Top 5 Causes of Death in People Over 50

Most people are aware that their bodies seem to “slow down” as they get older. It’s not as easy to climb a flight of stairs or unload groceries as it used to be. But you’re more at risk for the nation’s deadliest diseases in older age than you are at any other time in your life.

Thankfully, there are ways to lower your risk of these diseases even if you’re long past your midlife crisis. It’s never too late to change your future.

These are the diseases you’re most likely to develop — and die from — after the age of 50.

5. Alzheimer’s disease

This type of dementia affects adults mostly over the age of 65, but it can develop as early as your 40s in some cases. It’s just one of many deadly diseases doctors haven’t yet figured out how to cure. People with the disease usually die from related complications within 10 years of diagnosis.

Most people don’t know they have it because they’re unaware of the signs of abnormal cognitive aging. Everyone’s memory falters a little bit as the decades go on. But forgetting words and having trouble communicating thoughts are both signs of something more serious.

You can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by exercising both your body and your mind. Engaging in social activities around your community becomes even more important for overall health as you age.

4. Stroke

Senior woman in hospital

Senior woman in hospital |

Your risk of having a stroke nearly doubles every 10 years after you turn 55. Factors such as high cholesterol, out-of-control blood pressure, and having other diseases such as type 2 diabetes significantly increase your risk.

The type of stroke caused by these factors can prevent blood from getting to your brain. This deprives the organ of oxygen, which it can’t live without for even short periods of time. Many people survive strokes the first time. But once you have one, your chances of surviving another go down.

You can lower your risk of stroke by managing your cholesterol, monitoring your alcohol intake, and keeping your blood sugar levels under control if you live with diabetes.


This is a chronic condition, meaning that once you have it, the best thing you can do is manage your symptoms. COPD is a common cause of both disability and early death, and it progresses slowly — over time, it gets harder and harder to breathe.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD in older adults. It’s never too late to quit — doing so can reduce your risk of lung cancer, heart disease, and much more.

2. Cancer

There are hundreds of known cancer types around the world. Some share risk factors, such as age and lifestyle habits. Others have their own factors and symptoms that require specialized forms and combinations of treatments.

Skin and lung cancers are the most common types of cancer you’re likely to get in your lifetime. Breast and prostate cancers also appear high on the list. Knowing which symptoms to watch out for can help you catch cancer early and increase your chances of entering remission.

There’s no way to guarantee that diet or exercise will prevent cancer — and they can’t treat it. But making these changes can lower your risk of the many chronic conditions that promote cancer cell growth.

1. Heart disease

heart monitor

Heart monitor | Evryka23/iStock/Getty Images

If you’re over 50, you’re more likely to die of heart disease than any other medical condition common in your age demographic. The older you get, the harder your heart has to work to continue pumping blood and oxygen throughout your body.

There are a few reasons for this — mainly that your blood vessels become less flexible as they age, making it harder for blood to travel through. More resistance means your heart has to put in more effort. It gets tired just like you do.

You can lower your risk of heart disease by managing your blood pressure, making small modifications to your diet over time, and exercising at least a few times a week.

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