It's easy to blame every little health niggle on your age; to dismiss it and carry on. We're not old, right?! But there are some you shouldn't just learn to live with, writes Christine Morgan for High50
If you're in your 50s you've probably noticed that your body is changing. Perhaps your metabolism isn't what it used to be, or you may not have so much energy, or something is niggling you that didn't used to. If you had 20:20 vision in your 20s and 30s, it's probably not quite so perfect these days either. As for hormones... well, let's not get started on that.
1. I've put weight on around my middle
An expanding belly can increase your risk of health problems including heart disease and diabetes. If you're a man and your waist measures more than 94cm (37in), or a woman with a waist bigger than 80cm (31.5in), your risk of health problems is thought to be higher than normal.
What should you do? Plan what you're going to do to lose the flab (see the five best sites for diet advice for some pointers) -- then do it.
2. I have to pee more during the night
Women in their 50s naturally have weaker bladders and bladder muscles. It's a consequence of lower oestrogen levels. But for men, frequent nighttime trips to the loo could suggest prostate problems. For both sexes, needing the loo more at night might also be a sign of undiagnosed diabetes.
What should you do? Go to your family doctor.
3. My vision is blurry
People often start wearing reading glasses in their 40s and 50s because the lenses in their eyes start to stiffen, making focusing on close-up objects tricky. But blurred vision can also be a symptom of diabetes, along with feeling very thirsty, very tired and having unexplained weight loss.
What should you do? See your family doctor. Regular eye tests can spot the early signs of diabetes, so don't skip appointments with your optician.
4. My knee hurts (or hips, or fingers)
Aching, stiff knees, hips and finger joints suggest osteoarthritis, a condition that sends a million people to their family doctor every year, and usually develops in people over 50. But you may be able to slow it down if you catch it early using modern medical or holistic treatments.
What should you do? Consider taking joint health supplement such as fish oils or glucosamine. If you've been diagnosed with arthritis, ask your family doctor about non-drug treatments such as physiotherapy.
5. I feel constantly worn out
Getting tired more easily than you used to isn't just a sign you're not quite a spring chicken any more. There are several health conditions that cause deep-rooted, long-lasting fatigue, including chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), anaemia, underactive thyroid, diabetes and generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).
What should you do? If you're getting plenty of sleep but still feeling worn out, see your family doctor (read Tired all the time? This could be why to find out more).
6. I can't get it up like I used to
Around half of all men between 40 and 70 have erection problems to some degree. While lifestyle changes such as losing weight and exercise can help, erectile dysfunction (ED) can also be a sign of something more serious, including heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure.
What should you do? See your family doctor if you have erections problems that last for several weeks.
7. I can't stop burping
Heartburn and burping aren't just annoying, they can also be a sign of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD, a digestive condition that's more common after the age of 40. If you don't treat it, you can suffer from complications, including damage to the lining of your oesophagus.
What should you do? Your family doctor can recommend treatments. Help yourself by eating four or five smaller meals instead of having three big meals a day. Keep a food diary, as keeping a record can help point out to you the potential food triggers.
8. My snoring is driving my partner crazy
Snoring is common in people aged between 40 and 60. But if you snore loudly, it could be a sign you have sleep apnoea, a condition that interrupts your breathing during sleep, increasing your risk of heart failure.
What should you do? See your family doctor for a diagnosis. Losing weight, cutting down on alcohol and giving up smoking may also help.
9. I keep saying 'What?'
Hearing loss isn't something that only happens in old age. Surveys suggest that many of us in our 50s have some deterioration in our hearing. Problem is, most people take up to 15 years to do anything about it. But the earlier you tackle it, the sooner you'll prevent it getting worse.
What should you do? Not convinced you have a problem? Try this online hearing check from Action on Hearing Loss.
10. My legs ache when I exercise
Aching legs while walking or climbing stairs may well suggest you're not fit. But in your 50s it can also be a symptom of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD is caused by a blockage in your arteries, which restricts the blood flow to your legs. If you don't do anything about it, your heart attack and stroke risk could increase.
What should you do? See your family doctor if you have leg pain regularly, especially if you smoke or you have diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Over the years, there's been a lot of debate related to diet and longevity. But most experts agree that a diet low in sugar and refined carbohydrates is best. And some studies show that eating a traditional Mediterranean diet can add years to your life.
Just like high blood pressure, high cholesterol can also increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Therefore it's a good idea to have your cholesterol checked to see whether you need to undergo certain lifestyle changes or even possibly take some kind of cholesterol-lowering medication. For more information about cholesterol and saturated fats, go here. Eating certain foods, such as beans, which are rich in fiber and antioxidants, can help lower cholesterol.
Even drinking wine with dinner and then taking prescription sleep aides can be a lethal combination. A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study found 5.8 percent of people age 50 to 59 used illicit drugs in 2010, up from 2.7 percent in 2002.
The number of Americans with Type 2 diabetes is expected to rise from 30 million today to 46 million by 2030, when one of every four boomers -- 14 million -- will be living with this chronic disease, according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Untreated diabetes can lead to blindness, amputations and clogged arteries that can cause heart attacks and strokes. The test to determine whether you are diabetic is a simple blood test; you should remind your doctor to include it in your annual physical.
More than one out of every three boomers -- more than 21 million -- will be considered obese by 2030. Already, we are the demographic with the highest and fastest-growing rate of obesity. As we age, our metabolism slows down and we burn fewer calories -- if we don't alter our eating and exercise patterns, weight gain is inevitable. Obesity can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and a host of other life-threatening ailments. Losing just 10 percent of your body weight has health benefits, so consider that as a goal.
No chest pain doesn't mean no heart attack. Women having heart attacks frequently report experiencing a feeling of indigestion and extreme fatigue, while some men say they feel a fullness or a squeezing pain in the center of the chest, which may spread to the neck, shoulder or jaw. When a diabetic has a heart attack, the pain is often displaced to other areas such as the lower back.
Try as you might, you just can't stay asleep, right? You pass out before "60 Minutes" is over, but then wake up around midnight and count sheep until the alarm goes off. If that sounds like you, you aren't alone. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that boomers report not getting enough sleep between one and 13 nights each month. Is it life-threatening? In itself, no. But as soon as you slip behind the wheel bleary-eyed, you are putting yourself and others at risk. Your reflexes are slower, you pay less attention and you could become one of the more than 100,000 Americans who fall asleep at the wheel and crash each year. And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that's a conservative estimate, by the way. Driver fatigue results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.
AARP says the minimum you need to stay healthy are muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week, plus 2.5 hours a week of moderate activity like walking or 75 minutes a week of a more intense activity like jogging. Exercise is also good for your memory: Just one year of walking three times a week can increase the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that's key to memory.
We're talking about stress with a capital S. Boomers are the sandwich generation, caught in the middle of caring for our parents and our children. We were deeply affected by the recession and boomers have the highest rates of depression by age demographic. Unless we unload, we are going to implode.
It isn't just our extra weight; it's where we carry it. An excess of visceral fat causes our abdomens to protrude excessively. We call it a "pot belly" or "beer belly" or if the visceral fat is on our hips and buttocks, we say we are "apple shaped." Cute names aside, scientists now say that body fat, instead of body weight, is the key to evaluating obesity. And guess what? It's all bad.
Gallup found that baby boomers between the ages of 44 and 54 reported higher levels of smoking than those immediately younger or those who are older. Hard to imagine that they haven't gotten the word yet about the risks cigarettes carry.
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