50 Unexpected Health Problems After 50
Fifty is the new 40. And since 40 is the new 30, and 30 is the new 20, well—if you’re over 50, you’re basically 21, right?
In all seriousness, we’re glad age is just a number. Except for one thing: No one told your body.
After age 50, unexpected health problems can plague you, and prevent you from having the life you deserve. Unafraid to stare into the abyss, We asked the world’s top doctors about the most common ailments, and how you can get ahead of them. Read on, and save the surprises for your next birthday party.
“One surprising thing that happens after age 50 is that people tend to shrink; both men and women!” says Dr. Monique May, a physician. “As we age, we lose height because the discs between the vertebrae lose their water content and elasticity. In English, that means that the cushions between the bones in the spine get less spongy, lose their shape and become flattened. That causes the spine to shrink and people lose inches in height.”
“You can also lose height if the spine starts to curve or if you have a compression fracture (where the bone breaks and collapses on itself) from osteoporosis (age-related bone loss),” she says.
Recommendation: “The difference can be several inches from when you were younger,” she says, “so it important that you get your height measured along with your weight when you get your annual physical at your doctor’s office.”
“Many men and women alike experience incontinence as they age,” says Dr. Erica Steele of Holistic Family Practice. “This includes leaks, urgency, as well as more frequent urinations prompting many people to restrict the amount of fluid intake which can then overburden the kidneys.”
Recommendation: Kegel exercises will “help improve bladder control and possibly improve sexual performance,” says Jennifer Lane, a registered nurse in California. Not to mention “also help you avoid embarrassing accidents.” Do one set of 10 Kegels per day minimum. Here’s a handy guide for how to do a kegel.
You’ve Lost Your Libido
“This is in obvious one, although it’s not just the urge but also the desire,” says Dr. Erica Steele DNM ND CFMP BCND. “Many people over 50 have lost an interest in their partners sexually or do not feel sexy themselves therefore are not interested in sex.”
Recommendation: You’re sexy if you feel sexy. Think seriously about what’s holding you back and develop a plan to get over it. Also ask your doctor about sexual dysfunction drugs like Viagra, Cialis or, for premenopausal women, Addyi—whatever stigma there once was is gone.
Your Lower Eyelids Get Wonky
“We start to get more fat herniations in our lower lids and that can show up as lower lid malpositions”—that’s an abnormal position of your eyelid—”which require lower lid surgery,” says Dr. Thomas Jeneby, a board-certified plastic surgeon in San Antonio, Texas. Your eyelid might be abnormally high, or low, or droop, or turn inward or outward.
Recommendation: “Not much prevention here, but definitely treatable,” says Dr. Jeneby. If you’re self-conscious about how it looks, a filler “can be used to camouflage problems,” depending on how comfortable you are with plastic surgery.
You’re More Susceptible to Stress
Who wouldn’t be, given all you’ve lived through, and the potential pitfalls to come? Stress is inevitable. What’s essential is that you don’t let it consume you. “Stress over time can create apathy and a lack of joy,” says Dr. Steele. “As people age they become overburdened and saddened by their current life experiences, hence the advent of the mid-life crisis to create more joy and excitement in one’s life.”
Recommendation: If you find yourself dreading your days, a rain cloud over your head—or are considering drastic changes without much prep—share the burden: Talk about your choices with a caring family member or therapist. No one is alone.
Your ‘Shocks and Struts’ Have Wear and Tear
“One health problem is joint pain due to degenerative joint—or disc—disease, or osteoarthritis,” says Carmen Echols, a board certified Family Medicine Physician from Georgia. “Many of my patients who may be in their early 50s feel that they are ‘too young’ experience arthritic pain. I like to describe the weight bearing joints such as hips, knees, ankles and even the lower back as the ‘shocks and struts’ of the body, because over time, wear and tear—known as degeneration—of those joints can cause pain. Exercise requiring repetitive use of those joints, or even obesity, can cause the cartilage cushioning the joints to break down even faster.”
Recommendation: Don’t think aches and pains are just a “part of getting older.” You might have a degenerative joint disease that can be addressed by your physician—and you might be aggravating it unknowingly. For more extreme cases: “Thankfully, innovative regenerative medicine procedures are now widely available,” says Dr. Rudy Gehrman, DC, Executive Director and Founder of Physio Logic NYC. “These techniques use your body’s own ability to heal from within, and help avoid unnecessary use of medications and surgery.”
You Have Sleep Disordered Breathing
“As women enter menopause and estrogen levels drop off they may experience unexpected symptoms like fatigue, daytime sleepiness, unexplained weight gain, chronic neck and shoulder pain and grinding of the teeth,” says Dr. Sharona Dayan, DDS, DMSc, a board certified periodontist. “These are all signs and symptoms of Sleep Disordered Breathing, SDO.”
Here’s what happens when you have SDO: “Estrogen keeps the muscles of the airway tight and as the levels drop off the muscles become looser and the tongue can fall back into the throat blocking oxygen flow. The brain then has an immediate microarousal and signals the body to correct the oxygen situation. These microarousals may not be long enough to wake the person up, but just long enough to go from deep restorative sleep to light unrefreshed sleep.”
You then grind your teeth because it’s your “body’s compensation to open the airway and increase blood flow…that delivers oxygen to the brain.” You might also sleep on your side (causing a stiff neck or shoulder) or undergo chronic stress (from lack of sleep) without even knowing why.
Recommendation: “If a person turns 50 and begins to notice these symptoms it’s time to get the sleep and airway checked out by an airway-focused dentist who can address tongue posturing and tongue space for a multitude of health benefits,” says Dr. Dayan.
Your Sense of Taste Diminishes
We’re not saying you have bad taste. But it’s true that your taste sensations dull over time, as your buds shrink.
Recommendation: “Reduce salt intake since you won’t detect it as readily as you have in the past,” advises Dr. Jeneby. “Too much salt can be harmful in other parts of your body.” You can also cook foods with strong fragrances, which can make them “taste” more delicious.
You Get More Eczema
“I see many skin conditions that often worsen as we age: eczema, psoriasis, and other issues regarding rheumatologic disorders start to surface in our 40s and 50s,” says Dr. Jeneby.
Recommendation: “Get a great dermatologist to look at your skin closely and get a good history of your family’s skin conditions and rheumatologic history. Early diagnosis is key!” You might also want to see a rheumatologist to check if you have an immune-mediated disorder.
Your Metabolism Slows
“If a person is not eating healthy consistently their digestive process becomes affected,” Dr. Steele. “Over time, this damage will then affect the metabolism which is all the chemical processes in the body activating by vitamins and minerals. A person can train the metabolism to either slow down or speed up especially with nutrient deficiencies.”
Recommendation: Up your intake of core proteins that will build more energy-burning muscle, consume the healthiest fats that help increase satiety and speed nutrients throughout your body, and reach for plenty of good-for-you carbs—yes, carbs—that provide essential fiber. Check out these 50 ways to boost your metabolism.
You Have Brittle Bones
“Bone density naturally starts to diminish as we age and can lead to osteopenia/osteoporosis,” says Dr. Thanu Jey, Clinic Director at Yorkville Sports Medicine Clinic. “Osteoporosis affects everyone, especially women, as we age, and increases your risk of suffering from fractures.”
Recommendation: “It’s important to stay on top of it as we age. Vitamin D and calcium are crucial in maintaining bone density and slowing down the progression of osteopenia/osteoporosis.” Ask your doctor about whether or not you’re getting enough of both.
You Have ‘Clumsy Hands’
“If you have difficulty writing or buttoning up your shirt, this may be an early sign of cervical myelopathy, a condition that stems from the neck and affects the nerves in the aging population,” says Dr. Jay.
Recommendation: “It’s important you get assessed to stop any progression.”
You Have a Loss of Energy
“Everyone suffers from signs of aging eventually. What people don’t realize is how many of these symptoms are due to hormonal decline, which in turn leads to other issues and a decline in health and quality of life,” says Dr. Shawn Vedamani, MD, a Board Certified Physician in San Diego. “Both men and women can experience energy loss with hormone changes. Unfortunately, a lack of energy can set off any number of negative chain reactions as well—poor performance in the gym and in the bedroom, lack of effectiveness at work or school, depression and just an inability to do the things you love doing. It can make it hard to continue to pursue the activities you’ve enjoyed your whole life and maintain progress and motivation at work and at play.”
Recommendation: There’s hope: “Balancing changes in hormone levels could return this lost energy,” says Dr. Vedamani. See your physician.
You Might Get Skin Cancer
Sandy shoes might not be the only thing you brought home from that trip to Myrtle Beach 20 years ago. “Skin cancers are more prevalent as we age as we’ve been exposed to the sun longer,” says Dr. Jeneby.
Recommendation: “Aggressive skin checks by you and a dermatologist can spot early stage cancers, get treatment and begin prevention with certain drugs and sunscreen,” he says.
Your Liver is Sluggish
“As we age toxins affect the liver,” says Dr. Steele. “That means alcohol, poor diet, sugar—even anger—create a liver that is sluggish and under functioning. As a result of a sluggish liver, the body has difficulty metabolizing nutrients as well as filtering out toxins into the blood.”
Recommendation: Feed your liver detoxifying foods such as organic fruits and vegetables; lean proteins like turkey; healthy fats like avocados; and high-fiber foods like whole grain breads. And avoid so much alcohol and sugar—if it makes you feel sluggish, imagine your poor liver.
You Feel Sleep Deprived
Feeling one step behind at work? “Less efficiency leads to working late, which leads you to get less sleep, which causes poor attention the next day at work, which leads to working late again—and so the cycle continues,” says Dr. Sujay Kansagra, Director of Duke University’s pediatric neurology sleep medicine program. “Sleep deprivation can also be dangerous. Almost 5% of adults reported they have fallen asleep while driving within the past month!”
Recommendation: Break the cycle. Read these 15 ways your sleeping wrong.
You’re Losing Your Hearing
“Many people underestimate the impact of hearing loss as they age,” says Eric Branda, AuD, PhD at Signia. Hearing loss can first seem insignificant, but in actuality, it can have negative impacts early on. When communication is affected, people often begin to withdraw from social interactions. As hearing loss progresses, this withdrawal can become more pronounced. This is ultimately a reduction in activity for the brain at a time when cognitive decline is beginning.”
Recommendation: Hearing aids these days are barely noticeable; talk to an audiologist about whether or not you need one. “Amplification can help keep the auditory centers of the brain active, promoting more communication and social interaction,” says Dr. Branda.
You’ve Got Increased Anxiety
“Anxiety is a very real psychological disorder that affects many people,” says Dr. Shawn Vedamani, MD. “Some people are more susceptible to anxiety than others and your current physical health can play a role in how anxiety manifests itself in your life. And because hormones play such an important role in the development of anxiety, many people with anxiety feel that their symptoms continue to increase as they age.”
Recommendation: Talk to your doctor and a psychologist or psychiatrist about the proper course of action. “Some anxiety medications attempt to treat the symptoms of anxiety when hormonal imbalance could be causing your anxiety and depression,” says Dr. Shawn Vedamani.
You’ve Got Dry Eye
Jennifer Aniston is 50 years old. No wonder she’s doing ads for dry eye. “With age, the tear gland—called the lacrimal gland—has been shown to produce less tear volume,” says Dr. Ming Wang, an ophthalmologist. “Glands in the eyelids—called themeibomian glands—also start to atrophy and often produce less of the oily part of the tears that prevent their evaporation. Both of these factors contribute to nearly everyone over age 50 suffering from some form of dry eye. Dry eye produces symptoms including grittiness, watering, red eye, intermittent blurred vision, and discomfort.”
Recommendation: “Treatment includes over the counter tears. If these are not sufficient, a doctor can prescribe medications or treat with in office therapies,” says Dr. Wang.
You’ve Got Cataracts
“Throughout life, the lens inside the eye gradually becomes more dense and starts to become cloudy instead of crystal clear,” says Dr. Wang. “This change is referred to as cataracts. By age 60, nearly everyone will have some degree of cataracts that can be seen by an eye doctor. Symptoms of cataracts include blurred vision, glare and halos around lights, trouble seeing in dim light, and difficulty driving at night.”
Recommendation: “Treatment involves surgery done by an ophthalmologist,” says Dr. Wang. “The majority of Americans now have cataract surgery before age 70. Cataract growth is believed to be slowed by wearing UV protection, such as sunglasses, and eating a well-balanced diet with antioxidant sources, such as colorful fruits and leafy green vegetables.”
You’ve Got Presbyopia
“In the 40s and 50s everyone will experience an age-related change called presbyopia,” says Dr, Wang. “This term refers to loss of the eyes near focusing ability, meaning that people have to start wearing reading glasses, switch into multifocal glasses or contact lenses, remove their glasses to read (if they are near-sighted), or have corrective eye surgery.
Recommendation: “People will know they are experiencing the onset of presbyopia when they start to have difficulty reading small print and start to have to hold things further away. Unfortunately, nothing can be done to prevent this condition so some form of aide for near vision reading will be needed.”
You See ‘Floaters’
“Though they can occur at any stage in life, floaters are most likely after age 50,” says Dr. Wang. “Floaters are changes in the gel structure in the back of the eye called the vitreous. The vitreous, which is clear early in life, starts to become more solid and form clumps, which float through the vision. Symptoms include spots in the vision which can appear as dots, lines, webs, rings, or shapes.
Recommendation: “With any sudden change in floaters, patients should see an eye doctor to ensure that their retina is healthy,” says Dr. Wang. “Urgent evaluation is needed for anyone having severe sudden new floaters, particularly if accompanied by flashes of light or a curtain effect in the vision. The vast majority of floaters are benign and no intervention is needed. For patients with very symptomatic floaters, many ophthalmologists offer laser or surgical treatments which can reduce the appearance of floaters.”
You Might Have Sleep Apnea
“Have you ever seen someone who snores suddenly stop for a few seconds, then take a snort, and then start snoring again?” asks Dr. Kansagra. “That is sleep apnea in a nutshell. When we sleep, the muscles throughout our bodies relax, including the muscles in our airway. With this relaxation comes a narrower airway. Often times the airway is so narrow that the movement of air leads to vibration of the surrounding airway, thereby producing a snore.”
That snore isn’t just annoying; it could be dangerous. “Unfortunately, for some people, the airway becomes so narrow that it becomes intermittently blocked, which makes breathing difficult. This problem of a recurrent blocked airway is known as obstructive sleep apnea.”
Recommendation: If you snore, see a doctor. “Intermittent blockages at night can become quite problematic if they are occurring frequently at night,” says Dr. Kansagra. They can lead to “very poor quality of sleep and fatigue the next day, but even more seriously, sleep apnea…can lead to chronic hypertension, in addition to increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.”
You Need More Recovery Time
“People over 50 most certainly are not spring chickens anymore and therefore need more time to recover from exercise, increased physical activity levels, any activity to which their bodies are not accustomed,” says Dr. Steele.
Recommendation: Stay active. It’s important for your heart health. But if your body tells you to rest more before, after and during exercise, listen up.
You Get More Nosebleeds
“Nosebleeds get more common with advancing age for a number of reasons,” says Dr. Jordan Glicksman, an Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon and Lecturer at Harvard Medical School. “As we age our blood vessels get thinner and less resilient. Other conditions that can predispose to nosebleeds such as hypertension (high blood pressure) become more common and as we age we are more likely to use blood thinners. This confluence of factors makes nosebleeds much more common.”
Recommendation: “For patients that experience nosebleeds I usually recommend a humidifier in the bedroom and the use of products designed to keep the nasal cavity moist,” he says. “It is also important to avoid picking at or scratching the nose. When a nosebleed occurs it is important to remember to use good first aid techniques. Patients should pinch the cartilage at the front of the nose (the soft part of the nose) and lean forwards. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, or if it’s severe, then it is important to seek medical attention.”
You Have More Nasal Secretions
“Vasomotor rhinitis is a condition that gets more common with advancing age,” says Dr. Glicksman. “Patients with this problem tend to get nasal congestion and a runny nose which can be unpleasant. The main mechanism causing the problem relates to an imbalance between the part of the nervous system that control nasal secretions. These are the sympathetic (‘fight or flight’) nervous system and the parasympathetic (‘rest and digest’) nervous system.”
Recommendation: “Ipratropium nasal sprays are commonly used to treat this condition,” he says. “This medication is an ‘anticholinergic drug’ which inhibits the parasympathetic (‘rest and digest’) nervous system. There are also surgical treatments that target the vidian nerve and its branches within the nose. This nerve brings parasympathetic nerve fibres into the nose and targeting it nerve can decrease the ability of the nose to create the secretions and congested feeling that bother patients.”
You Have Tendonitis
“Tendonitis is more common once we hit your 50s as the tendon loses its flexibility” states Dr. Allen Conrad, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the NSCA. “The tendon becomes inflamed, and can cause chronic pain and inflammation. This is most common in arms and legs, and can become worse after repetitive motion activities.”
Recommendation: “Regular stretching and avoiding overuse can help prevent future problems,” he says.
You Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
“Repetitive motion injuries such as from typing become more common as we age, and carpal tunnel syndrome is no different,” states Dr. Conrad. “The carpal tunnel is the region where the nerves travel through your wrist towards your fingers, and scar tissue builds up causing nerve compression.”
Recommendation: “This chronic condition can be treated with chiropractic care, massage therapy, and therapeutic ultrasound treatments, and early detection usually results in a better outcome.” An ergonomic keyboard and mouse pad will also help.
You Might Get a Thyroid Disorder
“As you age, you become more susceptible to developing thyroid disorders,” says Caleb Backe, a Certified Personal Trainer and Health & Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics. Signs of hypothyroidism include feeling cold when other people do not; constipation; muscle weakness; and weight gain, among others.
Recommendation: “Seeing as this is the gland that regulates your hormones and ensures that your body is functioning at its optimum, regularly getting checks on your thyroid health is imperative after 50. Both an underactive and overactive thyroid can lead to chronic problems later in life.”
You’ve Got a Prostate Issue
As a condition, this isn’t surprising. But it’s always surprising when it happens to you! More than three million men have prostate cancer, affecting the small gland that produces seminal fluid.
Recommendation: “The PSA is a blood test designed to detect early prostate cancer in men, and it is falling under increasing scrutiny. A growing consensus suggests that it’s usually not necessary, but considerable disagreement persists,” says Morton Tavel, MD., Clinical Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine. “My take on this subject is that men should not routinely get this test, especially if they are younger than 50 or older than 74. If, however, one is between those ages, one should talk with his doctor about the risks and benefits of the test, and your risk factors, such as being African-American or having a strong family history of this disease.”
You Might Have a Nutritional Deficiency
“For people over 50, they must understand that with age we all absorb and digest food much more poorly,” says Dr. Veronica Anderson, a functional and integrated medicine specialist. “We already know that all adults are not getting enough nutrients in their diets. This accelerates because of the body’s decreasing ability to absorb much needed vitamins, minerals and nutrients, like magnesium.”
Recommendation: Fill your diet with lean proteins, healthy fats and plenty of fiber. “Adults over 50 must take high quality supplements, vitamins, minerals and nutrients,” believes Dr. Anderson. “If a supplement doesn’t have a NSF certification—these are independently tested and certified—I do not recommend anyone wasting their time and money with them. Also, if you are on any prescription or over-the-counter drugs, these interfere even more with nutrient absorption and digestion.”
Your Brain Slows
So speed it up! “Take up other intellectual and physical pursuits that require discipline and rigor to keep body, mind and spirit in growth mode,” says Dr. Anderson. “It is rare to see older doctors stop everything and simply watch TV. They stay active in all areas of life and even do very tough things like marathons and like me learning French, a foreign language.”
Recommendation: “In my immersion French program out of 60 students there were 8 physicians,” she says. “We were all doing it to master something different and/or to pursue other challenging pursuits including volunteering in a place in which we would need to know another language.”
Your Skin Breaks Down
“The natural aging process has a negative effect on our skin after 50,” says Backe. “This is partly due to the fact that your body produces less collagen with age. Collagen is the protein that makes up nearly 75% of your skin’s overall proteins, increasing your skin’s elasticity and ability to renew. Without collagen your skin begins to look dull, fine lines appear, and your skin struggles to regenerate. Your skin provides your body with a natural defense barrier against harmful elements and external factors.”
Recommendation: “When your skin is weak, your whole body becomes susceptible to an array of health concerns. Increasing your intake of collagen through your diet, supplements, or skin care products can go a long way in restoring your skin’s health after 50.”
You’ve Got a Sudden Cascade!
“What is an unexpected health problems someone can face after 50?” asks Dr. Elena Villanueva of Modern Holistic Health. “Many Americans associate a normal part of aging with weight gain, difficulty sleeping, memory decline and constipation, and a host of other chronic conditions. What many don’t expect is to see several symptoms pop up all at once! The great news here is that precision approaches to medicine are proving these chronic health issues are not only preventable, most are reversible.”
Recommendation: Explore precision medicine. “Precision approaches to medicine using advanced functional testing and epigenetic testing is not only helping practitioners find and eliminate the root issues of these chronic issues,” says Dr. Villanueva. “It allows us to get an inside look to your body’s ‘operation manual.’ Understanding how your lifestyle choices, foods, and environmental toxins affect your body not only gives answers for reversing chronic disease, but it gives specific evidence of how you need to maintain your body to slow the aging process and optimize your performance.”
You’re Hormone Levels Decrease
“One surprising fact is that both men and women have decreases in their respective hormone levels—estrogen for women and testosterone for men,” says Dr. Monique May. “In essence both genders go through ‘menopause,’ which can cause loss of muscle mass and strength, sleep disruption, memory issues, mood swings, and weight gain. This process can actually begin as early as your 30s but it tends to accelerate after 40 and even more at 50.”
Recommendation: You’ll find hormone therapies for both genders, but must discuss with a doctor, as the treatments must be personalized.
You Have GERD
GERD, aka gastroesophageal reflux disease, can lead to heartburn or acid reflux, and becomes more common after 50—more than three million people have it. One reason may shock you. “Patients over 50 who have GERD may be surprised to find that the root cause is a hiatal hernia,” says Dr. Kent Bowden of Munson Hospital, “an unexpected, but not terribly uncommon condition.”
Recommendation: Diet and lifestyle changes are most frequently prescribed, but surgery is a possibility. If you’re experiencing symptoms, please discuss with your doctor.
You’ve Lost Your Muscle Tone
“This one is from collagen decreasing as well as a lack of muscle tension from working out,” says Dr. Steele.
Recommendation: Step one, accept that your body won’t look like it did when you were Miss Florida. But to stay toned, up your protein—every muscle is made from it—and add more weight to your workouts.
Your Hearing Loss Can Spark Something Worse
“Hearing loss is often an unanticipated condition, and on average, those with hearing trouble wait seven to ten years before seeking treatment, which can lead to many other life-altering conditions,” says Leslie P. Soiles, Au.D. of HearingLife. Nearly 23% of people over the age of 50 and 50% of people over the age of 75 suffer. “What people may not know is that numerous studies have shown links between hearing impairment and other conditions like depression, decreased balance and dementia. These risk factors increase substantially as hearing difficulty increases or is left untreated.”
Recommendation: “It is important to actively maintain hearing health by scheduling yearly hearing assessments at hearing health centers or during annual doctor appointments,” says Soiles. “If hearing loss is suspected, early intervention can be instrumental in preserving quality of life.”
You Have an Overactive Bladder
Not a disease as much as a group of symptoms, an overactive bladder leads to the urgent need to urinate, or to urinate often.
Recommendation: Don’t be embarrassed to ask your doctor for help. “As many as 30 percent of men and 40 percent of women in the United States live with OAB symptoms,” reports the Urology Care Foundation. “It is not a normal part of aging. You and your healthcare provider should talk about what you want from treatment and about each option, including lifestyle changes; prescription medications; Bladder Botox; nerve stimulation and surgery.”
You Get HPV
The most common sexually-transmitted disease in the USA may strike you—even if your “fun lovin’” days are long gone. “HPV peaks in young women and declines in the late 20s and 30s. But women’s risk for HPV is not over yet: There is sometimes a second peak around the age of menopause,” reports the North American Menopause Society. Why? The virus lies dormant, ala chicken pox, and then strikes. Symptoms include genital warts, and certain strains can lead to cancer.
Recommendation: “There is no cure for HPV, but 70% to 90% of infections are cleared by the immune system and become undetectable,” reports NAMS. Condoms help, too, though are not foolproof. The only guaranteed-to-work “prescription” is the least appealing for some: abstinence.
You’ve Got a Hernia
“A hiatal hernia is the result of laxity building in the connection between the top of the stomach and the diaphragm. It allows the stomach to slide into the chest, it can result from pressure brought on by obesity—but it is also related to the connective tissue loosening either because of age, obesity, or a connective tissue disorder,” says Dr. Bowden. “Such hernias tend to progress over time and most people do not seek endoscopy before age 50 unless they have symptoms they are trying to pursue. So age is not the cause of the hernia but it will often be discovered when the patient is older unless they were symptomatic with reflux.”
Recommendation: “The biggest preventative factor is to stay healthy and active, and to avoid obesity.”
You Have Vaginal Dryness
Different that dryness due to lack of sexual interest, “vaginal dryness” can happen to any woman but it’s “much more common after menopause,” reports Harvard Health. “The North American Menopause Society and the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health refer to this combination of menopausal symptoms, which are brought on by a drop in the body’s estrogen production, as genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM).”
Recommendation: Moisturizers and tablets can help; ask your doctor for sure. “It’s not just a part of aging,” says Dr. Caroline Mitchell, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, tells Harvard Health.
Essential tremor (ET) is the most common movement disorder, causing involuntary shaking in different parts of the body, but most often affects the hands. ET can affect people at any age, but it is most common among those 50 years of age and older. Essential tremors usually occur when you move your hands, whereas Parkinson’s Disease tremors often occur when your hands are not moving.
Recommendation: Many people just live with them. Beta blockers or anti-seizure medication might help. Ask your doctor.
You Have Too Much Adrenaline
“When it comes to aging, there is an issue that is completely off the radar. It is related to excess levels of adrenaline,” says Michael E. Platt, MD. “It is a problem that is extremely common when you consider the millions of people that have problems with insomnia, ADHD, fibromyalgia, anxiety, addiction to drugs and alcohol, anger issues, plus many more conditions. All the above problems are caused by excess adrenaline and do not necessarily affect the life span. However, excess adrenaline is one of the primary factors that shortens the length of telomeres—the area at the end of chromosomes that actually determine how long we might live.”
Recommendation: “On the positive side, excess adrenaline is easy to manage simply by providing the brain with the two fuels it requires: glucose, which is best derived from vegetables since they are low-glycemic, and ketones, best derived from MCT or coconut oil.” You should also reduce stress, and a transdermal cream may help, too. Ask your doctor.
Your Sleep is Hormonal
“When you think about getting a good night’s sleep, you may not immediately think of hormones,” says Dr. Shawn Vedamani, MD. “Sleep and hormones are deeply interconnected. Your body produces hormones during restful sleep so that we can have optimal energy, immunity and natural drive. Yet, changes in hormone levels can affect our ability to sleep.”
Recommendation: “If you are experiencing symptoms of sleep disorder, difficulty falling and staying asleep and find yourself always tired when you wake up, it’s possible that hormone therapy can get your sleep patterns back on track,” he says.
You’re Severely Depressed
Whether you’ve had a history of depression or not, it could overtake you after 50 due to a few factors, including a possibly hormonal imbalance, the accumulation of stress or simply the crushing weight of a single hard truth: You’re aging.
Recommendation: Don’t face this alone, even if alone is how you feel. Life doesn’t have to be like this. Contact your doctor, who can recommend the perfect mental health professional.
Your Neglect Catches Up With You
“I tell many patients that what they do to themselves in 30s and 40s will show in their 50+,” says Dr. Steele. “Poor eating habits, a lack of sleep, high stress, and a lack of physical activity will begin to show damaging effects as a person ages.”
Recommendation: Although some damage isn’t reversable, simple lifestyle changes can be easy and effective. Start with Dr. Steele’s list, and improve what you eat, how you sleep and exercise.
You Think Being Overweight is a Given
They call it “middle age” because our middles get fat—isn’t that the old joke? But in fact, although your metabolism slows, along with your energy, it’s still possible to be fit and trim at any age. You have to put the work in. The rewards—a longer life especially—make it worth it.
Recommendation: Work with your doctor, a nutritionist and a personal trainer to devise a personalized plan. “If you eat the same things and exercise the same amount as you did in your thirties, you could potentially still gain weight,” reproductive endocrinologist Barbara Soltes, M.D., of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago told the Today Show. “Women don’t want to hear that, but it is biology.”
You Down With COPD (Yeah You Know Me)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a chronic inflammatory lung disease, “causes obstructed airflow from the lungs. Symptoms include breathing difficulty, cough, mucus production and wheezing,” reports the Mayo Clinic. How’d you get this one? You may have been exposed to cigarette smoke or chemical fumes.
Recommendation: Make like Bill Clinton and don’t “inhale”—cigarette smoke or hazardous chemicals.
Your Lack of Sleep Could Lead to Alzheimer’s
“There is growing evidence that sleep disturbance and the development of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are linked,” says Dr. Kansagra. “Studies have found that sleep disruption can precede the symptoms of Alzheimer’s by years. Perhaps the most compelling evidence comes from a study in animals where sleep was shown to clear out of the toxic proteins that is responsible for Alzheimer’s.”
Recommendation: More research is needed about the link, but there is no doubt that a better night’s sleep leads to better cognitive function. And to live your happiest and healthiest life, be sure to avoid these 50 Unhealthiest Habits on the Planet!
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