All the Health Changes You Need to Make Once You Turn 50
Turning 50 is a big year. It’s an exciting moment in life, but it’s also a time when you should start paying more attention to your health. Here are 15 health changes you should make once you’re over the hill, including one food item you’ve got to ditch (page 10).
1. Get an annual physical
Your health insurance should cover an annual physical, and it’s important that you take advantage of it — especially if you’re over 50. Physicals help your doctor learn what state your health is in. They check things like your weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, and heart activity. They can help discover underlying problems you may not know you have. And the older you get, the more chance you have of developing certain diseases, so take advantage of an annual doctor’s appointment.
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2. Cut back on the rigorous workouts
Your body isn’t what it once was. When you turn 50, your heart isn’t in the same top shape it might have been when you were 20. It’s time to cut back a bit on the rigorous workouts. There’s no need to take 10 mile jogs or join that new Crossfit that just opened down the road. Taking care of your body is important, but you need to be mindful of the fact that you’re a bit older now than you used to be. And your heart and muscles will reflect that.
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3. Monitor your blood sugar
Your blood sugar is equally as important as your blood pressure. High blood sugar is the main cause of type 2 diabetes, so it’s incredibly important you keep it at bay. If your blood sugar gets too high, you’ll need to make serious dietary adjustments to prolong your quality of life. People with type 2 diabetes often have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which are large contributors to heart disease. You can treat diabetes, but you’re still at a greater risk of heart attack once you’re diagnosed.
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4. Spend more time with family
When you turn 50, you need to begin to think about what really matters in life. Yes, work is important, but if you’ve been a workaholic for the past 30 years, it’s time to wind down a bit and focus more on what’s going on around you — especially your friends and family. Spending time with family helps build your social health, and being social can actually help you live longer. Plus, it builds self-esteem in your children when they have a close bond with those around them. And it also creates important memories, because we all know life is not just about material things.
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5. Exercise daily — strength training and cardio are important
Cutting down on rigorous workouts definitely doesn’t mean cutting out exercise all together. Actually, exercise is more important than ever. Your muscles deteriorate as you age, so it’s imperative you keep them working. Plus, exercise is excellent for heart health. Exercise daily by taking 30-minute walks or a light jog to work your heart. Plus, lift weights (weights that are suitable for your age and strength level) to keep your muscles the best they can be.
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6. Monitor your blood pressure
Blood pressure has a tendency to increase with age, depending on your diet, exercise regimen, and family history. It’s important you keep track of your blood pressure, since high blood pressure often yields no symptoms but can lead to serious heart complications. If you have a yearly physical, your doctor will check your blood pressure. But if it’s high, you may be put on blood pressure medication. You can buy an electric monitor for your home to check on it more frequently than just once per year at a physical. But understanding your blood pressure could prolong your life.
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7. Reduce your stress levels
Dealing with stress on occasion is normal, but if you’re constantly feeling stressed out, it’s time to cut back on what’s causing it. Stress creates both a psychological and physical burden, and it can wreak havoc on both your mental state and your heart. And as you get older, it becomes so important to keep both of those things healthy. Stress can lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, which can eventually lead to heart disease or heart failure. Plus, it affects your emotional health, which can also impact your lifespan. Try doing yoga or meditating for a few minutes in the morning to keep your stress levels down.
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8. Get your eyes checked annually
Your vision will deteriorate as you get older. If you’ve never had an eye exam before, you should get one after you turn 50. It’s important to keep your eye health in check. Your eyes can actually signal more than just vision loss. Plus, if your vision isn’t as sharp as it could be, your doctor may recommend glasses or contacts, which will be beneficial for things like working and driving.
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9. Add more omega-3s to your diet
Omega-3 fatty acids have some incredible benefits, and they’re important to include in your diet — especially as you age. Omega-3s can help improve eye health, promote brain health, and prevent heart disease by helping maintain a normal blood pressure and cholesterol level. All of these are very important for someone over 50. You can get omega-3s through foods such as fish and other seafood, plus nuts, seeds, and plant oils (soybean oil, canola oil, etc.).
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10. Watch your sodium
One thing you should work hard to cut from your diet is sodium. Sodium is one of those things that you probably never check when looking at the nutrition facts, but it matters even more than fat and calories. High sodium foods cause the body to retain water, which can lead to higher blood pressure and force your heart to work harder. Over time, a diet containing too much sodium can lead to serious heart problems, including a heart attack. Some call is a “silent killer” because you don’t always think about it, but try to aim for no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, according to the American Heart Association.
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11. Drink less alcohol
At this point in your life, your liver is 50 years old. Your entire metabolism has slowed, and your body can’t process alcohol the way it once could. Alcohol stays in your liver longer, which can lead to liver damage. Plus, muscle mass is lower than it used to be, which means you’re likely to have a higher BAC than someone younger who drank the same amount. It’s still fine to drink, but moderation is more important than ever.
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12. Exercise your brain
Your mind’s sharpness can start to deteriorate as early as 40 years of age. So when you turn 50, you need to start working on exercising your brain to prevent dementia (or at least delay it, since dementia can be genetic). There are several brain exercises you can do to boost your memory, such as learning a musical instrument, learning a foreign language, or taking a cooking class. It can be fun as well as beneficial.
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13. Add more veggies to your diet
Along with keeping your weight in check, you need to take a step back and reflect on your diet once you turn 50. Again, you should maintain a healthy diet throughout life, but it matters more post-50. Adding more veggies provides more vitamins and minerals to keep both your heart and brain functioning properly. If changing your diet is something you find difficult, try making small changes, such as adding an extra veggie to both your lunch and dinner. Then, work from there to transition to overall healthier foods.
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14. Keep up with health testing
Hitting age 50 is a milestone. It’s also a time to start getting certain things checked on that you didn’t have to worry much about in previous years. Both men and women should get screened for colorectal cancer at least once every five years after age 50. Men should also get their prostate checked every four years to screen for prostate cancer once they turn 50. Women should have a mammogram done annually to detect early signs of breast cancer, which is more prevalent after age 50.
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15. Keep your weight in check
It’s always important to keep your weight in check, but it becomes even more important after you turn 50. That’s because the older you get, the higher risk you have for illnesses like heart disease and diabetes — both of which are often a direct reflection of how well you take care of yourself. Your weight varies depending on your size and gender, but there easy-to-understand charts you can look at to determine if you’re at a healthy weight.
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