy means keeping this under control. High blood sugar levels can cause heart disease, blindness and kidney failure. As we age, our vision starts to decline. Cataracts and glaucoma are common in seniors, but can be treated if caught early.

A Testing Regime
With most conditions, early identification is the key to treatment, so there are a number of tests both men and women should have regularly when they reach their 50s. These include:

  • a cholesterol test at least every five years; more regularly if your family history means that you are at risk of having a heart attack
  • a rectal examination to check for colon cancer at least every ten years
  • a regular blood pressure test
  • a regular blood sugar check to catch diabetes
  • a regular check on weight
  • an annual check for moles, which can be a sign of some cancers
  • an annual flu vaccination.
  • an eye test every one to two years
  • regular dental checks to detect any gum disease

As you move into your 60s, you should get a hearing test every three years. The hearing loss experienced by 30 percent of people over 60 can usually be treated. If you are over 60, you should also guard against pneumonia with a pneumococcal vaccination. Everyone should also have a tetanus shot every ten years.

Staying Healthy For Women
There are a number of conditions that particularly affect women. Women should have a thyroid test every five years from the age of 50, as this gland, which regulates hormones, may begin to function erratically. Women usually start menopause in their 50s, and may experience hot flashes, aching joints, night sweats, bladder problems and mood swings. However, just because you have stopped menstruating, it doesn't mean that you can kiss the gynecological exam goodbye. Women in their 50s and older still need pelvic exams and pap smears every one to three years, especially if they are sexually active. This test can help you to detect cervical and ovarian cancer in time to do something about it, as these conditions typically affect women in this age group.

Breast cancer is another risk area for women over the age of 50. Get an annual mammogram and breast exam to detect any changes in breast tissue. One third of women are also affected by osteoporosis, which thins the bones and makes them more likely to fracture. Staying healthy involves eating a healthy diet and doing weight-bearing exercises several times a week.

Staying Healthy For Men
A key area for men is prostate cancer, but this can be detected by an annual PSA-prostate test, which checks for the level of PSA in the blood. A rectal exam is another way of checking prostate health. Bladder cancer may also affect men over 50, especially smokers. Though no predictive tests are listed for this form of cancer, check with your doctor if urination is painful, more frequent or bloody. Other conditions that may affect men over 50 include incontinence, erectile dysfunction and male menopause (or andropause), when levels of male hormones begin to drop.

Diet and Exercise
In addition to regular health checks, other ways to stay healthy include improving diet and nutrition and engaging in regular exercise. Exercises for strength, endurance, balance and flexibility are crucial at this age. If you quit smoking and reduce alcohol intake, you will also improve your health.

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