The age of 50 is a benchmark in the lives of many people. It represents a turning point that often comes with kids getting older, shifting career priorities as retirement seems within reach and, of course, age-related consequences for our health.
Whether those consequences bring physical or cognitive limitations, they are often life altering. For the purposes of this story, we won’t focus on the most common threats to elderly health, which often come in the form of chronic conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Instead, we’ll look at some that may start to take shape in your 50s and can often change the lives of seniors in ways that difficult to fix.
Nearly 50% of women and as many as one quarter of all of men over the age of 50 suffer bone damage caused by a loss of bone mass. As you age, the body begins to absorb old bone tissue faster than new bone tissue is created. As a result, your bones tend to become thinner and weaker.
Osteoporosis leads to fragile bones that break easily during a fall or even everyday movements. More than 1.5 million fractures occur every year due to osteoporosis, according to a report issued by the Office of the Surgeon General. A symptomless condition, diagnosis requires a test called a DEXA scan to check the health of your bones. The best way to prevent the condition from forming is a diet which packs calcium and vitamin D into your system and regularly doing exercises that include weight bearing activities, such as jogging or dancing.
Around this time in life, some people start to show signs of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This may take place over many years without you knowing it, but essentially, the condition causes an inflammatory response which can block your lungs from receiving air.
COPD sufferers often wheeze or cough and experience chest pain, shortness of breath and cough up mucus. Smoking is the biggest risk factor in developing COPD, but other factors such as air pollution can also play a part. As we learn more about how oxygen influences the body’s response to a number of different factors, ensuring your body is receiving enough oxygen is essential to keeping the aging process in check.
One of the toughest aspects of aging to accept is a decline in cognitive function. While there are some promising treatments becoming more clear for dementia, finding a cure is still some distance away. There are a variety of things that can cause the progression of dementia ranging from diet to stem cell function and blood type.
A healthy diet short on sugars and rich in fiber is a good place to start when it comes to preventing the damage from dementia. Brain training activities can also prove helpful in making sure your mental acuity stays sharp.
The risk of developing cancer increases significantly with age. According to the National Cancer Institute, around 25% of new cancer cases occur in people age 65-74. Nearly half of all cancer cases occur in individuals age 66 and above.
Human behavior often increases risk of cancer, be it poor diet, spending too much time in the sun or smoking. Limiting these high-risk behaviors while maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise regimen can help reduce the risk of cancer. It’s also important to visit your physician regularly and report strange feelings or growths you may have noticed. Early detection in cancer cases is vital to stopping the disease before it spreads to other areas in the body and can increase chances for survival significantly.
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Bladder Failure and Constipation
The bladder is an area of the body commonly affected by age. As we get older, the state of our bladder may in fact reflect our overall health. The bladder essentially loses elasticity as we age, resulting in the need to urinate more often. Muscles around the bladder as well as the pelvic floor tend to weaken making it difficult to empty your bladder completely and may cause incontinence.
Alcohol, caffeine, acidic foods and carbonated beverages are all irritants for the bladder. Avoiding these foods, maintaining a healthy weight and doing regular Kegel exercises can help.
On the other hand, constipation impacts a large number of older adults and can be as equally hazardous to health. A diet rich in fiber can relieve this problem.