The Most Common Health Problems In Your 50s
You feel more vital than ever. But 5-0 can quickly become 5-oh-no if you don't face facts: Your body's changing. Unless you adapt accordingly, you could have major implications in the years to come. "Health issues that arise in 50s could be a sign of bigger problems to ensue," explains Robin Raju, MD, a physiatrist at Yale Medicine. In order to preserve our health for years to come, it is absolutely crucial to identify and treat issues as they rise. Here are the most common health problems you will face in your 50s, as well as expert-backed tips on what to do about them.
Are your joints suddenly feeling achy? "Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and can affect any joints in your body, especially hands, knees, hips, feet and spine," Dr. Raju points out. Especially after the age of 50, prevalence of osteoarthritis increases significantly. Unfortunately, the mechanisms behind this increased risk of osteoarthritis with increasing age are not well known.
The Rx: Speak to your physician about the best method of dealing with your pain. "Treatment of osteoarthritis should be individualized and should include addressing joint malalignment, muscle weakness and weight issues," says Dr. Raju.
Tendinopathies (aka Tendonitis)
As we age, injuries seem more common. This partially has to do with the fact that tendons begin losing their energy-storing capacity, which may lead to injury. "Over 50 years of age, there is increased incidence of many overuse tendinopathies," points out Dr. Raju.
The Rx: The best treatment for tendinopathies is resting the area that is bothering you. Physical therapy is another option. Make sure to speak with your physician about the best way to deal with your situation.
Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder in the general population, but as we age, many of us have trouble coming to terms with it. Maybe it is because our children have left the nest, or due to impending health issues. Whatever the reason, depression is real, and so many people try and deny they are suffering. "Many patients will ignore signs of depression due to fear of stigmatization, belief that depression is not a 'real' disease or fear of being referred to a psychiatrist," Dr. Raju explains. "Depression, if goes untreated, can lead to decreased quality of life and worsening of other medical conditions."
The Rx: If you are feeling down and out—even if you don't think it could be categorized as depression—speak to a mental health expert. Taking care of your mental health is so important at any age, whether it comes in the form of talk therapy or a prescribed medication. If you don't treat depression, it will likely worsen.
Are you noticing that your eyesight seems to be worsening? Yep, that could be another sign of getting older. "Presbyopia or inability to see near objects clearly is a condition usually begins in the fourth decade of life and gets progressively worse in fifth decade of life," explains Dr. Raju. "The crystalline lens in our eyes loses its elasticity as we age leading to this phenomenon."
The Rx: If you are having trouble seeing, don't be in denial. Make an appointment to see your eye doctor so you can explore your options.
As we age our bodies produce more cholesterol. So, in order to keep it low, we have to consume less of it. However, many people fail to make the adjustment, and end up with higher than recommended levels. "People with high cholesterol have a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes," points out Dr. Raju.
The Rx: Cholesterol boils down to diet and exercise. "Lifestyle modifications such as aerobic exercise, weight loss and eating a healthy diet low in saturated fats are keys to lowering your cholesterol," says Dr. Raju.
High Blood Pressure
As we age our blood pressure naturally increases due to vascular system changes. Basically, our arteries get stiffer, so blood pressure goes up. Again, many of us fail to adapt our lifestyles accordingly. "High blood pressure is associated with significant increase in risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure," explains Dr. Raju.
The Rx: Decreasing your blood pressure involves the same lifestyle modifications as high cholesterol, says Dr. Raju: diet and exercise!
Urinary Incontinence/Urine Leakage
Dr. Raju maintains that urinary incontinence and leakage is a very common problem, but it is not a normal part of aging. "It is estimated that nearly 50 percent of adult women experience urinary leakage, but very few seek care," he points out.
The Rx: You don't have to live with urinary incontinence! Speak with your doctor about possible treatment methods and take care of the situation.
Viagra was a game changer for older men for a reason! "Male sexual dysfunction includes erectile dysfunction, diminished libido, and abnormal ejaculation," says Dr. Raju, who points out that erectile dysfunction can also be a sign of early cardiovascular disease. "Female sexual dysfunction presents in a variety of ways including diminished libido, impaired arousal, or inability to achieve orgasm."
The Rx: In addition to popping a pill, there are other treatment methods for sexual dysfunction. Speak with your doctor and they can help you get your juju back.
The big M. Even if 50 is the new 30 there is no running away from menopause. "As women enter their late fourth decade, the number of eggs in their ovaries decrease and menstruation stops," explains Dr. Raju, noting the average age of menopause is around 51 years in the United States. And these changes related to menopause and estrogen depletion can have a variety of not-so-fun side effects, including hot flashes or emotional lability.
The Rx: Menopause is a natural part of aging. While it might take a little time to get used to it, there are things we can do to make the transition easier. Speak with your physician about your options.
As we age, our metabolism slows down—meaning we can't eat the way we used to without gaining weight. Unfortunately, many people in their 40s fail to adapt to their changing bodies and start packing on the pounds. "Obesity is now considered a 'disease' and has become a global epidemic," Dr. Raju explains. The scariest thing about it is that is associated with a significant increase in other life-threatening disease processes—like high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus (diseases that affect your blood sugar), high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke and sleep disorders.
The Rx: "Eat a healthy diet in moderation," suggests Stephen Schimpff, MD, author of Longevity Decoded: The 7 Keys to Healthy Aging. Of all the diets out there, he recommends the science-backed Mediterranean. In addition to healthy eating, he also encourages getting adequate exercise, managing your stress, sleeping around 7.5 hours a night, refraining from tobacco, and keeping yourself socially engaged.
And to live your happiest and healthiest life, don't miss these 100 Ways Your Home Could Be Making You Sick.