Health Mistakes Men Make In Their 50s
Of all the things on your bucket list—skydiving, a walkabout, writing the Great American Novel—we're guessing a prostate exam isn't near the top. It should be. Because no matter how young you look, act or feel, when you reach the mid-century mark, you need to be aware of a variety of health concerns.
Here from Eat This, Not That! Health are 20 health mistakes men make in their 50s—as well as suggestions from top doctors around the country on how to fix them. Tick them off, and then live the life you deserve.
Not Screening for Prostate Cancer
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer for men in the United States. And for some reason, many men avoid getting screened as they age. What are you waiting for?
The Rx: Don't be afraid of getting your prostate screening done! It's called a PSA. And keep in mind that screening "is not testing," explains Murray Wadsworth, author of the book Prostate Cancer: Sheep or Wolf?. A doctor may order further investigations such as multiparametric MRI, genomic, BRCA2 and other testing.
Ignoring Symptoms Due to Aging
It can be tricky differentiating common symptoms due to aging from other health complications, but it's crucial. According to board-certified family physician Monique May, MD, every symptom—including incontinence, shortness of breath with exercise, joint pain, swelling, decreased sex drive, fatigue, insomnia, depression, or memory problems, etc—could be nothing. Or they could be an early sign of serious diseases such as heart failure, cancer, hormone deficiencies, sleep apnea, dementia and others.
The Rx: Even if you think your symptoms are due to aging, still discuss them with your MD. It could save your life!
Not Drinking Enough Water
One of the biggest overlooked aspects of a weight loss program for men over age 50 is hydration, according to Allen Conrad, BS, DC, CSCS, the owner of Montgomery County Chiropractic Center in North Wales PA. "The amount of water you drink is directly coordinated to helping your body function at its best, and this is especially true for helping weight loss." When your body becomes dehydrated, it slows down your metabolism, he points out. Keeping the body fully hydrated is also essential for normal organ function.
The Rx: Make sure to stay hydrated, not only by drinking your eight plus glasses of water per day, but by eating hydrating foods. If you happen to be drinking more caffeinated beverages or eating salty foods, make sure to drink more water than usual.
Not Getting Your Blood Pressure Checked Regularly
According to the CDC, one out of every five people with hypertension are unaware that they have it. Having high blood pressure puts you at a much higher risk for heart disease or stroke, so treating it as soon as possible is crucial.
The Rx: Speak with your doctor and make sure your blood pressure is being regularly checked.
Not Getting Vaccinated
Don't think that your older age exempts you from yearly vaccinations. Not just for the young, they can actually be life-saving as you age, according to Dr. May. "There are vaccines for influenza, pneumonia, tetanus and whooping cough, and chickenpox that most adults over the age of 50 should be getting," she points out. "These can decrease the chance of getting these infections." The complications of these conditions, especially when it comes to older adults, can be seriously life-threatening, and can include pneumonia, brain infections, chronic pain, and death.
The Rx: Stay up to date on all your vaccinations!
Not Maintaining a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is more than just about weight maintenance—especially as we age. The Cleveland Clinic points out that a healthy diet can help men over age 50 reduce their risk of a variety of health complications, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some types of cancer.
The Rx: Maintaining a diet packed with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products, lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts is crucial for optimal health. Also, for your heart and weight stay away from saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars. If you aren't sure what to eat, think about working with a registered dietitian to help you devise a healthy eating plan.
The older we get, our body isn't able to metabolize caffeine the same way—which affects how much we can handle. "There are even changes with our nervous system that sometimes that when we have caffeine we get palpitations or tachycardia—which is when the heart rate goes above 100 beats per minute," points out Michele C. Reed, DO, General Practitioner.
The Rx: Adjust your caffeine consumption if you start feeling racy or nauseous.
Avoiding the Doctor
According to Matthew Mintz, MD, FACP, a Bethesda, MD physician, women are much better when it comes to seeing a doctor. "Because of reproductive and sexual health issues, most women are used to seeing their doctor regularly," he explains. "With men, unless they get sick, may have not seen a doctor since their college physical." Unlike women, men don't receive an "owner's manual" of how often to go in for a routine check up, he points out.
The Rx: Once men turn 50, they should go in for their physical annually, according to Dr. Mintz. "Fifty is the age where cancer screenings start and things start to break down, i.e. high blood pressure, diabetes, etc," he points out.
Not Working on Flexibility
Dean Mitchell, MD, points out that many men in their fifties don't think enough about flexibility and balance, even though that is the age when they are starting to diminish. "Everyone is so focused on cardio and weight training they don't realize they can't bend to tie their shoelaces or stand on one leg for balance," he points out.
The Rx: There is no better time to start a yoga practice! "Simple yoga asanas and stretching with balance exercises is the key to growing old gracefully," Dr. Mitchell points out.
Not Managing Stress
Stress does not do a body good—yet many men in their fifties fail to manage it. "Allowing stress into your life and not managing stress are some of the biggest health mistakes that men over 50 make," claims Carolyn Dean, MD, ND is a diet, nutrition and stress management expert and author of The Magnesium Miracle and Hormone Balance. And failure to do so can lead to a variety of health complications, including cardiovascular.
The Rx: If you haven't found destressing methods yet, start searching. Yoga and meditation are very beneficial for relaxation. If you believe your stress is next-level, consider talking to a physician about going on medication to treat it.
Not Treating Depression
According to the CDC men take their lives at nearly four times the rate of women. Even scarier is that men 75 and older have a suicide rate nearly 30 percent higher than all other age groups. Health practitioners often refer to this as a "silent epidemic." "It's easy to overlook suicide among older men," said Joseph Hullett, M.D., a psychiatrist and executive committee member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. "That's because there are a lot of other causes of death in older age groups."
The Rx: Pay attention to symptoms of depression and make your mental health a priority. You can learn more about depression and suicide in older adults on the American Psychological Association's website.
Letting Weight Get Out of Control
"Men in their 50s tend to let their weight gain get out of control," says Dr. Dean. One of the reasons is due to their failure to manage stress. "Stress stimulates production of the stress hormone cortisol which increases appetite and it also increases insulin levels which lowers blood sugar levels which cause you to crave carbs, sugar and fatty foods," she points out.
The Rx: In addition to dealing with your stress, try making diet and fitness a priority in your life. A site like eatthis.com can help.
Taking the Wrong Vitamins
Many people think that taking a generic off-the-shelf vitamin is enough, or they are unsure about what vitamins to take so they take none at all. "Most of us have vitamin deficiencies but it varies from individual to individual based on your diet, lifestyle and health concerns," says Arielle Levitan, MD, co-founder Vous Vitamin LLC. She adds that taking the right vitamins to meet your needs is essential, especially as you age, because there are certain things you need more as potential health problems loom.
The Rx: Unless you're sure to be getting your nutrients from food—which is best—a daily custom multivitamin is the surest way to meet your individual needs and help prevent future illnesses, according to Levitan. "In your fifties this often means looking to help with bone health, heart health and memory," she says. However, taking a generic multivitamin is not ideal as they often contain too many unneeded (and potentially harmful) ingredients yet not enough of the things you really need. "A doctor-created personalized vitamin is the best way to get the right nutrients."
Some men over fifty don't see the point in putting down the pack, especially if they haven't had health complication up to that point. However, the Cleveland Clinic points out that it's never too late for your body to heal. Also, quitting can help ease some of those getting older symptoms such as having difficulty breathing, losing energy, and a declining sense of taste and smell. That's in addition to what should be the biggest motivator of all — it will decrease your chance of lung cancer, heart attack, stroke, and even high blood pressure.
The Rx: Make the choice to quit smoking, and do it! If you are unsure of how to quit, speak with your physician. There are a lot of resources, including prescription medications and support groups, to make the process easier.
Neglecting Sexual Health Problems
Erectile dysfunction may seem like just a sexual problem, but it often times is a symptom of something greater. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, it can be a result of chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
The Rx: If you are experiencing ED, make sure to discuss it with your physician.
Ignoring Urinary Symptoms
Apparently it is relatively common for aging men to ignore changes in the bathroom. "What happens with a lot of men is that they accept difficult urinary symptoms as part of aging," says Daniel Kellner, MD, a Yale Medicine urologist who specializes in men's health. "They get up three to four times at night and don't sleep right. But, it's important not to ignore annoying urinary symptoms, especially if it seems to be getting progressively worse." It could be a sign of something that's more easily fixed such as a urinary tract infection, or it could signal an enlarging prostate, which is causing these symptoms. If either is not treated, it could lead to problems with your bladder, and in the case of the enlarged prostate, it could mean developing urinary retention, which means you might be able to pass your urine which could be an emergency.
The Rx: "Always mention to your doctor if you have blood in your urine because we worry about possible tumors of the urinary tract," urges Dr. Kellner. Since urinary symptoms may be related to lifestyle, try limiting things that could aggravate your bladder like coffee or alcohol. And make a doctor's appointment to discuss your symptoms. "If you experience pain or burning while urinating, your doctor will evaluate you for a UTI, which can be treated with medication. If your urinary symptoms are from an enlarged prostate, there are medications and procedures that can be done to significantly improve urinating and quality of life," he says.
Overlooking Diabetes Symptoms
Type 2 diabetes symptoms can include feeling increased hunger or thirst, losing weight without trying, urinating often, having trouble with blurred vision, or skin infections. However, according to the National Institute on Aging, older adults commonly brush off symptoms as "getting old."
The Rx: Always discuss any changes in your health with your doctor—even if you think they are nothing.
According to Dermatologist Jeffrey Fromowitz, MD, one of the biggest health mishaps men in their 50s make is not applying sunscreen. "One ounce of sunscreen is what we need to cover our body but most people apply only one-third to one-half of the amount," he points out. Additionally, men frequently forget to apply sunscreen to key areas, such as their lips, the back of their knees, neck, and scalp.
The Rx: Make sure to cover your body in SPF—and don't ever apply the "less is more" concept to sunscreen.
Not Thinking About Male Breast Cancer
Recently Beyoncé Knowles' father Matthew revealed that he was battling breast cancer, reminding the world that men get breast cancer too. According to BreastCancerOrg.com, in 2019, about 2,670 men are expected to be diagnosed with the disease. For men, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer is about 1 in 833.
The Rx: While the chances are slim, it's still important to pay attention to signs and symptoms—especially if there is a history of breast cancer in your family. You can also get screened for the BRCA gene to see if you are a carrier.
Failing to Keep Your Brain Stimulated
As we age, our memory starts to fail us. One of the best ways to keep dementia at bay is so keep our minds stimulated. Studies have found that there are things we can do in addition to maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen to strengthen our mental functioning—such as playing chess or engaging in other brain stimulating activities.
The Rx: In addition to staying physically active, make mental activity a priority. And to live your happiest and healthiest life, don't miss these 101 Unhealthiest Habits on the Planet.