Staying healthy after 50 means establishing the right healthy habits, getting the right tests and screenings and developing an active lifestyle. A healthy body starts with a healthy mind, and making healthy choices each day is a good place to begin.
Maintain a healthy body weight. Studies show that people who are significantly overweight can often decrease their risk for type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis and gallbladder disease by losing 5 to 15 percent of body weight. For a person weighing in at 200 pounds, that’s only 10 to 30 pounds to lose in order to reduce serious health risks. Moderate and reasonable goals are the key, rather than trying to get back to what’s considered absolutely normal.
Stop smoking! Cigarette smoking kills more than 400,000 Americans each year, plays a role in cancer, heart disease and lung disease, and accounts for $50 billion of health-care expenses annually. Studies show that no matter what a person’s age, quitting smoking offers improvement to overall health. When a person stops smoking at the age of 50, they increase their risk of survival by 5o percent, compared to those who continue to smoke.
Drink alcohol in moderation, and if you’re a teetotaler, stay that way! If you do drink, USDA guidelines recommends limiting daily alcohol intake to one drink in women and two in men.
Recommended Medical Tests
Take time for a blood pressure check. Most experts suggest that all healthy adults get their blood pressure checked every two years, but blood pressure is normally a part of any routine office visit or check-up. Many hospitals and medical centers offer free blood pressure screening, and pharmacies have self-service electronic blood pressure testing, so keeping up with your blood pressure numbers is quick and easy. Controlling blood pressure significantly reduces the risk for stroke, heart attack and kidney failure.
Test your blood glucose level. To promote the early detection of diabetes, and reduce the risk of its complications, the American Diabetes Association recommends that individuals age 45 and over have a blood glucose test every three years.
Have your cholesterol checked. To identify people at risk for Heart Disease, the National Cholesterol Education Program recommends a fasting lipid profile for adults over 20 at least every five years, and more frequently for older adults who have abnormal results or other risk factors.
Some other important tests include thyroid testing, screening for glaucoma, a hearing test and vaccinations. The American Thyroid Association recommends a test for thyroid disease for all adults every five years beginning at age 35. While glaucoma cannot be prevented, early detection by measuring intraocular pressure, examining the optic disc, and testing visual fields allows treatment that may prevent damage to the optic nerve. The PSTF (U.S. Preventative Services Task Force) recommends that primary care physicians screen for hearing impairment by interviewing patients during regular check-ups, counseling them about availability of hearing aid devices, and referring them to hearing specialists when abnormalities are detected. Yearly flu vaccines, a pneumonia vaccine before age 65 with a booster every 5 to 10 years, as well as a tetanus booster every ten years are recommended for adults. Vaccines against childhood diseases such as chicken pox, mumps, measles and rubella if those over 50 have never had the disease are also a good idea. Certain adults should also consider the Hepatitis B vaccine.
Health Screening for Disease
Because prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among North American Men, the American Cancer Society and the American Urological Association advocate a PSA test (Prostate Specific Antigen), along with a digital rectal examination beginning at age 50, or earlier for men who are at elevated risk. These groups include: African America men, men with a family history of prostate cancer and veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
Screening for colon cancer should begin at age 50 with an annual fecal occult blood test, which involves placing a small amount of stool on a card that, under laboratory analysis, can reveal traces of blood that may be a sign of cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends that everyone over age 40 have an annual total skin examination performed by a dermatologist or other physician trained to recognize skin cancer.
Because Mammography is the best tool currently available for detecting early tumors, the American Cancer Society suggests regular screening every one to two years for all women over 40. In addition, most experts recommend an annual clinical breast exam and a monthly breast self-exam. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that all women 65 or older, postmenopausal women who have one or more risk factors and all postmenopausal women who have had a recent fracture be screened for osteoporosis. It is also recommended that every woman take a 1200-1500 milligram calcium supplement daily, along with a multivitamin that has 400 units of Vitamin D. Vitamin D which help in the absorption of calcium.
Healthy Active Lifestyle
One of the best things people over 50 can do to improve their overall health is to stay active. Moderate exercise like walking, yoga, bicycling and water aerobics several times each week offer tremendous health benefits. Improved cardiovascular fitness, muscle tone, strength, and coordination, plus increased energy can all result from regular exercise. Establishing healthy habits by age 50 and keeping them increases the chances of maintaining them for a lifetime.